Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Israel's Lolita Complex

The marketing executives behind Israeli ads, like those in other Western nations, have a tendency to portray scantily-clad females in order to draw attention to the products they are promoting. There is nothing new or unique about this. In one important aspect, however, I think Israeli ads do differ from North American ones. Many times, these overtly sexual images either feature minors or women just above age who are purposefully made-up and accessorized in order to seem younger. In either case, I find it despicable. I feel Israeli advertisements have many times crossed the line and border on child pornography if one follows its strictest definition.

Israeli readers may remember the "Ceif" bath product campaign and the teenaged Luisana Lopilato showering. At the same time, she would cry out, "Muy Ceif"'! [How fun!] in a baby-ish tone. She, or the ad, was subsequently ridiculed on Eretz Nehederet, one of Israel's leading (satirical news) shows.

A milder version of that commercial can be viewed on YouTube. The constant switching back and forth of childish and then at once grown-up, sexual behaviour is puzzling.

But it goes beyond that and it seems that everyone is in on the act. This includes TNT, an Israeli clothing chain popular among teenagers. Their winter 06 catalog was aptly titled, Shit Happens. The catalog, which was layed out like a calendar with a different ad on each month included some pretty disturbing images featuring very young models, or ones at least deliberately made to look so. These images include a young man in a bath tub, apparently about to commit suicide, and a topless guy with a beer bottle in hand who is grabbing his scrotum and has the words, "I'm shy but I've got big dick" [sic] written on his bare chest. There is also the young woman on her bicycle with her underwear and her right nipple partially exposed. Let's not forget the cover page: a baby-ish looking girl but dressed in a short skirt with lace socks and hooker boots. Oh, and just in case we didn't get the point, she has a toy horse on a stick stuck between her legs.

Another case in point. This advertisement below was taken from Rosh 1, a magazine which is published by Yediot Ahronot, also one of Israel's leading newspapers. The magazine is explicity intended for teenagers, as it says on the cover. The ad, from the October 2006 edition, might look pretty standard at first. But if one reads the text, it becomes pretty sickening. A rough translation to English would be, "The male teachers at school say that I'm a great student. Too bad the female teachers don't agree with them." The word "school" (Beit Sefer) in Hebrew is never used to refer to university, as it sometimes is in the US. It is clear that "school" refers to elementary to high school. Young girls, the prime readers of the magazine, are getting a frightening message here.

The magazine sets out to socialize them, and teach them to socialize each other, in some more ways. Below is an advice column, titled, "Yes, you got fatter." The column teaches girls how to relay to their girlfriends all that is wrong with them. Here are some sample problems it sets out to solve: "you dress terribly," "your haircut is horrible," "he doesn't want you," and "you eat too much."

"Yes, you got fatter"

Israeli advertisements have crossed the line on too many occasions. It seems like young women are being turned into sexual targets at earlier and earlier ages. The messages they are bombarded with on a daily basis are frightening and I, for one, have had enough. Hopefully, a public backlash will contain some of this trend, but so far I have seen no indications of it.


Amos said...

Wasn't there a boycott against FOX (Israeli clothing store, not the TV channel) because of stuff like this in their catalogues a while back?

BTW, is Israel a "Western nation"? Discuss. JK.

Noah Kaye said...

What would a new female Prime Minister do to change the equation?

Zach said...

You guys are such conservative moralists. Why can't you be more like us godless liberals and encourage materialism, hedonism, and the fetishization of the human body?

Anonymous said...

Maybe thats why Israeli girls are so much hotter than american girls.

Jen said...

Israeli girls are not "hotter" than American girls. They dress the way they see California teenagers dress on TV. They think it's normal to dress that way and don't realize there will be consequences to the way they dress.

TNT's catalogs have been pornographic for a few years now, but what's described here is even more provocative than what I've seen. It's unequivocally disgusting. But what can we do?

The Fox commercials were provocative to a degree, but nothing compared to TNT's present campaign.

Omna said...

Dear Carmia, I couldn't agree with you more. I am currently conduting a PhD research on this phenomenon, trying to understand its origins. I would realy like to get the pictures of the TNT catalogue or the FOX catalogue for last winter (2006). I could not get them in the stores on my last visit to Israel a few days ago. could you link me either through the net or any other way of obtaining it? Thanks, Omna

Carmia said...

Could you please email me at so that I can see what I can do?