The character of Jenna the Ford Intern is perpetually excited. She also loves when men who design all the complicated, fancy stuff that goes into a Ford explain things simply enough for her small lady-brain. At least, that’s the idea Ford seems to be trying to get across in a bizarre series of Hip and Cool marketing videos. On one hand, it’s a novel concept, seeing a female central character in a tech design commercial, but it’s a bummer that it happened like this.
The explanations are minimal and the “intern” is fake, but the mansplaining is laid on thick and heavy. It’s #BusinessTips4Ladiez, but in corporate form from the seventh largest automobile maker in the world.
“Sure, we could share a few of our interesting job descriptions with you. But we’d rather take you behind the scenes with our eager young fictitious ‘intern’ Jenna,” a guy named Sean Johnston explains on the Ford Social blog.
The first video introduces the eager “intern” as Jenna Dempsey. There is a Jenna Dempsey who works as a senior copywriter for Ford and earned a degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2009, but this “intern” isn’t that Jenna Dempsey. “Intern” Jenna Dempsey likely has some type of communications or marketing degree, or judging by her singing voice and perma-smile acting style, significant experience in musical theater. Ford never tells us who she really is because, you know, who cares?
When it comes to autonomous vehicles and Ford’s LIDAR system, Jenna is simply overwhelmed with the concept and just can’t believe a car can actually do something like that. Luckily, she has a trusty dad figure to explain it to her, and a responsible man in the driver’s seat to take over if anything bad happens. Jenna and Helen, the speechless woman in the back seat for the whole video, can feel safe knowing that smart men at Ford understand the complexities of the world.
What’s lost in all of the layers of white male condescension is the actual science behind LIDAR. Which is a shame because even though Elon Musk doesn’t like LIDAR for his Teslas, the system is a crucial component for many companies working on autonomous vehicles.
If you hit mute and skip ahead to minute 1:20, there’s actually a cool real-time shot of what the autonomous system sees through its 128 LIDAR lasers. It can’t be shown for too long, however, because “there’s a yoga class” Jenna has to make it to.
Not enough for you? Don’t worry, there’s more. Watch Jenna get a heavy dose of mansplaining on new car smell, then watch her learn about all the “fancy stuff” it takes to make a virtual reality version of her dancing. Just in case anyone was worried that the video might be taken the wrong way, she spins the guy while dancing and adds “it’s 2016, gender is over!”
Apparently not Ford, apparently not.