It seems like you can’t turn on the tv these days without being assaulted by that irritating Progressive Car Insurance lady. The tens of millions of dollars spent to get this woman’s face all over the airwaves is truly stunning, particularly when one considers the brazen sexuality and rebellion she promotes. It is, quite simply, an abuse of her national media presence. It’s also an insult to the patriotic and faithful among us to see our television screens hijacked hundreds of times a day to send out secret “lifestyle” messages that have nothing to do with car insurance. Even more shocking is that the profiteers behind Progressive are quietly funneling monies gleaned from this woman’s performances into some of the most radical leftwing groups on the planet, including the ACLU, MoveOn.org and the Marijuana Policy Project.
“Flo,” as the character is these spots is named, first appeared in 2008. Consumers were quick to adore her bubbly spirit and zealous helpfulness. Her “tricked-out nametag” seems to be another memorable characteristic for many viewers, as well as he perfectly starched, gleaming white uniform. Her allusive sensibility has been defined a “retro chic” and “rockabilly” to the delight of her swelling fanbase. As one writer has noted, “Flo is a blast of unironic helpfulness and pleasantries in this age of snark, economic uncertainty, and fractured everything. She’s a tangible person and personality in an increasingly virtual world—as real as the shopkeeper you never have to deal with anymore.”
A closer look at Flo, played by the 40 year-old “Mad Men” actress Stephanie Courtney, reveals something more conflicted. On the one hand, this woman seems to represent a model employee, incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable, always on top of things and kind to whomever may wander through her doors. On the other, her gothic-style overwrought makeup and the outfit reminiscent of the “naughty nurse” common in pornographic films suggests the complete opposite. Is Flo merely in her job for the money? She seems to say that joining the ranks of corporate America is a way to fund a radical lifestyle, replete with every form of physical indulgence. There is no doubt that she oozes promiscuity, giving off a dangerous and white hot sexuality that has pushed 5 million on Facebook to sign up for her cause. One imagines her outside of work prowling after-hours night clubs in inner cities, stomping around in high-heeled black boots that lace up to her ruddy knees, a torn heavy metal t-shirt revealing a milky shoulder blade and eyeliner that makes her look heavily bruised.
For critics, Flo is an insincere charlatan. The feminine version of Stephen Colbert, she boils over with sarcasm and hidden hostility. Her act is robotic at best. She alone seems to find humor in gimmicks that even children would think immature. The familiarity with which she approaches her customers is simply unprofessional and would not be tolerated in most contemporary workplaces. She is crass and invasive in a way no employee should ever be. Flo is no role model, many would argue, rather she is an agent of the moronic antics and illicit eroticism being recklessly embedded in the Puritan ethic of hard work that once made this country so great. She is an underminer of true Americanism.
Most likely the duality of Flo is intentional. Advertising firms have long excelled at sending mixed messages. Whatever the case, there can be no doubt that she succeeds at grabbing people’s attention. Whether it’s flaunting the feminine curves of her body or gossiping with the gay couple that enters her store, she appears open to every form of intimate congress. She has even embraced a multicultural rainbow that includes not just homosexuals but bikers, Captain Ahab and Santa Claus. It will come as no surprise that she has cults and internet fetish sites devoted to her. Some fans dream of Flo as a wise “cougar” who will help male teens explore their budding desires, teaching them to “Say it louder!” in moments of awkward passion. Others fantasize that she’s covered in tattoos and works on the side as a topless dancer at discounted prices. There are even those who have gone so far as to visualize the white-walled store as a postmodern dungeon for obsessive compulsives, where they will be forced to scrub surfaces raw as this aproned mistress buries them in an avalanche of perfectly constructed cardboard boxes. Whoever these fans are, they all seem to crave Progressive Flo in ways that are so far outside of the commercial purposes of product advertising that some media watchers have become suspicious.
For those who believe Flo has been specifically engineered to engender a cult of fans who have no need of insurance, her connection to left wing political activism is telling. The ultimate recipient of her success is Progressive Insurance chairman Peter “Liberal” Lewis. This hero to the hardcore and hedonist also happens to be one of America’s biggest charitable donors. (For more information on Lewis, be sure to read the article “Sex. Reefer? And Auto Insurance!”, from Fortune Magazine.) Records show that Lewis supplied the Marijuana Policy Project with $3 million in 2007 and spent close to a million for research into the commercial uses of the street drug “ecstasy” (MDMA). He has also give $12 million to MoveOn.org, over $15 million to the ACLU, $50 million to the Guggenheim Museum, vast amounts of cash to the Democratic Party and unaccounted millions to a veritable cornucopia of questionable organizations including Traction. No wonder his company is named “progressive”!
Understanding the larger goals here, it appears that Flo is acting as a drug delivery device for the liberal agenda. We now need to ask ourselves some serious questions. Is it appropriate to use a national media campaign to condone lifestyle choices and narcotics usage that the majority of Americans adamantly reject? Is this form of subliminal advertising crossing legal lines? Does it constitute political spending and lobbying of the type that violates the regulations of both the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission? One can only hope that chatty Flo, trapped in her ever-busy dungeon of indemnified desire, will finally say something useful by addressing this controversy.