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Kia chalks up another ad as a sexist fail

Date: May 2, 2013 | Posted By: Tessa

Oh, Kia. Weren’t you listening when I praised you for your refreshing new take on the car ad? Or do you just not look to your partner companies in different countries for progressive advertising?

I’m speaking, of course, about the latest ad for the 2014 Kia Forte. Carrying on from the theme of their “Hotbots” Superbowl ad, Kia once again features a sexed-up robot and a slightly-nerdy man.

But in this ad, the robot goes beyond simply being sexy. She actually seems to be USED for sex.

In the ad, we see a man driving the car and smiling at his passenger. Cut to his passenger: a fembot. She is smiling back at the driver. The driver gives the car a command to navigate him back home.

They arrive at his house, showing off some features of the car along the way. When they park and get out of the car, they notice that there are some birds sitting on a lamppost over the car. So, using her robotic strength, the fembot rotates the post to move the birds away.

The couple smile at each other, the man running his eyes over the fembot’s form. Then they link arms and walk inside.

Still from Kia commercial of man seemingly starting at the robotic woman's breasts.

Um, dude? My robotic eyes are up here!

So, what are we supposed to take away from this ad? That men should be desiring robotic women? That the only woman who will be impressed by this car are robotic ones?

Or, that the only creative ad directors at Kia are idiotic ones…?

Tessa Needham finished her PhD in Performing Arts at the University of Western Sydney (Australia) in 2008. Her thesis explored the potential of performance to provoke change, and part of her research was Bodily, a solo theatrical performance about body image. She loves technology and the creative arts, and is passionate about the different cultural forces affecting the body image of girls and women. She teaches computers and does freelance creative work: www.tessaneedham.com.




What Do You Think?

25 Responses to Kia chalks up another ad as a sexist fail

  1. Ashley on 05-03-2013

    I hate this commercial. She looks a lot like someone I know, though.
  2. Ashley on 05-03-2013

    Holy crap, it is her. This saddens me.
  3. Sara on 05-14-2013

    would you guys complain if it was a real girl instead? Don't Be Hating, it's just a commercial after all.
    • Tessa on 05-23-2013

      No, it would probably be marginally better if the girl wasn't a robot. And I disagree that just because it's a commercial, we shouldn't be criticising it. In fact, commercials should be MORE criticised! They are a huge part of the many insidious media messages fed to us about women's bodies.
  4. Jackie on 05-14-2013

    Guess you haven't seen their other ad:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzXGkyzIUYs&list=PLFC5A422C59E2FC01

    The one where a man kicks the car, and the fembot becomes upset and beats the guy up.
    • dirk on 05-20-2013

      Didn't he kick the tire? People kick the tire to check air pressure. He didn't intend harm to the car, so why does the "fembot" assault him?
    • Tessa on 05-23-2013

      Hi Jackie,

      Yes, I linked to this ad in the second sentence of this piece.

      It's still featuring women as scantily-clad robots, isn't it?
      • Reality Check on 05-24-2013

        You have it backwards.

        It's not featuring scantily-clad women as robots, it's featuring robots as scantily-clad women.
        • Tessa Needham on 05-24-2013

          Sure, but that's really semantics, isn't it?
  5. dirk on 05-20-2013

    Did you see the Kia ad where the robot physically assaults a man that is looking at the car on display, hitting him so hard he flies across the showroom, and damages the wall he crashes into. Then the robot smiles.

    Thoughts?
    • Tessa on 05-23-2013

      Hi dirk, yes I definitely saw that ad! I linked to it in the second sentence of this piece, in fact. It's still featuring women as scantily-clad robots, isn't it?
      • C@~ on 05-30-2013

        Yup, all that matters is that the robot-woman is wearing too little clothing. But it's totally okay for her/it to beat up a man.

        Both images are equally sexist but you seem to brush over that with your comments.
        • Tessa on 05-30-2013

          I agree with you, they are both unacceptably sexist. But this article just deals with the newer one. I would love to read your commentary on the older ad as well!
  6. Star Larvae on 05-26-2013

    There's a tradition of sexed-up, mechanical women in advertisements. Go back to Marshall McLuhan's "The Mechanical Bride". Several exhibits in that book address the issue of commercial culture rendering the female form as machinelike. Think drum majorette and Ziegfeld Follies. McLuhan also relates this motif to the pretty (and often barely dressed)woman-as-corpse, a cliche of the detective murder mystery genre.

    see also my commentary at http://www.starlarvae.org/Star_Larvae_Addendum_Cyberfetus_Rising.html
    • Tessa on 05-27-2013

      Thanks for your comment. Indeed a tradition - but that doesn't make it OK!
  7. paul appleton on 05-26-2013

    She reminds me of Valerie 23 (an old twilight zone episode). The ad message is not sexist, it is that the car at it's price with it's features is a real value proposition worth protecting from bird guano. Sophia Shinas is awesme as Valerie
    • Tessa on 05-27-2013

      Thanks for your thoughts, Paul. So you think they only way the car could be protected from said "guano" is for a sexy robotic lady to move the pole? Surely therein lies the sexism?
    • Silfren on 05-27-2013

      The ad message IS sending a sexist message. It's not just about the car. Do you even know how commercials work? If Kia didn't want to convey a particular message with the robot woman and her nerd man, it would have used a different image entirely.

      The first time I saw this commercial, my impression was that the purpose of this guy having a robot girlfriend is that robots don't ask questions, they simply do as programmed, and she is clearly programmed to be both his personal servant and sex toy. Of COURSE it is a sexist message. I rage every time I see the damn thing.
      • Tessa on 05-27-2013

        Exactly.
  8. Nick on 06-01-2013

    With the GOP slashing billions of dollars from programs people need to live, THIS is what bothers you? A car ad with a robot woman? Corporate America says thanks for playing.
    • Tessa on 06-02-2013

      Hi Nick, thanks for your concern. I believe it is possible to care about many things at once. However, this is a blog about the media and body image, so I feel that the topic is appropriate here.
  9. Christopher on 06-02-2013

    Yep, was quite surprised when I saw this. I wasn't sure how to feel about the guy getting beat up in the first one as I didn't find it all that funny, but understood that it was tongue-in-cheek cartoon-like violence (as the guy obviously was fine from a throw that should have killed him), and it at least fit their "respect the tech" slogan.

    But I was really surprised to seem them endorsing the idea of taking home a sexbot with your new car. The protecting-it-from-birds joke is a weak link to their slogan and the idea of a compliant fembot to take home is a bit of a bizarre association to make with your automobile product.

    But I wonder if this is a cultural thing? Koreans are much more familiar with robots as cultural proxies.
    • Tessa on 06-03-2013

      Thanks for your thoughts, Christopher!

      You're right, it could be a cultural thing. However, this was an ad that aired in the US, and Kia have had very different ads in different markets (see the Australian ad referenced in the article). It would seem quite weird if they weren't aware of their market?

      Always possible, I suppose!
  10. Raunchy robotics: the ethics of sexbots | Humanity-Centered Robotics Initiative on 06-18-2013

    [...] “Hotbots” — their version of a female sex robot commonly known as a fembot (1). In this ad, it is implied that the owner of the car is using the robot for sex. Kia used a human actress for [...]
  11. michael borg acosta on 07-11-2013

    I dont see the problem here, girls complain that men are nasty pigs and treat all men as if they where nothing more than or less than dogs. Not all men are the same, however every word that exits any woman nawadays is a derogatory insult to all men, unless they are tall dark and handsome and get you wet. I think its a good thing this technology is being advanced everyday by engineers and in the last 40 years it has gone very far imagine another 40 years where it will be. Women complain about wierdo men if they have something to keep their minds occupied then women wont have to be bothered by them. I think the world will be better by this. Think like this, in clubs no more men bothering, trying to drug you and rape you. No more sexaul violence against women, no more reason for women to hate men. Im in the army and you wouldnt believe all the classes we have to take because of some idiot rapist or those who sexually assault people, I hate it and the sad thing is its all directed to men. Its come to the point I avoid any female soldier fearing they will think im sexually objectifying her. You wouldnt believe the things you could get hemmed up for, like looking at a women is a sexual harrasment im like shit wtf. Ive seen one of my friends get kicked out the army because a female soldier falsely accused him, I know because she admitted to it and changed her story up a couple times. How nice it would be to not have to worry about all that shit, in todays days just approaching a woman even in good intentions could get you jailed or labeled as a sexual predator, its sad.