As a person with only a moderate attachment to TV—I'd like to think so, anyway—popular commercials tend to pass me by. I sat blank-faced in my sixth-grade class when people mentioned the "beer frogs" and later failed to recognize the AFLAC duck, having opted for DVDs and streaming video of dubious legality.
Then, there was Hulu, the one-stop shop for one-season feminist classics and the latest NBC hit alike, with the added benefit of not provoking dreams of scary folks in uniform arresting me for piracy.
Lately, though, I've been starting to wonder if Hulu feels the need to balance out its convenience and legitimacy with extra-abhorrent ad vignettes. It seems that irrelevant talking animals are not the height of commercial vogue, leaving extra room for the gems Virgin Mobile has been bombarding me with at every break. And by "gems," I mean they're abso-freaking-lutely awful in every way. Take a look:
Kelly looks like a personification of Hollywood-depicted womanhood... and she acts like one too. Stalking aside, the villainess is a smorgasboard of female stereotypes. She's clingy and wants commitment after the first date. As made more explicit in the following ad, she can't take a hint. She looks at pictures of Brad's exes to confirm her superiority, because women only exist as competition to her. (Brad, meanwhile, is going about his business, calm even while being harassed. Oh, those dependable, unflappable men!) As with Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Kelly's exaggeration of stereotyped femininity is meant to serve as both horror and comedy. Is anyone surprised that commenters keep likening this to incidents on The Bachelor?
Lastly, there's the punchline. "That's crazy, right?" clearly anticipates a chorus of "No, you are!" Someone want to make a sarcastic LOLcat-esque image to illuminate Virgin's message here? Actually, allow me:
Not as amusing when you put it like that, is it, Virgin Mobile?
Plenty of cool feminists in the blogosphere have written about the problems with the term "crazy" itself, and I encourage you to check them out, because they've explained it better than I could.
Virgin Mobile's particular brand of "stalker humor" rang a little bell in my mind, and soon I found myself running a search for a film I hadn't thought about in years. Sure enough...
Yes, this is from a National Lampoon movie. Don't worry: you only need to watch the first ten seconds.
Once again: a conventionally attractive young white woman stalking a dude? Ha-ha! Clearly she doesn't constitute a threat, being that she's such an object not even a camera can keep from checking out her legs! Tara Reid's character, in this moment, is coded in much the same way as our Virgin Mobile antagonist. While I'm sure there are plenty more examples of throwaway jokes of this ilk on TV and film, the ad campaign goes further: stalking is not the joke; the joke is stalking.
All in all, the "Kelly and Brad" "Brad and Kelly" commercials (yes, the man's name officially comes first, even if he never speaks) are a toxic cocktail of sexism, ableism and flippancy. Their extremity even manages to reveal the wrongheadedness of casual stalking-oriented humor. I don't know if they're aiming for a "Trapped in the Closet"-type serial or if this series will come to a mercifully quick end, but next time Hulu drops into its twisted world, I'll be enjoying their oh-so-convenient mute key.