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1984 January 28, 2009

Posted by slickpig in gender, television.
Tags: , , , ,

This is a clip that has been circulating around the net recently. It’s Apple’s superbowl commercial for the first Macintosh, which depicts a dystopic future, like 1984. A large computer screen speaks to a crowd of men, who are all dressed in the same grey uniforms (It calls to mind the workers of Metropolis). The screen is then destroyed by a woman wearing bright clothing, wielding a sledgehammer. Can this commercial be any more perfect to analyze? Gender! Technology! But don’t take my word for it.  Have a look for yourself.  

I think the commercial is playing off the fear people have about technology, that it erases human diversity, that it is conformative and controlling. In a world ruled by technology everything will be grey, everything will be the same. This is also represented through gender. The male figure on the screen is pitted against the female figure with the sledgehammer. The male figure is an older gentleman, and appears not in the flesh but on a large screen. This aligns him with ideas about dominance and control. His age vis a vis the youth of the woman is meant to evoke the idea that this is an old kind of technology or an older idea about technology, outdated and about to be overthrown. The choice to have a woman be the destroyer of this dominating technology is extremely interesting. It is in line with many other representations of women and technology, I’m thinking specifically here about Metropolis and the Robot Maria, in that when technology is mixed with women and femininity, it is generally a more destructive force, much more wild and uncontrollable. The fact that the woman uses a sledgehammer, a fairly primitive tool in what seems to be a fairly hi-tech society, again has much to do with humanizing her. Her choice of tool is old, familiar, yet she utilizes it in a creative way to take down her foe. Apple is trying in this commercial to humanize technology, to explain that their computers don’t supersede the humanity in all of us, but rather aid us in furthering and extending ourselves. It is about individualization and creativity, which Apple represents through the image of the female in this commercial.