Nostalgia for red hot virgins

We all yearn after the good old days don’t we? 

I miss New Zealand’s roads being empty of cars, “rush hour” being something I’d heard of but didn’t experience every morning. 

I miss huge toffee milks, chocolate covered slabs of caramelly goodness which stayed in your mouth for hours.

I miss keeping up with new music and films, just because there were fewer of them. 

I miss high streets and open air markets, rather than huge shopping malls full to the seams of people buying things that look exactly the same. 

I miss being able to make a simple purchase.  Last time I tried to buy a vacuum cleaner, there were literally dozens of choices, different colours, brands, suckage power, cord length.  So confusing I ran back to my dirty house.

I miss my tough summer feet, walking barefoot without wincing.  I miss clean beaches and fruit and vege shops and paper bags for fresh sunday bread.

I miss mobile phone free life, with all the joys of undivided attention to what you’re actually doing at the time.

Other people, of course, miss different things.

Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson has just harnessed nostalgia to remind us after 25 years that Virgin are “still red hot”.  An air-crew of red-suited women in stilettos stroll through an airport, stopping all men dead in their tracks, while their hair bounces, their eyes beckon, their bare legs stride, their smiles welcome.

Oh, and they are accompanied unmistakably the leader of the pack, the pilot, who has several of the red hot Virgins on his arm, while simultaneously winking suggestively at other women while he strolls by.

UK media reviewers love it, as do their commenters.

Representing the first Virgin Atlantic crew on the inaugural flight to New York in 1984, they walk past 1980s icons such as the Asteroids arcade game, a Rubik’s Cube, a yuppie banker with a huge mobile and a Sun headline about the miners’ strike.

Which is funny, because the nostalgia in the props mentioned above isn’t what struck me about this ad at all.  It was the nostalgia for a simpler time, the good old days, which I’m not even sure existed in 1984.  The time when women dressed, walked and worked just for men’s gaze, when men could stare and “admire” women by dropping food on themselves, their lip to the ground, their phone. 

The time when little girls wanted to grow up to be pretty and walk through airports while men stared at them.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, luddite?”

“Nothing really mum.  I just want men to look at me.”  Coy hair curling with finger.

There isn’t even any of that clever post-modern irony, you know the stuff, where maybe some of the red hot Virgins are buff boys, so “the gaze” is ok because (heterosexual and bisexual) women are doing it too.  Or some of the people doing the checking out are queer women. 

So we still get to objectify, just without any uncomfortable feelings about whether that is linked to stereotyping working women into roles solely defined by how they look.

I have to confess I’ve never been a Richard Branson fan.  So perhaps I’m more than ordinarily unimpressed by this ad.  Or maybe I’m just bored bored bored with the ways we constantly repackage sexism so it’s palatable for the masses.  Yawn.

Two men at the end of the ad sum it up nicely.  One, looking at the pilot surrounded by the red hot Virgins, wants to change his job.  The other wants to change his flight so he can be serviced by the bevy of red-clad decorations. 

Ahh, those good old days.


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