Hot Wheels Cars Introduce Pin-Up Art For Kids – Are You Buying It?
Amanda Duncil | On 30, Jul 2013
Like many twenty-somethings my age who are besotted with “retro” fashion and use the word “vintage” liberally in casual conversation, I love 1920s style pin-up art. The imagery is captivating; women arranged in subtly provocative poses give us a hint of seduction without being explicitly sexual. It beckons us to an era long past and lends itself to rose-colored glasses syndrome if you’re like me and not-so-secretly wish the styles of old were still the fashion.
Pin-up art gained popularity in the 20s, when burlesque performers and actresses promoted themselves using their photo as a business card of sorts. Using their image allowed performers to cultivate a persona that could be recognized both on and off stage. Supporters of the art praise it as empowering and claim that it is indicative of a breakaway from harmful stigmas of the past in regards to sexuality and the female form: shame, embarrassment, and the amalgamation of social problems that stem from repression. The style challenged gender roles and brought women’s sexuality to the public sphere.
Pin-up models superimposed on brand logos or merchandise became a go-to method for advertisers looking to move product. As the cliche mantra claims, sex sells. It’s a practice that’s entrenched in our culture’s advertising and serves to showcase our commercial priorities on their most base level. Women are used to sell products at such an alarming frequency that it’s almost expected — but not from a popular toy line like Hot Wheels.
Sometimes, the whole vintage craze gets out of hand. The nostalgia series of military-inspired Hot Wheels cars features six new cars with one of two pieces of nose art (art that was predominantly featured on WWII planes) on the cardboard packaging. Keep in mind that the target demographic for Hot Wheels cars are prepubescent children. Sexy art used to brand a toy isn’t the same as dirty innuendo hidden in a cartoon that goes blissfully unnoticed by children. It’s very obvious that the women are meant to be looked at and are putting themselves on display for the viewer. Yes, the art is a part of our history and it’s mild as far as pin-up art goes, but it’s unlikely a child would understand the nature of such art other than at face value. Tasteful or no, objectifying women is not something to sell to youngsters, especially those of a highly impressionable age.
Commodifying women has been a long-standing thorn in the side of feminism, and one that is not likely to be removed anytime soon. Jason John Horn discusses the ubiquitous juxtaposition between females and products in an article discussing a series of satirizing artworks by Mel Ramos. In his article, he writes:
“[...] it demonstrates how women are objectified by a system run predominantly by men. Women are made to dress provocatively and objectify themselves so that men might be able to sell products to other men. Women, in such practices, are excluded from the process and marginalized, while the focus is entirely on men and on what they want. Women are not permitted to contribute input. They are not speaking and their needs are not addressed (quite the opposite, they are undressed). They are placed alongside logos.”
I know that Mattel’s marketing team has had a hard time with gender inequality recently, so perhaps they should have sat on this idea for a little longer. What do you think? Is this acceptable, or are you not buying it? Let us know in the comments section!