Semiology is the study of signs and sign processes. Semiotics is made up of signifiers and meanings that are signified. Meaning is socially produced and understood in terms of oppositional relationships. A sign stands for ideas and concepts. A code is a collection of rules that tells people what something is or isn’t. Denotation refers to literal explicit meanings of words, sounds, and images. Connotation refers to cultural meaning that is marked onto words, sounds, and images. The commercial for the Fiat 500 Abarth in, which an Italian woman seduces a man and then turns into an Italian car, signifies concepts about gender and sexuality.
In the Fiat 500 Abarth commercial, a man stares at a woman longingly. He looks at her butt and legs first and then her face. The man looking at a woman signifies that men have the active gaze and women are the passive object of the gaze. The sexual gaze between a man and a woman signifies the man and woman as heterosexuals. The fact that he looks at parts of her body before he sees her face symbolizes he values her body over her identity. A person’s face symbolizes identity. It is how we recognize people we know in a crowd. The man is dressed in a dress shirt, a tie and dress pants, which signifies that he is middle class and has white collar job. The woman is wearing heals and a dress that is short and the front has a deep v cut. The dress shows off her legs and breast. Her outfit signifies that she is a desirable middle class woman. Her reaction to catching him objectify her is a series of actions with sexual connotations that make up a code of how to be a sexy woman. First, she reacts by being upset that he is looking at her in a sexual way and she yells at him in Italian and then slaps him. She reacts this way because of the myth about women’s sexuality. The myth is that women are sexual objects to be desired and do not have their own sexual desires or enjoy sex. After the initial response, the woman begins to seduce the man. Her actions of whispering in his ear, and touching his chest and face signifies that she wants him sexually. She speaks to him in Italian, while being a few inches away from his face. The physical closeness of their bodies signifies their sexual desire for each other. The man pretends to understand what she is saying when she doesn’t by nodding his head. His reaction is marked with the idea that a man doesn’t need to have verbal communication to have sexual relations with a woman. The woman’s body language is enough of a signifier of consent for sexual activity. The woman dips her finger in the man’s coffee and drips cream off her finger onto her breasts. The cream has a metaphoric relationship with ejaculation, which signifies the climax of ecstasy during sexual intercourse. The woman is doing this action to show the man that she can please him. The creaming falling on her breasts happens to cause more attention to her breasts. The cream is a form of intertextuality because cream is used in pornographic films and photography. Her larger breasts signify that she is desirable. Then, she touches his lips and he closes his eyes and tries to kiss her. He opens his eyes after failing to kiss her and realizes that she turned into a car. The woman touching his lips and getting closer to his face signifies that she was going to kiss him. All of the actions performed by the woman create a code on how to be a sexy woman and make men desire you. The code for being a sexy woman is to be thin with a large butt and breasts, wear clothing that shows off your body, be very physical with men, and be available to satisfy men’s sexual desires. The syntagm chain in the commercial, events that form a narrative, are all the ways she is touching him. The entire interaction between the man and woman was a narrative about giving the man what he wants, which is to be seduced by a beautiful woman. The commercial ends with the woman being a car that the man desires. The commercial is transferring the sexual desire for the woman to the car in the hopes that it will make you want to buy the car. The tagline for the car is “You’ll never forget the first time you see one.” This tagline is sexual as well because it is trying to associate the feeling of being sexually aroused for the first time with seeing the car for the first time. The car is Italian and the woman is speaking Italian and the music foreign too. The idea that it is foreign or exotic makes it more exciting and sexy.
The messages communicated in this commercial can be criticizes from the feminist perspective. The commercial defines being a woman as being a sexual object available for men’s pleasure. It defines men as sexual people that have their own desires and women as people who only desire to please men. The woman is only active when her action is approved by a man; otherwise she needs to be passive. It teaches women and young girls that their value comes from bodies and physical appearance. It teaches men and young boys to desires sex and only value woman for their bodies. The language barer between the man and the woman paired with the body language of the woman may bring up the issue of sexual consent and grey rape. Grey rape refers to acquaintance assaults, which occurring on dates, when alcohol is involved, or when someone has consented to some sexual acts, but not others. The man does not understand Italian and, as an American audience, most viewers don’t know what she is saying either. Her body language is implies that she would consent to a sexual act because she is very physical with him. But, feminist argue that sexual consent is giving is a combination of verbal cues and body language. A woman saying she wants to have sex, verbally flirting, or being physical to any degree isn’t enough on its own to prove consent. The lack of verbally communication between prospective sexual partners are often arguments that support innocence of the victimizers in cases of grey rape because the most common defense for rape is that it wasn’t rape, it was a miscommunication.