by Stephanie Christofferson
Dior’s latest Miss Dior commercial writes a revision of the fairytale wedding, casting Natalie Portman in the role of runaway bride. Apologizing to her father and rejecting her groom, Portman runs off into the sunset, stripping off her handmade couture gown (Dior, of course) to reveal a tight black minidress beneath it. A blatant rejection of the patriarchy, the ad calls into question the institution of marriage as well as the feminine role implicated in it. The ad is set to Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” a clear feminist reference to the sexual freedom and social revolution characteristic of the 1960’s.
But just as Dior rejects contemporary gender constructs, it perpetuates them. After all, this ad is for a perfume; perfumes are inherently tied to sex and sexuality, often marketed to depict the wearer as an object of lust. The fact that this particular ad breaks the syntax does not disrupt the entire structure, but paints Dior as modern and empowering. In the end of the commercial, Portman flies off in a helicopter with a hot new copilot. She may have rejected the traditional marriage on land below her, but she does not fly away into the sunset alone.
Is Dior starting a modern feminist revolution that rejects the contemporary institution of marriage? Maybe. More likely, the brand is capitalizing on a current trend of independence, power, individuality and redefinition found throughout popular culture. To underscore this trend, contrast the Dior ad (for women’s perfume) with the latest Chanel ad (for Bleu De Chanel, a men’s cologne) – which shows a man rejecting various forms of celebrity and female attention with the tagline “you are finally becoming who you are.”
Like the Miss Dior ad, the Bleu De Chanel commercial is set to a 1960s soundtrack (this time, a symbol of anti-stereotypical male power and sexuality – Jimi Hendrix). Also like the Dior ad, there are sexual undertones woven throughout. Both ads have found a way to break the syntax without really destroying it, presenting consumers with the feeling of rebellion without the true social consequences. Leave the man at the altar, but find another one; flee the hordes of desperate women, but chase the elusive beauty. It’s not rejection – it’s choice. For Dior, a brand founded on a true celebration of the female figure and female sexuality in the “new look,” the move to keep up with modern incarnations of the empowered woman is a smart one.