It’s All About You: Korean Air sells the virtue of American selfishness

At first, Korean Air’s “All About You” global ad campaign seemed like a fanciful satire. Orchestras and international landmarks glide across the heavens. The titular song (calculated to trigger James Bond flashbacks) lulls rich, white travelers to sleep while airline employees pamper them with serene smiles on their faces.

“At the heart of our world is you,” a female voice intones.

This had to be a joke…right?

Research and repeated viewings have since disabused me of that hopeful notion. While the commercial presents as tongue-in-cheek, its earnest undertones and ultimate endgame [read: profit] subverts any such satirical integrity. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

The commercial (unwittingly?) lampoons the archetypal American business traveler, selling the airline by showcasing what is traditionally the subtext of American ads: the consumer as the center of a commodified universe. A be-stubbled white man closes his eyes, encased in headphones. A white woman plucks a giant shrimp from the sky with chop-sticks. Another makes meaningful eye contact with the folks at home before she (presumably) takes a sip of her freshly shaken martini. But not before her blue cocktail turns into a round pool featuring female synchronized swimmers, who in turn become the rods and cones of her blue eye.

It’s all about you, indeed.

It simultaneously celebrates and spoofs American travel fantasies, often at the expense of Korean women. Each of the travelers being served in the commercial are white. All of the airline employees occupying service positions (flight attendant, bar-tender) are portrayed by Korean women. Meanwhile, men exert their dominion in the cloudy kitchens. The shadowy background dancers–per James Bond standards–are all women, serving the voyeuristic eye of the casual American viewer. The commercial is selling its target consumers–business travelers and a (largely female) leisure class–what Korean Air presumes to be their ideal version of themselves, all while reinforcing a (racist) status quo that devalues the women serving them.

In short, the commercial nails white American entitlement by showcasing aspirational consumerism that trades in the tired trope of Korean women servicing white clients. The only “modern” twist is that many of these clients are themselves women.

*Note: This goes live around the fifth anniversary of the blog’s first “real” post, so I thought it only fitting to return to the blog’s roots of deconstructing commercials for gender trouble. Ah, nostalgia…

 

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, Deconstructing Commercials, Gender Trouble, Racism

4 responses to “It’s All About You: Korean Air sells the virtue of American selfishness

  1. I didn’t know about this commercial before. (The jumbo shrimp was pretty funny.)
    There’s definitely a Bond vibe to the whole thing. Thanks for bringing the issue to light.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, you’ve pretty much nailed this one. I’ve seen this commercial. It’s only tongue-in-cheek in that wink and nod sense that I can imagine the moneyed/hip target audience saying out loud in more mixed company, “Isn’t that over the top?” and laughing, while saying to themselves and the like-minded “Yesssss.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is some pun intended but it gels well with the ad campaign…

    Like

  4. L.s

    this, is why i don’t like capitalism, nailed it

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s