March 22, 2013
Samsung’s Latest Feature: “S Misogyny”
After watching the Samsung Galaxy S4 event, I’m not sure which is more frightening: the completely over-the-top sexist themes or the tagline that was prominently displayed at the show, “Episode 1.”
You mean we’re going to have to endure even more of this hellish nonsense the next time Samsung releases a device?
They’re releasing devices all the time!
The hammy actors hadn’t even walked off the stage last Thursday when the collective Internet began blasting the Galaxy maker for their Broadway style show that would have fit better in the 1950s than the present day. The show was broadcast on YouTube and hundreds of thousands of people had a front row seat to all the horrid misogyny Samsung was throwing about.
The Verge decided to get to the bottom of this train wreck and talked with writer Ivan Menchell and director Jeff Calhoun, the men responsible for producing the show.
These men are no strangers to the entertainment biz. Menchell has spent some time working in television and movies, while Calhoun is a Tony-winning director.
According to The Verge, both were surprised when they heard people were upset by the sexist overtones of the entire show.
Perhaps making the matter worse, Calhoun told the Verge that everything that happened on that stage last Thursday was completely intentional.
The money quote given to The Verge is as follows:
“This was very micromanaged. There wasn’t a pair of socks worn that wasn’t photographed, sent to Korea, and approved.”
Missed the show? Curious what has everyone so upset?
There are a many odd and questionable portions of the show. For instance, to show off the S4’s translation feature, a young college backpacker is depicted trying to find a train to Shanghai. The announcer explains that the young boy must ask the help of an “old man” who speaks Chinese. The old man looks to be late 40s to early 50s, hardly what this 30-year old writer would call old.
Then, once the feature is shown off translating a phrase from English to Chinese and vice versa, the “old man” begins to speak to the MC in English. How’s this for a plot twist: the old Asian man somehow becomes a characterization of a Jewish stereotype.
A few moments later, a second young back packer (who can apparently afford a new Galaxy S4 and data plan…must be nice to have rich parents) meets a Brazilian woman. Samsung takes this moment to show off a feature that allows S4 owners to share their photos instantly with their new HomeSync box. The HomeSync can be hooked up to the family television and broadcasts pictures shared from a Samsung Galaxy phone, just like the Apple TV and Photo Streams.
While this young backpacker’s family is looking at pictures of his new lady friend from the television in the family living room, the overly-wise little sister comments on the lovely pictures of Brazil. Another older man, presumably the creepy grandfather or uncle, says, “Where do you see Brazil?” to which the already sexually aware younger sister of the backpacker says, “It’s behind Ana!”
Ana, of course is the beautiful girl the young backpacker has been swooning over throughout his entire scene. He also shows off these photos to his other backpacker friend with more than a slight air of objectification.
And we all have a laugh.
The most egregious missteps come at the end of the show, where a bachelor party is used to show off the Air Hover feature as well as the Smart Stay feature.
When the MC asks why the Air Hover feature would be helpful, the girls cackle one after another
“My nails are wet!”
and finally, from the lush of the group,
“I really don’t want to put down this drink!”
To help her joke land, the lush pretends to stumble in her high heels because, you know, we didn’t get it with just words.
(An aside: Please, dear reader, don’t assume that my use of the word “cackle” means that I’ve also fallen into the offensive misdeeds. The bachelorette-partying women really do take on a brand new timbre in their voices just for this bit.)
The same ladies are used to make some pretty tasteless jokes about weight loss, marrying a doctor, and accessorizing your device with all sorts of cases, with careful attention paid to the fact that these cases are available in multiple colors.
Samsung is a giant international company with no shortage of money. They’ve got American operations and even hired American directors to put this little show together. That’s why it’s so surprising that they could have put together such an offensive show. It doesn’t help that women are often objectified or completely left out of the conversation in the tech world. Take, for instance, Microsoft’s 2012 Norway Developer Conference, where a stage full of dancing girls jumped up and down to a song which, hand to god, included the lyrics “The words “Micro” and “Soft” don’t apply to my penis.”
With their fingers ever on the pulse of what’s happening in the world around them, Microsoft apparently knew this line could cause them grief, so they tried to lessen the blow by parenthetically displaying “or vagina” on the monitors, which were scrolling through the rest of the terrible words to the terrible, terrible rap.
The point is, the issue of women being objectified or otherwise mistreated in the tech space (think booth babes) is a well-known issue. It’s been present in the industry for many years and has only recently become a topic which the industry cares to address and confront.
Apparently, Calhoun had tried to hire a woman to play the MC of the show. This would have been a small step to improve the overall performance, but would not have made the rest of the show any less offensive.
Calhoun says Samsung wanted a show that a mixture of “Sex and the City” and “Bridesmaids,” but without anything offensive.
What was left was the same characters without any of the biting or inappropriate humor. In other words, we were left with totally unbelievable characters and walking, inappropriate stereotypes.
“To not have a woman of authority up there was a big mistake — there were a lot of women on the Samsung side,” lamented Calhoun later.
Even though Calhoun admits that there should have been more women on stage, (and not just the cackling sort) he still believes the show was a general success.
Sure, features of the new Samsung phone were shown off. Sure, this horrendous show may not hinder the sales of the new device, but this really shouldn’t be the point here, should it?