Welcome to adland, where all men are morons
Comment from Australia
It was a few years ago that I first noticed men were being depicted as idiots in advertising. I'd put the issue aside, but Sarah McKenzie's article about the sexism of the Brut aftershave campaign brought it all crashing back.
I have no doubt that women have historical and ongoing problems about their portrayal in advertising, particularly being sexually objectified. I remember such scandals as the sexist Windsor Smith shoe ads, which showed women placed close to men's crotches as if about to perform a lewd act. But along with the creeping sexualisation of women has come the creeping moronification of men. If the default position in advertising for women is sex object, then the default position for men is that of imbecile.
Men used to be depicted as heroic characters in ads, products being the rewards for their manly efforts. "You got to work it hard, to be a Solo man. You're gonna take the lead and let the others follow," crowed the voice-over as our champion braved rapids in a canoe to be rewarded with a frosty, refreshing Solo at the end. "You can get it walkin'! You can get it talkin! You can get it working a plough! Matter o' fact I've got it now! Victoria Bitter! . . ." went the beer ad, run along with images of hard-working men engaged in back-breaking, yet satisfying, endeavours, the VB being the prize for their labours.
Today's ads don't seem to give a tinker's cuss about the nobility of men's endeavours. Men are no longer heroes but consumers. Worse, they're idiots. They might as well be saying, "Hey, dickhead! We don't care about your job and who you are! You're a worthless, interchangeable cog in the capitalist system! Catch!" as a six-pack is hurtled towards some poor bloke's melon.
Just as the soul-destroying messages in women's magazines are crafted by their female staff, so too are the negative messages about men crafted overwhelming by men in advertising agencies. For some reason, they have deduced that delivering a psychic kick to men's testicles is the best way to sell a whole host of products.
"Darwin was right," our faceless adman might say, "men are descended from apes! APES!"
"So let's treat them as the knuckledraggers they are," his pony-tailed sidekick might respond.
So it goes. The evidence is everywhere. Take the hapless boyfriend in the feminine hygiene ads who is too stupid to know what a tampon is or who runs away to the bedroom and refuses to come out until his girlfriend stops talking about them. Or the sap who wonders what "being regular" means in that cereal commercial featuring comedian Julia Morris, only to be told he doesn't get it. (If he gets bowel cancer that'll teach him, the stupid fool.) Or the ads where men's love of cars is treated as some kind of male-specific mental illness, his wife/partner rolling her eyes as he waxes the hood. Or the insurance ad where the bloke wouldn't know his arse from his elbow if a cyclone wiped out his uninsured home — fortunately his clever wife is there to help the simpleton understand. Even that "small penis" anti-speeding ad demeans men . . . and quite frankly wants to make me speed even more in revenge.
(One suspects that advertising targeted at the rich and wealthy has a somewhat more respectful tone: "Hey moron! You've made millions in computer software! Now buy this Learjet, you unreconstructed ape!" is unlikely to work with Bill Gates and his ilk.)
Then there are the dads – those chumps stupid enough to provide for their family and perpetuate the human race. Ad after ad depicts dad as some kind of daggy embarrassment, a Neanderthal more comfortable in the shed working with his tools or back in the Stone Age. Thank God mum is here to meet all of our emotional needs, prepare our food and discuss important life issues in baffling code ("I found something in your room"). Need more proof? As my friend Graham suggested, just take a look at what is written on the back of one syrup tin: "Pancakes — easy enough for dad to try!". Men built the rockets that went to the moon, but in 2010 man is barely intelligent enough to open a tin of pancake syrup.
In fact, there used to be a Japanese sitcom whose title translates roughly to "Stupid Dad", the story of a middle-aged Japanese salaryman who works himself to death in the traditional Japanese manner, only to be regarded as an idiot by his wife and family.
That's how modern advertising regards men – as an ageing salaryman unworthy of respect and who will buy any crap, no matter how it is pitched at them. Surely we deserve better.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).