This commercial for Fiat was produced in 2012. Charlie Sheen – fresh off of some legal run-ins and a high-profile drug-induced meltdown – plays up his long-standing bad-boy image by driving his Fiat through a house party. He proves irresistible to an admiring crowd, composed mostly of seductively dressed women, and exits the car to a cheering crowd saying, “I love being under house arrest.” At the time of this filming, Sheen was nearly 50 years old, but the ad depicts him as able to attract beautiful women through his bad-boy antics, much as he did when he was a younger man.
Why does the ad use this particular setting (a mansion) to sell a car? Why do they cast Charlie Sheen, and have him deliver the line “I love being under house arrest.” What is the tone the ad is setting?
The ad intercuts shots of the car with mostly female party-goers, alternately shocked and cheering Sheen on. At the end, one woman approaches him, and he asks, “What do I get for good behavior?” What does this line reference–about Sheen’s “bad boy” status and the expectation on the woman to reward him?
Should we celebrate the fact that older men are often depicted in media as vibrant and attractive? Why or why not?
What is a “bad boy”? Who fits that description among media personalities that you know? How do they fit the bad boy image? Are bad boys typically celebrated or chastised? Why and how?
The depiction of Charlie Sheen in this ad might be critiqued for perpetuating a double standard with respect to media’s depiction of older men and women. Sheen’s history of drug use, legal troubles and wild antics are parlayed by the producers of the ad into a hip bad-boy persona. It is hard to imagine that a female actress – particularly one who was not in her 20s or early 30s – who went through a similar public embarrassment would be celebrated in the same way. More likely, she would find it difficult to find work at all, thus exposing a problematic industry bias that reflects broader societal trends in how women and men are treated differently.