This (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f12gqM5tvvo) commercial is crazy. I want to stick a giant “THIS OFFENDS WOMEN” sticker on every TV that shows it and on the people at Virgin Mobil in general.
Allow me to preface my following rant with this: I do not own TV. I have a television set, which is hooked up to my PS2, where I play Kingdom Hearts and God of War, filling the in-between-game-time with Netflix rentals. I do not even have basic channels. The basic channel for my TV is “off”. After recently joining a gym, I got to watch TV for the first time in years. Most of the discoveries I made (and am still making) about our mass media culture can be posts of their own, so today I will limit it to this commercial.
I get that we are using contemporary culture for dark humor, but dark humor is at least funny when you’re drunk. This is not funny at all, and I drank a bottle of wine to check: not funny when drunk either. I think we’re missing a few basic ideas….
Stalking, in general, may be funny coming from a thin white girl who isn’t a threat, can be fucking terrifying when it is taken up by a big, ex-boyfriend who has reason to be angry. That is the number one way I’ve ever heard of people being stalked. Granted, I am not a scientist and do not have a pure sample to take my conclusions from, but really, what guy do you know that has ever been in danger-serious, no-joke danger-from a girl stalking him? Maybe embarrassed, or annoyed, but most likely they are full of shit and conceited, blowing it out of proportion when a girl is just calling to get back something she left at his place. (I know there are exceptions to this statement, but since the commercial is aimed at the general mass of the public, I am speaking in terms of the general mass as well.)
Let’s examine what type of stalking we are talking about. In the travesty of a commercial linked above, we are talking about both physical and cyber stalking. Let’s look at some numbers provided by people paid to research, and who do not work for Virgin Mobil and have more pure samples than I. 73% of people being cyber-stalked in 2010 were women (http://www.haltabuse.org/resources/stats/Cumulative2000-2010.pdf) and they were usually being stalked by men. Thus, this commercial’s first offense is that it’s a drastic role reversal of reality. Still more insulting, the stats on physical stalking show 78% of the victim to be women, and 90% of the stalkers to be men (http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32457). Not just any men, but usually exes of some variety.
I’ll re-frame the commercial for us as we learn real facts together. Our image should now be an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband who is feeling less than great about his girlfriend ending things as the stalker, and a woman as the stalkee. The question that seems to press for me in this scenario is "so what"? What the big problem with being stalked? Following our wonderful paid research people, fear is a big issue. And not fear that the ex-husband will be checking their recent Tweets, but rather that they can’t leave at night, that they will be physically harmed, afraid to even report this abuse. The commercial does not show any physical or even hypothetical threat to the man in his house.
In our revised commercial, the stalker is not in a tree outside his ex-girlfriend’s house, checking her recent tweets, but is calling and threatening her well-being if she does not meet his demands. He is following her around, asking where she is if she doesn’t attend work or a class as she usually does. He’s sitting outside her house making sure she’s coming home “on time”. He’s making threats that he is capable of following through on. Even if the blonde in the commercial threatened the guy, he looks like he could probably fend her off. Reverse the situation using both of the actors in the commercial. Can she fend him off? It’s less funny now, isn’t it? It’s become more of a situation where you’d advise your friend/sister/mom/co-worker/daughter to call the police, hasn’t it?
Our new commercial might be something like this: Flash in with lightning. A fairly well-build middle class white male in his car, outside a suburban home after dark. Zoom in on his 5 o’clock shadowed face as he starts talking to the camera in a low voice. “Tracey thought she could just break up with me. Like we didn’t mean anything to each other! Don’t worry! Using my 90G phone, I can trace her exact location via her phone. I can monitor all her friends via her facebook account and see if anyone knows if she’s dating someone new. And I can send anonymous emails automatically every three minutes so she knows I still love her. And I will love her again. I will.” Lightning flashes. “Thank goodness my phone can do all this here! Because I won’t be going home again until I make sure she gets home…a phone that fast and multi-tasking! It’s crazy, isn’t it?!” And, scene.
That’s the commercial I want to see Virgin Mobil make. Show me that reality on my 10-inch HD while I’m on the treadmill, and try to sell me a high-speed phone 15 seconds later. The only selling point I can see is that it’d be a fast connection to the cops, which every stalking victim needs. Of course, that’s assuming the police will arrive, will be able to do something about the situation, that there are laws in place that will help the victim and not blame her, and that she had an upbringing that led her to be a self-assured, confident individual who feels justified in having her own space and protecting it fiercely enough to ask for the help she needs. Yeah…then I’ll buy your phone.