VW’s Pregnant Pause

I like Brooke Shields, especially when the picture-perfect Princeton grad plays against her natural earnestness, as she does in this Crispin Porter + Bogusky spot for the newly introduced Volkswagen Routan, a minivan-type vehicle perfect for hipsters in the family way.

In faux-concerned, do-gooder obliviousness, Shields claims there's an "epidemic sweeping the nation: women everywhere are having babies just to get a VW Routan." She singles out a very pregnant woman shown standing with her husband next to the car.

"Take this couple," Shields says. "Christine here is so seduced by German engineering that she's having a baby just to get it … with a strange man she barely knows." ("I'm her husband," the dude huffs.) Women should have babies for "love, not German engineering," Shields preaches. "Don't be like Christine."

Wow. It's funny and memorable and more complicated than the talk-show set-up that preceded it. In those earlier spots, Max, the German-accented VW bug, interviewed celebrities like David Hasselhoff and Heidi Klum. Here he introduces Brooke, and she takes over in faux-documentary form — though the car contributes the final voiceover.

This Routan campaign, which will include several different iterations of Brooke's obtuseness, is also tied to a well-executed Web site. "Look what I'm doing to help at www.routanboom.org," Brooke says, as if she's curing world hunger.

But the joke's premise — that women will get pregnant so they can get this car — is a bit awkward, to say the least. At first, I thought it was making fun of a real baby bump epidemic, and was somehow related to the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's teenage daughter.

Obviously, the campaign was created way before the country got worked into such an emotional lather about Palin and her desire to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Either way, the campaign's theme calls to mind some hot-button issues. If you really want to get historical, the "German engineering" phrase has unfortunate links to "genetic engineering," which was Hitler's way of trying to create a "master race."

But even if you think the Nazi link is ancient and far-fetched, the having-babies-just-to-get-a-car gag is also a pretty odd road for Shields to take, given that she is the author of Down Came the Rain, a painfully honest memoir about post-partum depression, which she endured after many years of failed conception attempts, in-vitro fertilizations and a miscarriage.

Brooke Shields' strange relationship with babies actually started long before that, in the late-1970s, during her days as a child model and actress. She starred in the controversial movie Pretty Baby when she was 11, and when it came out some critics suggested that it exploited her sexually. She also played a (semi-nekkid) innocent in The Blue Lagoon. Shipwrecked on an island with a boy her age, she ends up pregnant and having a baby in the wild.

Wow: with links to Hitler, shipwrecks, Sarah Palin and Brooke Shields' personal history, it's hard to focus here. But certainly, the commercial offers one way to scrape the "soccer mom" stigma off the new German van.