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…
The Duke is back, kids. Our long national nightmare is over. At long last, we can stop waiting and once again bask in the calm judgmentalism that will never lead us astray.
Who, exactly, is the intended audience here? Clearly not females. Women can quit and not endure the disappointment of Random Cowboy at the Bus Stop. But if I identified as male, I would resent the implication that I should be interpellated with this passive-aggressive bullshit. Who are you calling “son,” old man? Why are you assuming I’m a quitter? Who are you to judge me? You don’t know my life! Maybe I should quit whatever it is I was just doing. What business is it of yours? Why should I care what you think, Vaguely Cowboy-ish White Man?
I know, I know. It’s not really John Wayne who is giving the troubled male youth of America a stern talking-to. A committee of people are putting words in his mouth and using his image to indoctrinate said youth into blissful, suburban 1950’s submission.
Forgive me, but I have to get this off my chest.
Why is no one talking about how Woody Allen ripped entire lines and caricatures from Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”? Why is everyone raving about this hacked-together borrowing of fun-facts and stereotypes of long-dead public figures? (Not everyone is raving, but I would say the vast majority are.) It was a double-layered cameo-fest where the historical figures were just snippets of their historically-remembered selves…many snippets of which were not even true. And those that did have a basis in fact were stolen from other people’s works. Why are critics raving about this child’s jigsaw puzzle of a movie?
If I’m going to be honest, though, I actually did enjoy watching this movie. It was fun and an interesting idea and the modern bits were insightful as far as how people relate to one another and lord knows I loved the era-specific costumes…but it wasn’t nearly as deep about nostalgia as it was trying to be, and the embarrassing parade of 1920s characters from “A Moveable Feast” was laughably trite and bordering on plagiarism. How are so many people applauding in awe of this half-assed exercise in bricolage?