Flashing in Film Festival’s Ad: Funny or Not?

April 27, 2009

I found this post on SAFER’s blog by Sarah M. in response to the Tribeca Film Festival’s ad campaign.

Excerpt from Sarah M.’s post: “…This ad for the festival, which I saw for the first time yesterday when it ran before the festival screening I was attending, plays to the tagline: “Think You’ve Seen It All In New York? Think Again.” Two women are walking through a park when a naked man in a trenchcoat suddenly exposes himself to them. While one woman is disgusted, the other is enticed by his naked body, asking him to lift up his coat and turn around, and even asks the flasher for a date. Now, I understand that this is supposed to be funny precisely because it’s not funny. The conceit is that flashing is disgusting and the audience is supposed to laugh at the absurdity of a woman actually getting her flasher’s number for a date, especially considering that he’s not exactly a “hunk.” OK, I get it. But still, still I am really angered by this ad…I am angry that whoever made the ad doesn’t really understand that in order for the ad to be ironic, people have to understand how completely disgusting street harassment is, and I’m sorry but I don’t think that people, in general, do.

Screen shot from ad

Screen shot from ad

I’m angry because the night before I saw this ad, this happened to me: walking from the subway to a friend’s house on an empty, but what I would consider to be a safe street, an older teenager on a bike was riding ahead of me. As I learned long ago to do when walking alone, I kept my eyes pointed straight ahead, glancing at the kid from the corner of my eye now and then just to keep tabs on his movements and proximity. At some point I could swear that I saw him take his penis out of his pants and start touching himself while operating his bike with one hand, but I thought I must be crazy and ignored it. Then he pulled up his bike a few feet in front of me, off to the side of the sidewalk so he wasn’t exactly blocking my path, and just stayed there silently as I passed. Trying to move fast and not make eye contact I again was pretty positive that this guy was sitting on his bike masturbating but I didn’t really want to look hard enough to confirm this. At this point I was almost at my friend’s house and he slowly followed me down the street on his bike, keeping his distance but definitely following. Finally he stopped across the street from my destination and waited there, definitely jerking off, still silent, until I got into the house.

I don’t think I need to explain how scary and disgusting this situation was. I was still somewhat upset by it by the time I arrived at the movie the next day only to see that festival ad. Just writing this makes me flush with anxiety again. What happened to me wasn’t funny, and even less funny is the fact that this stuff happens a lot more than people think. Perhaps men in trenchcoats aren’t walking around flashing all the time, but what about the guy on the subway who openly masturbates while a young woman sits across from him? What about this guy on the bike? These aren’t isolated events. Forgive me if I can’t find the humor there.”

What do you think? Do you agree with her that the ad was in poor taste or do you think it is funny, ironic, or edgy?