this amazing reminder last week that when it comes to feminist aesthetics, perfume advertising, and critique, I am falling woefully down on the job. So, my advice? Go read Paul Aguirre Livingston's piece on the annoucement that Brad Pitt is about to become the first male face of Chanel No. 5, which is terrific, then come back here. It's cool. I'll wait.
Okay, good. Look, here's the deal.
My first thoughts were: "That is a weird and unexpected choice for Chanel." Why take (arguably) the most womanly scent in the world (in terms of identity in the market place) and have a dude front it? Is he planning to wear it for his wedding version of Spectacular, Spectacular!? Is he about to reclaim No. 5 as a unisex scent? Because if so, then wow, this could be awesome. But more likely? Chanel wants to use their wedding as a promo opportunity and didn't want Angelina Jolie associated with it for some BS gendered reasons ("She's too slutty! She's too sexual! No. 5 is classic/classy!) so they went with her more palatable husband.
My second thoughts were: "Hey! Maybe this will mean a new trend in Chanel ads that don't focus so much on how women are incomplete without men (Audrey Tatou's No. 5 ads) or how women can control men with the possibility of sex and their perfume (Keira Knightley's CoCo Mademoiselle ads). That would be nice. I'd appreciate that. And if anyone has the market prowess to try, it's got to be Chanel."
My third thoughts were: "Really? That guy? The guy who punked people in Jackass while in a guerrilla suit so no one knew who he was while he bashed into their cars in a rogue shopping cart? The guy who famously dumped The Good Girl for a sex kitten? (Literally. Jennifer Aniston starred in that movie.) It's the most famous case of madonna vs. whore in all of modern pop conception. And he stayed with her! And they're happy! With babies, lots 'o babies! There was no weird retribution. He never saw the error of his ways! It cuts against all things...normative and sexually regressive. How can Chanel possibly spin a narrative that cuts against their traditional fairy tale stories?"
My fourth and final thoughts were: "Wait and see."
So part of the reason I haven't commented is because I thought it made more sense to wait and see the actual ad. Because despite my best instincts, I'm hopeful that this could be different and interesting.I mean, I know this hopefulness basiclly makes me just a huge sucker, but what can I say?
Hope springs eternal...even in perfume advertising.