I’ve never been a big fan of Old Navy commercials. The music is cheesy, everyone’s way too happy, and the clothing quality just doesn’t seem to match the price. But this month, Old Navy released their newest commercial, “New Girl” — and this one takes the cake.
Basically, the premise of this commercial is that “Sarah” got a new wardrobe for back to school — and suddenly, her teachers and peers don’t recognize her anymore. She is dubbed the “New Girl,” and everyone at school admires her outfits. All day long, an exasperated redhead follows around “Sarah,” telling anyone who will listen, “She’s not new!”
To start, let’s talk about racial diversity in this commercial. All but one of the characters with speaking parts are white. In the classroom scene (0:08), there are five or six children of color — only one of whom sits center stage among three white classmates. (The rest are hardly visible in the back of the room.) Simply put, this is a problem. Old Navy is typically pretty good at creating racially diverse commercials, but this one just didn’t cut it.
And about that whole “New Girl” concept… Call me crazy, but isn’t it a little bit damaging to teach young girls that their identities are inextricably tied into their wardrobe choices? This commercial implies that young girls have no inherent personas. They are faceless, character-less mannequins who undergo complete transformations with a new pair of jeans. It mirrors the very pervasive reality that our society places great stock in clothing choice — your clothes define you, period. They make you a hipster, a rocker, a prep, a jock. And whether you like it or not, wearing new clothes means people will see you differently.
No matter how many commercials try to tell us otherwise, new wardrobes do not make us “new.” Dropping twenty pounds does not make us “new.” Getting rid of acne, getting Botox, or buying fancy new shoes does not make us “new.” Clothes and beauty treatments may make us feel better on the outside, but what happened to teaching girls that what’s on the inside is what counts?
Hailey Magee is a Women’s and Gender Studies and Politics double major at Brandeis University. Her foremost interests include media literacy and empowerment of young girls. Hailey hopes to one day pursue a career in the political arena and become an advocate for gender equality.