Bad Taste Or A Fitting Legacy?

clark kentI’m not known for being ultra politically-correct but seeing this advert in a couple of the weekend newspaper magazines left me feeling ever so slightly uncomfortable.

My first thought was, ‘ew, yet another company using a dead celebrity to sell something.’ Always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Did Christopher Reeve really agree to put his name to a car from beyond the grave? And if not, who’s cashing in?

My second thought was, ‘what do I think about Audi using an actor who spent the last nine years of his life as a quadriplegic (and therefore would have been highly unlikely to drive the car) in an advert with the strap-line ‘Power from a less obvious place’?

Is this an empowering but at the same time patronising and misguided statement that yes, even disabled people can be powerful despite what society may think?

Well, apparently I’m completely wrong. When I saw my boss and brandished the advert under is nose, he said, ‘ahhhh, Christopher Reeve, the best Clark Kent ever. Wicked ad.’ Seeing my blank expression, he slowly said, ‘D’uh, Superman? You know, the office geek who changes into a superhero?’ Ah. Well, that explains it then. I’m also not known for being clued up about Batman or Spiderman either.

So the point of the Audi advert is that their new car is not on-the-surface powerful, but really it’s more powerful than it looks. Right, got it. Just like Superman.

Christopher Reeve had a riding accident in 1995, leaving him paralysed from the neck down and needing a respirator to help him breath for the rest of his life. He became very active in campaigns supporting handicapped children and paraplegics, and founded the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation in 1998 to promote research into spinal cord injuries. He died of a heart attack in 2004.

I’m still divided. My boss thinks it’s a brilliant legacy to a great actor. But to me, it boils down to being an advert for a car and Audi’s primary aim is to make money; they’re not using Christopher Reeve’s image for altruistic reasons. They’re simply hitching their wagon to a greater presence.

If I had a superpower, I’d choose invisibility. That way, I could be a fly on the wall in ad agencies so I could see just how they come up with these ideas…

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16 thoughts on “Bad Taste Or A Fitting Legacy?

  1. Ellen says:

    I’m with you. After what happened to Christopher Reeve, one really can’t separate the actor from the role. If it was all about Superman, they would’ve used a less-Christopher-looking likeness. It’s a bit creepy. Christopher-as-Superman happened a long time ago. I’m sure, with their advertising budget, the ambiguity was absolutely intended. More post-paralympic cash-in-on-the-inspirational-disabled garbage, I think.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Absolutely! That’s exactly what I said to my boss. If Christopher Reeve had died of ‘natural causes’, it’s still ‘ew’, but to use a quadriplegic is just beyond me. Why not use the most recent actor to play Superman? (no idea who, but I’m guessing someone famous).
      Thank you so much for your comment – great points I missed from the post!

      • The most recent Superman is Henry Cavill and even with glasses he doesn’t look like superman. I agree w/ another commenter that the target market of Audi would know Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent. The real question is who sold them the picture to use? Maybe it was his foundation and they also get something out of it?

        • stumbling in flats says:

          I really hope the foundation got some money, perhaps the logo for it on the advert would make the whole thing more palatable?

  2. reeves is more well among the demographic Audi wants to sell to. the recent superman actor, while very attractive, is probably not that well known outside of superman fans and people that know him from the tudors

    they probably had to pay the company that owns the copyright for the show and its images, so reeve’s family/charity etc probably didnt get any money for using his image

    the add does work, but….when you know what happened to him later in life, it does change how you look at it.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Good point about the demographic. I drive an Audi, meh. But know what you mean. I also wouldn’t have thought his family or charity would gain any money.

  3. Anja says:

    May have been better if the Audi advert had places a pic of CR in his superman outfit…if that’s what the message is suppose to be about. To me that’ll make much more sense

    • stumbling in flats says:

      I thought the same thing! Even if it was still in black and white. Would have made people think more to make the connection and it would have seemed clever rather than disturbing. After all, Superman wasn’t a quadriplegic but Christopher Reeve was. Great idea.

  4. Kerri says:

    Maybe I’m the odd man/(MSer) out here, but I like the ad and hope people remember me the way I used to be. 🙂

  5. I am struggling to contribute something worthwhile here but am falling VERY short of this goal. I blame the MS, a headache (brain tumor?) that has refused to go away and woke me up at 1:30 a.m., and post-traumatic stress from a painful mammogram this morning (which naturally has me in a near panic as I wait a WEEK! for results). Sorry to have nothing intelligent whatsoever to say about this post (and to have used valuable commenting space to WHINE).

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Bless you! Hope you’re ok? Try not to stress too much about the results, it won’t make them come any quicker and you’ll end up a nervous wreck, you poor thing. Keep us updated!

      • Thanks, better today and just some lingering soreness in one, er, mamm, which naturally I suspect means there’s something terribly wrong. When I wrote my embarrassing comment yesterday, I was very tired and feeling sorry for myself! I will, indeed, keep you posted. Am thinking a blog post about the horror of mammograms might be in order…

        (Note: I *still* have nothing meaningful to say re: Christopher Reeve/Audi. This morning I blame it on severe lack of coffee, lol)

        • stumbling in flats says:

          Think that would be a brilliant blog post. My friend had one recently and said it was uber-painful.
          Don’t worry about Superman! My boss still thinks it’s a great advert. I’m being swayed both ways after some interesting comments!

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