Saturday, October 3, 2009

True Transport

In car commercials, drivers are often slick dudes or chicks dressed to kill in fancy cars tearing up an empty road that we can tell from the aerial view snakes through a gorgeous, green countryside. Usually the voice of a British person tells us how great the car is with sexy car engine noises coming to a crescendo at his or her pauses. Alternatively, "fun" and "affordable" cars are sold through ads were a young, hip person drives a car full of friends to an exciting night spot in a big, bustling city bumping the hottest tunes along the way. Of course, if people rode around in cars full of friends maybe there would be some emptyish roads outside of the least densely populated parts of this nation and we wouldn't be consuming gas so ravenously or putting alarming amounts of CO2 in the air. These commercials are pure fantasy, but I don't think they're fantasies about transportation as much as they're about transport--strong or intensely pleasurable emotion synonymous with ecstasy. The commercials are selling the idea that one kind of car will make you sexy and "posh" (hence the British narrator). Another kind of car is the key to fun. Why aren't bikes sold that way? There is probably a large segment of the population ready to dial into bikes for transport.

I think these lines from Helen Lee's fashion blog reveal a lot.
"Personally, I think Blair Waldorf (played by Leighton Meister) has adorable taste, so when she was riding about the Hamptons in the first few episodes of Gossip Girl this season, I wanted a retro style bike too. Even though I had not ridden a bike in at least 10 years."
This may not be just about a television show (because I fail to see how a few episodes of a vapid "teen" drama could sell anything to an adult so well); this could be about the writer's fantasy of being fashionable, airbrushed-to-perfection, and privileged. Such a fantasy isn't uniquely hers. I've often leafed through the pages of the newest Anthropologie catalog and thought, "My gawd, I want to live in this world!" This soft-focus world of pitch-perfect retro style and beautiful locales has included European utility bikes for years. The first bike I ever saw in the catalog evoked the fantasy satirized here--it had a huge basket on the front along with all the proper accoutrement and even a double kickstand. I believe it was called "The Market Bicycle." Now they sell this Italian beauty and even though a gal isn't riding through Tuscany she can still shop at her local farmer's market and find the ingredients for a great meal. Unlike car commercials, I think fantastic bike commercials would sell a fantasy that women could achieve to some degree (men too). One makes her own leisure time riding a bike to work or on errands in whatever clothes she likes--no need to wait for a vacation or a huge decrease in traffic. And when cycling, one can actually enjoy the gorgeous green countryside and the company of one's friends unlike a person driving a car. Don't let the British narrator tell you any different.


She Rides a Bike said...

For the life of me, I don't know why bikes aren't marketed to men and women with an eye toward the simplicity and elegance of the bike commuting lifestyle. Breezer actually does a great job on their site and in their print marketing materials. Men and women who are attractive but look real, on their Breezers, in the farmer's market, at the cafe, and wearing regular clothing. Exactly, the way I am on my bike (but shorter and maybe not quite as thin). Breezer marketing provided me with a visual reference that I just couldn't get out of my mind. I wanted the Breezer lifestyle. Some of the bike catelogs have a bit of that but it needs to show up in other print media - lifestyle magazines like Real Simple, Living, O, etc. Meantime, we'll just have to do our small part model how it's done in real life. Very good post.

2whls3spds said...

Every time I see a car commercial (which is infrequently)I always think that reality laws should apply. For every minute of "sheer ecstasy" they show they need to show 2 minutes (or more) of reality. Like sitting in Atlanta traffic at rush hour, or spending 4 hours at a dead stop on a rural interstate because of a shut down due to an accident.

There is an article floating around that indicates women are the canary in the coal mine when it comes to transportation availability in an area. If you want good mass transit, make it comfortable for women, ditto bicycles! I suspect this comes back to the old saying "If momma isn't happy, nobody is happy.


Jett said...

This is so true, but not enough people -- and I'm really saying not enough women -- treat the bicycle as a viable alternative to the car. Finding out what women want and then giving it to them would greatly expand the market for bicycles and get more people to follow a cycling lifestyle.

Just to be clear: so men's egos can remain intact, we can't say the man follows a woman's lead. We have to say the man has good reason to pursue his woman ;).

The Bronze Bombshell said...

SRAB: Thanks. I think that the lifestyle magazines can't be too far behind in more stylish bicycle imagery--all they have to do is follow the lead of the fashion designers and they do that anyway in regards to make-up or home decor.

Aaron: Truth in advertising? Sounds like a Socialist plot to bring down the above-reproach American capitalist system to me! lol.

On a serious note, I think that if women get everything they have to get done in a day (especially if they're moms) on public transit or a bike, then anybody can easily use alternative modes of transportation. Moreover, if moms use mass transit and bikes their kids will grow up using the same thing and continue to do so (most likely) into adulthood.

Jett: This is going to be the subject of my next post.

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