When Serena Williams posed on the cover of ESPN the Magazine for the body issue, apparently nude, I applauded her for it. She can be the greatest role model in sports for young girls and their body image.
Her message? You don’t have to be a size zero to be successful, smart, strong, athletic and to look great.
So now, she takes it to the next step — the next mile, maybe – with a commercial she did that apparently never will air. That said, more people will probably see it this way, as an internet favorite.
Williams wore what appears to be black thigh-highs over black tights, a skin-tight black body suit and not much on the back side. She plays against actress Rileah Vanderbilt, similarly dressed, in a tennis game, complete with techno-beat, and grunting that’s theoretically connected to tennis shots, but is actually just X-rated.
I’m not going to be able to go the role-model route with this one. But I’m not offended, either.
Williams crossed about four additional lines from anything I’ve seen before, but really, is it possible to be offended anymore? And if anyone can get away this, it’s Williams.
She has won enough tennis matches and tournaments, and she hasn’t done it with a false image. She is the world’s best player, and unlike, say, Danica Patrick, has built up enough credibility to pull this off.
Patrick comes off as a joke somehow.
Now, Williams’ commercial has created a bit of a scandal. She and Vanderbilt shot the commercial, and according to several blogs covering the video game industry, 2K, the company that made TopSpin 4, then decided not to show it.
Vanderbilt, apparently upset that the commercial wouldn’t be used, wrote this on her Twitter account: “Check out my newest commercial with @serenawilliams!’’
And she posted a link to the video.
Women’s tennis always has this awkward dance in deciding which thing it is selling more, sport or sex. The goal is to sell both in an acceptable balance.
That was always the problem with Anna Kournikova, who actually was a good tennis player, though non-tennis fans don’t know that. But without a tennis title, and with plenty of magazine covers and photo spreads, she threw off the balance. Of course, she also brought a lot of people into tennis.
Once Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon, she was a perfect replacement for Kournikova.
Things change. Lines move. And I said before, it’s not easy to be offended anymore. What haven’t we seen?
So lately, I’ve been thinking that maybe tennis ought to sell sex-appeal a little more than it has. The line of what’s acceptable has been re-drawn.
The tennis tour is filled with 20-somethings who exercise five hours a day, mostly in the sun. It is uniquely men and women together, going all over the world to all different cultures. And the players, especially the women, aren’t wearing much.
There is nothing wrong with pushing the fact that your game is young, healthy, fit and good-looking.
The truth is, a lot of men who aren’t really into tennis will watch the women’s game anyway. That’s why the women’s tour pushes sex-appeal.
Still, though, that’s not exactly what Williams was selling. It’s what Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic sell in swimsuit spreads, and even what Rafael Nadal is selling in his Armani underwear ads.
But in this video game commercial, Williams wasn’t selling sex appeal. She was selling sex.
I suppose it was a tongue-in-cheek thing, theoretically making fun of raunchy video games?
Maybe not. Maybe Williams just crossed about four new lines.
That’s OK. No offense. She can sell tennis, too.