When Oregon Ducati dealership MotoCorsa did a photo shoot highlighting the luxury Panigale motorcycle, the campaign featured some classic themes of pinup photography: the shiny, powerful motorcycle and skimpily clad models in high heels doing provocative poses.
The one difference, though, is that MotoCorsa’s pinup models were men — men dressed in short shorts or tights, red high heels, and tight, low-cut tops while they contort themselves into sexy poses on and around the Panigale.
The shoot, titled MANigale, was actually a spoof an earlier MotoCorsa shoot promoting the Panigale. That shoot for screensavers featured a female model – Kylie Shea Lewallen – but the Portland dealership’s general manager, Arun Sharma, said he thought it would be fun to recreate the images, but with male employees of the dealership.
The men’s images – Sharma’s included — were displayed next to Lewallen’s and put on Facebook and the dealership’s website.
The images of the screen savers and calendar images were originally shot a year ago, but they’re now enjoying new popularity online.
In a Wednesday interview with ABCNews.com, Sharma said he was surprised by the most recent reaction.
“There were so many people who clearly thought it was very funny, but … a ton of people found it offensive,” he said, adding that some people clearly didn’t get the joke.
But he was surprised at the number of people who saw a deeper message.
“The thing which is most interesting to me is that far and away, the largest reaction is that ‘wow this motorcycle dealership is championing the cause of pointing out the blatant sexism in advertising,” he said.
In fact, a college student used the campaign as the basis for her thesis in a women’s studies course, he said.
While Sharma is gratified so many have interpreted the campaign that way, he says he can’t take credit for that.
“In doing it, it was nothing else other than ‘ha ha ha, isn’t this funny! Ha ha ha, looking at your friend try to balance in heels, ha ha ha,’” he said. “I’d like to say that I had some grand social plan but I didn’t. It was just for fun.”
The feedback actually helped change his perspective, he said. Before, he thought nothing of the female model’s poses. But thinking back on his own participation in the male version, he now feels differently.
“We’re all laughing so hard … ,” he said, describing the male photo shoot, “and it’s hard to balance, it’s hard to hold the pose, and it wasn’t until that moment I go ‘yeah, wow, it really is ridiculous the way we try to present women in advertising.’ I actually got an education.”
Sharma says he doesn’t know why the photos are going viral now, but he says it’s created increased demand for the images.
The renewed interest is so great that he’s going to release a video showing the making of the men’s photo shoot and he’s considering using the pictures in a 2014 calendar for the dealership.