Volo Auto Museum (and Antique Mall) out in the tiny north suburban hamlet of Volo was a destination spot for me as a kid growing up near the IL/WI border. It was always a treat to go see all the amazing cars I recognized from my favorite movies and TV shows. Volo always seemed to have all my favorites- the Batmobile, ECTO-1 from Ghostbusters, and KITT from Knight Rider. I’d happily pull on my mom’s hands and drag her from one famous car to the next- because even as a very small girl, I loved cars. A lot has been happening at Volo in the past year or so, with their feature series on the History Channel rocketing them into the view of a larger audience.
It’s not been without its problems, though, as recently the museum has heaped criticism upon itself with its President’s Day event and promotion, centering around their planned acquisition of a former limo belonging to Donald Trump, where visitors would receive 2 souvenir postcards- one for them, featuring the smiling face of the current head of state, and one that the museum would have them fill out and subsequently deliver to the White House. It wasn’t even necessarily that the museum was acquiring the now presidential vehicle- Volo’s business, after all, is in historically significant cars – but the way they were choosing to present it. It was argued that one could write whatever they want to the White House, but it still seemed like a Trump leaning event in a world where Trump’s presidency is the source of great division. It seemed like a situation in which Volo would have been better off staying apolitical, or at least making sure they didn’t appear on one side or the other, and do what they do best- give people a fun experience with vintage memorabilia and call it a day.
That’s why, when I was doing a little research on the museum this morning in preparation for another article, I was shocked to see the tone-deaf, needlessly gendered Valentine’s Day ad you’re seeing at the top of this post.
“She loves Jared. He loves Volo.”
It made me sad. It made me angry, and it’s not okay. As a girl, I barely glanced at my Barbies, but spent long hours with my Hot Wheels and Micro Machines and when I was a older, a Jeep Cherokee I spent lots of time and money tinkering with and taking on offroad adventures. To be honest, I feel a little betrayed by an institution that instilled in me my love of cars and holds so many cherished memories. Why choose to advertise this way? Maybe they thought it was a chuckle and I’m sure others do, too. But maybe, as with the Trumpian President’s Day promo, they’d be better off thinking more before they speak. Because while there’s nothing wrong with liking jewelry, or even with dreaming of a pretty bauble for Valentine’s Day, there’s absolutely no reason to dumb it down like this. This author, in fact, would much rather spend a day wandering through my childhood and see all the amazing classic cars, than slip into a crowded strip mall store and sift through diamonds. The point, plain and simple, is that anyone, of any age, gender, orientation, might have a lifelong love of cars. Even us jewelry-obsessed females.
Why divide an audience in any way? This ad’s promoting a two-for-one by implying that one of those two people doesn’t really want to be there, the same way that their Trump-centric President’s Day ad divides their audience along political lines. For a place that’s “fun for the whole family” and wants to be “where memories are created and traditions begin” with “an experience the whole family can enjoy” why not make a more concerted effort to include everyone, regardless of party line or gender, and stop reducing people to their lowest common denominators.
It’s disheartening, disappointing and certainly makes me feel less affection for a place that just doesn’t seem that into me on Valentine’s Day. My message to Volo, should they be inclined to respond is simply this: Do better. Be better. Don’t dumb it down.
I’ll be waiting.