By Patricia Lee Yongue
Cars and Chicks
From the most elegant of international auto salons, posters, publicity photos, and magazine ads to the sleaziest of car shows and rags, a fetching female posed by—or slathered over—an attractive automobile remains an icon of Western popular culture. Occasionally, a woman sits behind the wheel and smiles through the side window. Less occasionally, she is depicted actually driving the vehicle. At the fancier shows and salons, she may move with the car by means of turntable. She and the car are assuredly objects of the ‘male gaze.’
Of late, some manufacturers have trained attractive young women to demonstrate the technology and other normally “guy knowledge” of the cars, but pretty girls talking in business-like voice about camshafts, rpms, and torque somehow diminishes the sexual sell despite the “smart is sexy” pitch. In a retro move, Ferrari offered a silent, stiletto-shod blonde-tressed female with a yellow 458 Italia at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show. And, for the most part, whether in print or at show, the non-driving, contextually sexually well-bodied and well-dressed (or undressed) young woman decorating an eminently drivable, beautifully bodied car still drives the marketer’s and, presumably, the target consumer’s desire.
The association of decorative women and cars dates back to the very introduction of the automobile at show. The poster for the opening of the first Salon de l’auto, organized by the Automobile Club of France and held in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris in June, 1898, featured a gowned, wasp-waisted goddess of speed reigning over the exhibit. In a poster for the French constructors A. Teste Moret and Cie Lyon-Vaise, a winged young lady in fancy dress pilots a voiturette encircled by a swarm of speeding flies. [Read more…] about Cars and Chic Chicks