Girl POWer in the Viet Nam of 2020

A TV commercial for Dutch Lady milk. Truth be told, this put a smile on my face.

Art often reflects life and so does advertising, in some cases. How companies choose to sell their services and products says a lot about what they believe will resonate with the public in general and their target clientele in particular. In this case, it’s a girl who was not doing well in her martial arts training. Her mother gave her Dutch Lady milk to drink and, voilà, she took her game up a few notches. The photo above is of her kicking some boy’s ass, pardon my salty language. The photo below is of her happy Mom giving her a hug, no doubt thinking how grateful she is for this particular brand of milk and how it contributed to her daughter’s achievement.

Mẹ yêu con! I love you!

What strikes me about this commercial is what it says about Vietnamese society in 2020 vs. 1996, when I saw my first TV commercial during my first trip to Hanoi. Viet Nam is still fundamentally a patriarchal society rooted in Confucianism, imported by the Chinese during their occupation of Viet Nam from 111 BC to 938 AD. It is still, in many respects, very much a boy’s and man’s world with all of the requisite advantages of being male. In the past, advertising has reflected traditional gender roles and focused on boys as the smartest or the best at whatever was being portrayed.

“I did it!” 🙂

Fortunately, that is changing. This commercial reflects positive and progressive changes in the educational system and the workplace. Yes, you can say it’s sexist because she needed the milk in order to achieve victory but the point is it’s a girl who triumphs. (There are similar commercials with boys who eat or drink something and become superkids.)

I should add that this commercial includes the obligatory young (white) foreign man wearing a white lab coat and gazing approvingly upon the product. The idea, of course, is to add legitimacy to the message because “foreign” means “quality”, after all. (This, too, will change.)

Another occasional theme in print and electronic advertising is Vietnamese-foreign couples in advertising, which was taboo in the past.

Postscript: I am not on the Dutch Lady Milk payroll. This is merely an engaging example to illustrate a point. The times they are a-changin’! 🙂 This Wikipedia entry provides a good overview of the role of women in Vietnamese history beginning with its early history and Chinese rule.

Shalom (שלום), MAA