So I was driving into Manhattan yesterday, approaching the Midtown Tunnel, minding my own business, and making my way past the barrage of billboards that thickens as you slow down. Actually, slow is an optimistic word here. Depending on the time of day, or funky traffic conditions, you could easily devote an hour to sitting still, under quiet billboard assault.
I'd just cleared the towering Larry Flynt Hustler Club sign featuring a woman wearing a lot of lip liner and what I believe to be a cowboy hat, when I was confronted by a brand new billboard. This one highlighted a naked woman lying down, her head tilted back toward all of us on the Long Island Expressway, with bold copy above her that read: "GREAT HEAD EVERY KNIGHT."
In somewhat less bold letters in the corner it said, Knights Head Premium Brew, and in even fainter print you could see the word "beer" above an insert carrot indicating to the reader that, as an afterthought, "beer" should be squeezed in between GREAT and HEAD, thereby reading GREAT beer HEAD EVERY KNIGHT.
The naked woman was on her back, cupping a breast in each hand, with her legs crossed and bent at the knees. Next to her was an iced bucket of twinkling long neck beers grazing her thigh. There was a bizarre and relaxed elegance to this woman, who appeared to maybe be waiting to surprise her fella when he came home.
I started to wonder who thought up this ad campaign. Was the owner of Knights Head Premium Brew an independently wealthy 14 year old boy? Or had an adult CEO used his power to defy any naysayer who might have advised something like, "You might want to rethink this"?
Then I wondered if someone from an ad agency had pitched this idea to Knights Head, and how that might have gone. I thought about the looks cast members on The Office give Steve Carell's character when he makes sexist and racist comments. What kind of facial expression do you make as your colleague pitches you the selling points of fellatio and beer? And what do you do when the guy with the juice to green light it says, "I LOVE it! It's PERFECT!"
I thought about school buses full of kids on Broadway matinee field trips, stagnated outside the tunnel next to this ad, and what I could only imagine to be the ensuing teetering and gender programming.
But then I thought to myself, I'm making the assumption men did this. It could have been women. And from there, my mind went straight to Annie Leibovitz and Tina Brown. And I got bummed.
I like Leibovitz's photos, and think her nudes have helped expand our culture, like the Vanity Fair cover of Demi Moore pregnant, or her intimate portraits of her partner Susan Sontag, especially the ones revealing the ravages of her cancer. But a partially nude 15 year old girl draped in a bedsheet for Vanity Fair's adult demographic, knowing full well it would also go straight to the internet?
And then there's Tina Brown, who I don't know much about, but do know managed to briefly serve as editor of The New Yorker, arguably the greatest magazine ever. She said in a quote in New York Magazine with regard to the Miley Cyrus photos, "There goes Annie again, driving up sales. I saw her tonight and congratulated her. I said 'Great job. Put one of those out every quarter. It's terrific for the newsstand, and it gets S.I. [Newhouse, chairman of Conde Nast publications] off your back.'"
Well, at least the Knights Head model looked old enough to drive.
This Equal Opportunity Exploitation can't be what Wollstonecraft, Sanger, Stanton, Friedan and Steinem had in mind for the year in which we had our first female presidential candidate.