Porsche’s contribution to the Super Bowl ad sweepstakes is a well-engineered contraption called The Heist. The one minute short version aired during the game. Better for us to look at the extended version, which can be seen here. The latter clocks in at 2:31 so while more than twice as long at the ad aired during the game both versions are required to be, unlike the car itself, models of economy.
As I wrote in the last post“The Heist”
comes at your blazingly fast. And, as often happens in action films, you give up your critical faculties quite quickly. Good car chase scenes can cause you to suspend disbelief in a heartbeat, and you don’t always pay close attention to what you are seeing. So we will go through the ad step by step, slowing down the action to see if we can determine the mindful intentionality that surely went into it.
As the song goes in the ad itself: let’s go!
We start at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, an actual place that houses more than 80 vehicles dating back to the early 20th century and that highlights the firm’s illustrious history.
It is night and the museum is closed. Guards are on patrol. By the end of the ad we will come to see that there are seven guards in total. Five are white and two are black.
Two are female, both white.
The action with the guards centers on two black guards and one white female guard. They will end up being the leads in the chase scene. One of the blacks is American, and the other black male and the female appear to speak with English accents.
A fourth guard plays a subsidiary, comic relief role. He is the only white male featured in the four key guard roles. He is also, it will turn out, the only German of the four.
The three main guards are on patrol with flashlights. The white German guy, up in an office, is the only one who can see one of the Porsches being stolen. Note the car with the headlights on about to be driven away.
Alas as the focus changes we see that he is goofing off with his phone and misses the theft.
Oh yes, our thief. Hooded. Apparently male. Probably white but not Teutonic.
The thief escapes the attention of the guards and manages to get to the exit, triggering the alarm.
Now the German guy gets it! Achtung! Thief! He almost drops his phone.
Our main guard characters make a scramble to make chase. And that’s a nice little plot trick right there–the guards get to use the other Porsches in the museum. Does that make sense? Who cares!
The two main black characters clearly know each other well and in a millisecond know just what to do in the competition for the best Porsche to take: they buck up for it.
Having gotten through this potential source of conflict in a traditionally fair-is-fair masculine way they depart for their respective vehicles happily. But just as one is about to get into a car he is interrupted by the German guard, who hesitatingly asks which car he should drive. Those Germans, always at your throat or at your feet–
The guard he asks is obliging and tosses him a set of keys: “New guy, this one.”
The German guy catches the keys
and looks forlornly at the tractor that he has been assigned.
Do not make the mistake of thinking this is a race thing. He’s just the “new guy”. It is not personal, just as the derision heaped on the whites in the Genesis ad was not personal since Old Luxury cannot be fairly portrayed without a disproportionate percentage of whites, and no one will carp about making fun of Old Luxury will they?
Meanwhile the rest of the guards make a dash for the remaining Porsches. The next Alpha showdown will be between the other two main characters: the black guard who lost the first contest over a car and the attractive white female guard.
They do not have the bucking up thing down pat. That is apparently a guy thing. So heading for the next car of preference he shouts “my car” but she just shouts back “my car”, and does not defer to his claim. They don’t have a man-to-man way of resolving conflicts so they resort to a male-to-female way. He claims, she insists, he defers. She takes the better car. Quite the gentleman.
And she is quite the lady. She flashes him a flirtatious smile as she jumps in the car, acknowledging his acknowledgement of her assertion of superiority in the moment.
And they’re off! The car chase commences. The car chase scene is done in an even more stripped down fashion than in a feature film, where the shorthand necessarily employed is leisurely by comparison with the telegraph style here. A half second here and a half second there: establish character check one half second, driving backwards scene check one half second, establish another character check one half second.
But in this set of quick and deft cuts we come to see that the second black guard, the one who lost out on both the cooler cars, emerging as the main character. He is the one providing commentary through the streets of Stuttgart.
Oops. The chase comes across a police car. The guard of color is paying attention. The white, older German guard is distracted, talking about chicken.
The thief and the guards in chase all slow down so as not to draw attention to themselves and manage to sneak past the police. Odd that the guards would not have enlisted the assistance of the police– but we don’t have time to reason these things out. CHECK! The chase commences again.
Through streets aerial shot check another half second.
Backwards down an alley check another half second.’
Out into the countryside check another half second.
All this time there has been music in the background. As the thief was quietly making his way out of the museum we heard slow music that serves to build tension. Then the tempo picks up in the race to the cars. By the time the actual chase begins we hear rap vocals over the higher tempo electronic background. But then the music suddenly stops completely and we cut to an elderly German woman, the proprietor of a bakery on a back street.
She looks past her bread and pastries out the window only to see the hapless German guard gamely trying to make chase on the tractor, which he does not know how to drive and which is jerking him back and forth. Say this: he does know how to follow orders.
But the real chase is by now out of the city. The main character guard, the one who got the latest start with the least preferred car, is at the back of the pack. Suddenly he is seen to veer onto a side road. He says it’s just a “country drive” but he may have a trick up his sleeve.
The main chase has made its way onto a dam, the top of which is a one lane road. Is the thief going to get away?
I DON’T THINK SO! Our hero has made his way to the other side of the dam and is racing now to box him in on the narrow roadway.
Success! The thief is boxed in and caught. The guard jumps out of his car grinning ear to ear. Ha Ha Got ya!
Of course it was all a game, a two-minute thirty one second riff on the Fast and Furious Crew, stripped down in terms of time elapsed and ethnic complexity.
Our thief? A white guy! Not blonde, not German, of indeterminate ethnic background, with Latin overtones but probably speaking with a Brit accent. “Who wants to be the bad guy next?”
The white woman was following the closest and so rather than work out a method for selection of the next thief she just takes the keys on offer. The other black guard waves his hand objecting,
and calls for a discussion about fair process when they return. But that is for later. He and the three non-speaking part white guards return to their cars.
The white female guard, having simply exerted power for the second time in as many minutes to get what she wants, takes her place behind the wheel. Let’s go!
Well, there’s a lot there to take in.
First let me acknowledge that in some ways this ad goes against one of the rules I wrote up in the last post: that white guys have a hard time being portrayed as cool. The thief turns out to have been a white guy. He is clearly part of the Fast and Furious knockoff ratpack, and is cool. So let’s mark that one down, while noting at the same time that the main characters in the film are the four guards: the two blacks, the white woman and the hapless white German guy.
If we are going to get all intersectional about it–and we are obliged to are we not?–it is fair also to point out that the clearest examples of whites in the ad are the white guards (three of which are extras and the fourth of which is our comic relief) and the clueless white policeman. These are the characters that clearly evidence white characteristics. All of the cool characters are exotic in one fashion or another.
The two blacks have a familiar way with one another. They are competitive but play by the rules. One black guard gets the best car but the other is clever enough to figure out how to catch the thief.
The white female is aggressive, pushing herself past both blacks to secure her car of choice, getting into position as the lead car in the chase, and grabbing role of next driver without asking permission. The ad ends with her behind the wheel, triumphant.
The white guard is seen not paying attention and getting a tractor to drive. Later, he is seen outside a bakery on a side street eyed by an aging German shopowner just as the rap music has gone silent.
Both policemen are tricked by the young rogues engaged in the chase. One of them, the white German, is more interested in a chicken dinner than his job.
How does this sort itself out on the intersectionality totem pole? In terms of cool it seems like blacks and females are in the lead though the ending is a little ambiguous who ends up the victor. All of the cool people, including the driver, are young and either foreign, minority and/or female. The Germans–who appear here to be the stand-in for traditional whites–are squares, newbies or not part of the crew.
It is also worth noting how social messaging looks to go against type, as though to elevate each type’s recessive characteristics to be dominant.
Women are historically at a disadvantage relative to power with men? Then show them just taking the power, and show otherwise aggressive males being willing to defer.
Blacks sometimes viewed as preening egoists, moving sports from an emphasis on genteel sportsmanship to hotdoggery? Well, then show them as natural cooperators, able to work together in a team and act in gentlemanly fashion with the women as required.
Whites? They just designed, engineered and built the car. But do they know what to do with it?
If the world that we see is not to our liking then let us just describe the world we want, and pray we do not run roughshod over heaven, earth, and nature itself in the race to get there.