I applaud LivingSocial.com for cheekily poking fun at gender norms (rather than adhering to them) and actually depicting its product (online experience-based flash deals) in a relevant manner in this 2011 ad, unlike most of the ads covered by Kilbourne in “Killing Us Softly 4.” It is also refreshing that the commercial does not prescribe to the “Surprise! She is a He!” transgender advertising model that Tsai describes (9). Instead, it depicts the internal (and external) progression of a person from “trapped” to “free,” a struggle with which most people, both cisgender and transgender, can identify, thereby promoting acceptance and understanding of the transgender community.
While this ad is, in general, a positive step towards a more accepting and less gender binary society, I do find fault with it when I consider the advertisers’ intentions. The Whartonite in me knows that the brains behind this ad chose its theme of transgender because they were aware that the very idea of transgender “disturb[s]” some cissexuals and would, therefore, generate a good deal of buzz around the website (Serano 215). While it could be argued that the target audience for this 2011 Super Bowl ad is “anyone that feels trapped,” whether it be by their desk jobs, their stifling home life, or socially constructed gender norms, I propose that the marketers behind this ad were banking on the idea that the average person watching the Super Bowl would be a heterosexual male who self-identifies as overtly masculine and likely misunderstands the transgender community (since this is the stereotypical person who enjoys watching football), and that this person would experience a (pardon my French) “WTF?” reaction that would generate discussion surrounding the commercial and LivingSocial. And this capitalization on general public ignorance is one that I cannot wholly support, despite its socially valuable message.