With the upcoming publication of a book chapter examining the portrayal of gender in gun advertising (along with two pieces on self-defense in gun advertising), my scholarly work on gun advertising may be coming to a close. But I still find myself analyzing ads when I see them.
Recently, I was sent a link to Smith & Wesson’s new advertising campaign short film, “Empowering Americans Since 1852.” Here it is and some of my thoughts on it.
In the past, I have noted that one of Smith & Wesson’s advertisements for the M&P Shield did a great job of creating a gender neutral advertisement. The “Empowering Americans” film does a decent but not perfect job of creating an inclusive portrayal of American gun owners.
It leads with a fairly traditional image of a white man driving a truck. It’s also bookended with a young woman working on a dirt bike, but it turns out this is the daughter of the truck driver and the moment says more about him as a good father/protector than her as an independent actor.
The voice over includes language about the world being an uncertain place, broken, and divided so we have to strive to fix it – which I found terrific and think will be strongly resonant for many new and nontraditional gun owners. But for me there was a dissonance between that language in the voice over and the image of two white guys working on a John Deere tractor. I thought that scene could have been made much more inclusive, perhaps showing people from different social backgrounds coming together to solve a common problem and thereby doing a little bit to mend the world.
We do see in the second scene an African American woman featured, but I noted that in contrast to the truck driver and farmers, she is not shown actually holstering a pistol. Her generosity and hard work is highlighted, good values to be sure, but the portrayals are not parallel.
I appreciate that Smith & Wesson is taking seriously how it represents gun owners, and look forward to further developments of this advertising campaign in the future.