Think of her as your mother

American Airlines ran this ad in magazines in 1968.

The ad became notorious enough to eventually attract the attention of academics. The following analysis comes from “‘Think of her as your mother’: Airline advertising and the stewardess in America, 1930-1980,” by Peter Lyth in The Journal of Transport History (Oct 2012):

while the headline... says ‘mother’ the illustration suggests something rather different. Traditionally American motherhood is, stereotypically speaking, wholesome and fairly innocent, yet the look on the model’s face is neither especially innocent nor entirely wholesome. Indeed, as Kathleen Barry has pointed out, her ‘atypical stare and casual posture conveyed smoldering sexuality rather than maternal concern’. ‘Mother’s world’ is about housework and children, it is not supposed to be erotic—indeed, the worlds are usually separate—yet the expression on the model’s face is alluring and flirtatious. The associations here are more complex than the headline and body copy would suggest, so that the word ‘mother’ in the headline both invokes and denies the associations of motherhood. This ‘inner contradiction’ between copy and illustration is a rhetorical device used constantly in advertising to play on the opposition between appearance and reality, to create in effect double meaning or paradox. The paradox... is that the illustration shows us an attractive female model, but the copy asks us to ‘Think of her as (our) mother’. These jarring ideas create the appeal of the advertisement; the inner contradiction makes us take notice. However, paradox also means that apparent difference conceals real similarity: she may be attractive and alluring, but she is also your mother.

It also inspired some copycats, such as this 1971 ad from Southwestern Bell:

However, not all American Airlines stewardesses appreciated the ad:

The Nashville Tennessean - Jun 29, 1968

     Posted By: Alex - Thu Oct 03, 2019
     Category: Advertising | Parents | Air Travel and Airlines | 1960s

Actually, she looks just like my mom did when she was too tired to fight us anymore and was exasperated with us. At least, her facial expression was like that.

The 32 year age limit initially was imposed when airlines were highly-regulated as a "safety issue". Flyung that high exposes one to high UV and cosmic rays. This is the purpose of the # hours a month a flight attendant can fly, and the minimum numbers of days after which they can't fly. It was thought that exposing for that many years might harm any offspring. which was the excuse, er, justification for allowing pilots (all male back then) to fly as long as they wanted to.

<irony>Double standards. Who'd ever imagine that could happen?</irony>
Posted by mjbird on 10/03/19 at 02:34 PM
I don't read sexuality into that first pic. It's the "I'm tired of your crap" look my mother had two seconds before she went biblical on us. ("Do not try my patience." Mom 24:7)
Posted by Phideaux on 10/03/19 at 07:25 PM
In case you were worried about Miss Grace LeBaron, here's a clip about her:
Posted by ges on 10/03/19 at 10:06 PM
Didn't somebody recycle this line into an anti-harassment PSA?
Posted by Yudith on 10/04/19 at 05:55 AM
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