Human Perfection: What Could Go Wrong?

August 11, 2009 § 14 Comments

Ads for the movie Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis and set to hit theatres in September, have been dominating the NYC subways recently. I don’t like them very much.

surrogates1

surrogates2

surrogates3

Notice what poses the advertisers consider the “perfect” man, as opposed to woman, to lounge in? Notice where they’re clothed, where they’re nude? Notice that all three models are thin yet chiseled? Notice that they’re all white?

It’s embarassing that this movie is being portrayed as “futuristic” when the ideals it glorifies are decidedly tired. Hello? We see these ideas of perfection in the mainstream media every fucking day. Nothing about this is edgy.

§ 14 Responses to Human Perfection: What Could Go Wrong?

  • Stephanie says:

    Thanks, Miranda. These ads have been creeping me out on my way to work for the last week. I had only seen the blonde one and the one that looks very much like Angelina Jolie (hmmmm…). Silly me I had assumed I just hadn’t seen the ones that only undermined sexist ans sizeist stereotypes, but I figured they couldn’t be so outwardly racist. Guess I was wrong… Thanks for the heads up!

  • katiems says:

    Miranda, I am so glad you posted about this. These ads are fucking weird. Something I also think is super scary about them is that by literally dehumanizing these people, it makes them more attractive. Don’t you love girls and guys who are robots? setting up even more unrealistic role models for the young ones.

  • Natalie Zack says:

    From the trailer it looks like the movie is examining the consequences of the quest for physical perfection, which could be kind of interesting.

    It’s a movie about robots that look like “perfect” humans. It’s a Bruce Willis action movie, so I’m not expecting a whole lot, but it looks like it’s playing around with some very interesting ideas.

    In the context of the plot, the ads actually make really good sense.

  • Wow, perfection indeed…

    It really creeps me out that they are all white.

  • Channing says:

    I’m wary of criticizing ad campaigns for unreleased science fiction movies, because I’m an eternal optimist. Case in point: This movie is based on a comic book series ( says Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Surrogates ) about a future in which people interact with each other via humanoid robots. Apparently, everyone’s chosen, or maybe been forced to choose from, skinny white make robots or submissive skinny white female robots. And science fiction is, at its best, a tool for examining the problems of the present through metaphor and exaggeration.

    So — maybe this movie is actually going to be an excellent and thoughtful parable about how white beauty norms and female obeisance perpetrate our ‘post-inequality’ mass-media-driven society. And the ‘HUMAN PERFECTION’ tagline is actually ironic, serving to undermine and hijack the imagery of a submissive white woman in order to make a point about the often-ignored persistence of ingrained biases and power structures in the face of shiny new technologies.

    That said, the ads are uninspiringly offensive and the movie will probably suck. But I can dream.

    • ekswitaj says:

      The context of the movie isn’t there when people are looking at the ads, so any irony that might provide isn’t relevant if we’re looking at this as an ad campaign.

  • Bill Diamond says:

    It makes me sad seeing this ad knowing one day my daughter will ask me why she doesn’t have a metallic skeleton.

  • Clix says:

    Yeah, I’m thinking the “what could go wrong?” is definitely meant as foreshadowing, and the “Human Perfection” ends up referring to the tyrrany of social expectations and submission to majority privilege.

    Hoping so, anyway.

  • William Carmikal says:

    The tagline is “Human perfection. What could go wrong?” It seems fairly obvious that the images are intended to portray what could, in fact, go wrong. I’m not optimistic enough to truly believe the advertisers are pointing out to us that a future of skinny white people might be scary (I’d love it if they were), but that message will be an under-riding current in the movie, and if you don’t see that it’s only because you’re too busy being offended.

    Don’t get me wrong: these ads are offensively racist, sexist, and elitist. But really, aren’t the people who put out these ads just, as professional advertisers, trying to attract their target audience? And the largest target audience for sci-fi flicks (and Bruce Willis movies) is white people who wish they looked like that (robotic bits aside) or want to stare at people who look like that. Portraying it any other way would make us feel better, but it wouldn’t sell as well. The more important issue is what the advertisers are reflecting back at us, a failing in people. That this campaign is all over New York, the most diverse city in The United States, only emphasizes the real problem.

    And I’d hardly describe the woman on all fours as “lounging.”

  • mirandanyc says:

    Great criticisms all — to be fair, I haven’t read the book, and have no plans to see the movie. But I agree with ekswitaj: any irony or subversion that the movie might bring is lost in these ads. To the vast majority of the public, this is just another ad profiting off of grotesque standards.

  • n1Ls says:

    strange pictures … seriously!

  • [...] Human Perfection: What Could Go Wrong? Ads for the movie Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis and set to hit theatres in September, have been dominating the NYC [...] [...]

  • bjorn says:

    The tagline is enough to tell me that there is a twist here. They can pretend this is not offensive by adding irony, whether or not that changes anything. Obviously at some point you are what you criticize, so irony doesn’t matter — it’s just a thin veil of an excuse — and I think that’s what bothers you.

    Looking at what the ad is intending to convey about the movie, though, I think it says that this movie criticizes or at the very least questions what our notions of perfection are. From the trailer it looks more like an action film that merely hints at the question of what people are willing to do to achieve perfect appearance, rather than really delving into the notion of what perfection is and why we want it.

    How effective at exploring this theme the movie is is an entirely separate question. Sci-fi frequently does a pretty good job of at least asking these kinds of questions. Action… not so much.

  • [...] My order of 50 just arrived; I wedged a bunch in my wallet and can’t wait to stick them to sexist subway [...]

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