It seems that Toyota is looking to fashion a new image for itself after the company’s recent legal issues. Their new television commercial for their popular Avalon model harkens back to a time when products were thought to be safely and solidly built. The commercial features an extravagant Art Deco train station set that is arguably representative of any time period between the 1930s and early 1960s. The locomotive is a streamlined Hudson which was popular in the mid 1930s. The song, Mr. Sandman, was a hit in 1955. The first time I saw it I was mesmerized by the beautiful set and bouncy music. Upon closer viewing though I was struck by what was actually playing out. The actors and actresses are not just beautiful people enjoying their luxurious new car; they seem to be awkwardly constructed modern stereotypes placed within a false historical situation. The actors are blatantly representing a situation that didn’t exist. A white couple and an African American couple enjoying a beautiful new car within the context of the created time period present a situation at odds with itself.
While Toyota seems to have worked so hard to rewrite racial history, the women remain completely unaltered. The white man is shown driving the car with his prototype wife beside him. And while he promotes the newest technology (“I got mine with voice activated navigation”) his wife follows it up with a statement about getting to go to the city…presumably to go shopping. What do commercials like this say to young people, especially young girls, about women in America during this time period? Is the commercial actually passively condoning past sexual discrimination since the actress seems to thoroughly enjoy her constructed identity? What does this commercial mean to young individuals who did not personally experience this time period in America?