Stupid men, Stupid Parents, Stupid Madison Avenue

My son Buster’s pet peeve is the way fathers and young men are portrayed on television either by advertisers or in sitcoms. Overall it seems to Buster that in sitcoms men are fat, sloppy, stupid, lazy, sex-obsessed and unable to function without the help of the fit, very together, stylish, driven, educated and sex-sensible woman. In ads, young men are brain-dead, game-playing couch-potato louts or stupid, monosyllabic Jeff Spicoli knock-offs, and in ads fathers are routinely portrayed as profoundly mindless, deceitful, immature and yes, stupid.

But no matter how stupid young men are in these ads, or sitcoms, their fathers are always stupider, and in some commercials, both parents are completely vapid and need to be set straight by their lecturing, Superior Lifeforce Children.

“Don’t buy stuff from those advertisers,” Buster would tell me. “Don’t patronize businesses that make men look like bums and idiots. I’m all for women and girls being portrayed respectfully, but I’m tired of it being at the expense of men. And don’t buy stuff that uses kids to lecture at you.”

Yes, I do note the irony of my child lecturing me not to allow myself to be lectured by “children.”

Needless to say, this is not something Buster had to say to me more than once. I’ve never much liked the idea of celebrating women by slamming men – it always seems counterproductive, divisive and hypocritical to me – and bring raised as a classical liberal, it goes against my grain to be expected to look at a woman and think, “ahhh, a woman! A superior creature!” If a product is marketed to me as “by women, for women” I do not buy it, because a) I hate being pandered to via my vulva and b) just because a woman is involved with something does not make it great, or even better.

I was raised to see people as people
first, not as genders, and I have long, long since grown weary of being preached to about it. In fact, it was when Buster was about 2 or 3 years old that I turned off Sesame Street because nearly every episode had some Muppet carrying on about how “women can be anything.” I realized that my generation was preaching to a generation that did not need the conditioning or the indoctrination – they were not being raised with the same reality as my generation’s, or the ones before, of women being held back by gender expectations. This generation is being raised differently — they already has the female scientists, doctors, astronauts, journalist, newscasters and politician role-models –, I thought, so who are these puppets singing for – the little girls and boys who have never heard of gender discrimination and therefore do not need the lecture, or for the women who cannot stop defensively “celebrating” themselves, like an old scratched record that can’t move past a skip?

I’m thinking of this today partly because of the – to my way of thinking – insulting, near-scandalous playing of the gender card by Sen. Clinton – who needs to decide if she’s a tough woman or a shrinking violet and then stick to it – but it’s also because last night I was finishing up a prayer shawl and decided to flip on the television only to see two successive ads which aggravated me for Buster’s sake and for my own.

The first commercial had the Stupid Spoiled Father stamping his feet and holding his breath (literally) outside of a Subway because he wanted the meat-and-cheese whatever. The Insufferably Sensible Mother said, “no, honey, we have to take Chris to his soccer game.” When Stupid Spoiled Father began whining and holding his breath, Superior Life Form Child said, “yeah, Dad, grow up!” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist of it. The whole commercial was appallingly insulting and had me muttering that if I did eat Subway sandwiches, I’d have to stop because of those ads.

Directly following that commercial came one for the Chrysler Town and Country, a minivan I once considered purchasing. I have to be honest, I was counting stitches (I had dropped one; I am a deplorably bad knitter) and did not see the commercial, but I heard about how parents who buy a Town and Country, will almost be as smart as their kids. Almost.

Excuse me, but even if my kids are smarter than me, which is entirely possible, I’m still not dumb enough to give my money to a company that dares to tell me so. Idiots.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Peter

    We’ve gone from “Father Knows Best” to “Father Doesn’t Know a Damn Thing”.

  • Peter

    We’ve gone from “Father Knows Best” to “Father Doesn’t Know a Damn Thing”.

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  • jakewashere

    My best friend’s wife has nothing but contempt for these ads–both the ones that belittle men and the ones that pander to women. But then, she openly prefers ANYTHING to the company of her own sex. I would go so far as to say that she is the world’s only female male chauvinist pig.

  • jakewashere

    My best friend’s wife has nothing but contempt for these ads–both the ones that belittle men and the ones that pander to women. But then, she openly prefers ANYTHING to the company of her own sex. I would go so far as to say that she is the world’s only female male chauvinist pig.

  • Jean

    Those sorts of sitcoms and ads is that they make EVERYONE seem stupid. Why would an intelligent woman marry a fool? Why would a decent mother allow her children to treat their father as an idiot? What kind of heartless monsters treat their parents as pets with built-in ATMs?

    I remember very well when I stopped watching “Home Improvement”. There was an episode in which the middle son stole a pocketknife from the store of a family friend. The father chewed him out and made him return the item to their friend. Then the mother turned it into an issue of “how bad I felt when I was your age and my father yelled at me”. So it ended with the father apologizing for yelling at his Son the Thief. As my big brother likes to say, “As if THAT would happen in MY house!”

    But it doesn’t surprise me in the least that this is the trend. After all, TV programs are all about advertising, even if it’s only “product placement”. What better way to “train” parents and children than to run the scenario over and over again: children convince parent to buy something for them. I think the most asinine commercial using this scenario is one in which a mother bribes her daughter to talk her father into remodelling the kitchen.

  • Jean

    Those sorts of sitcoms and ads is that they make EVERYONE seem stupid. Why would an intelligent woman marry a fool? Why would a decent mother allow her children to treat their father as an idiot? What kind of heartless monsters treat their parents as pets with built-in ATMs?

    I remember very well when I stopped watching “Home Improvement”. There was an episode in which the middle son stole a pocketknife from the store of a family friend. The father chewed him out and made him return the item to their friend. Then the mother turned it into an issue of “how bad I felt when I was your age and my father yelled at me”. So it ended with the father apologizing for yelling at his Son the Thief. As my big brother likes to say, “As if THAT would happen in MY house!”

    But it doesn’t surprise me in the least that this is the trend. After all, TV programs are all about advertising, even if it’s only “product placement”. What better way to “train” parents and children than to run the scenario over and over again: children convince parent to buy something for them. I think the most asinine commercial using this scenario is one in which a mother bribes her daughter to talk her father into remodelling the kitchen.

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  • boxingoctopus

    jakewashere: not necessarily. In fact, there’s a whole book dedicated to them: http://www.amazon.com/Female-Chauvinist-Pigs-Raunch-Culture/dp/0743249895

  • boxingoctopus

    jakewashere: not necessarily. In fact, there’s a whole book dedicated to them: http://www.amazon.com/Female-Chauvinist-Pigs-Raunch-Culture/dp/0743249895

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  • Gayle Miller

    The demonization, femininization and marginalization of men over the past 30 years has been enormously destructive to our nation and to our relationships with each other in every sense of the world. Women have permitted their “bad angels” to dictate their behaviors far too often: promiscuity leading to out-of-wedlock children whose fathers are either completely unknown. Don’t even get me started on the women who blame paternity on the most affluent of the many possible daddies (without knowing for sure and whilst resisting mightily any attempt to prove responsibility) and deny men who WANT to be good fathers the slightest opportunity to know, love and nurture their child.

    It’s sick, it’s perverted and it is just plain WRONG. The children of America NEED two parents, rather than being raised by emasculating female she-wolves who teach neither morals nor values to their young, but rather only predatory behavior.

    What has happened to us? We used to be a nation that at least TRIED to be moral and honest and straightforward. Sure we failed, but we did TRY. Now it seems that everybody is so wrapped in their own, narrow little universe that the ageless concept of right and wrong is irrelevant to them.

    It is troubling and terrifying what we are becoming.

  • Gayle Miller

    The demonization, femininization and marginalization of men over the past 30 years has been enormously destructive to our nation and to our relationships with each other in every sense of the world. Women have permitted their “bad angels” to dictate their behaviors far too often: promiscuity leading to out-of-wedlock children whose fathers are either completely unknown. Don’t even get me started on the women who blame paternity on the most affluent of the many possible daddies (without knowing for sure and whilst resisting mightily any attempt to prove responsibility) and deny men who WANT to be good fathers the slightest opportunity to know, love and nurture their child.

    It’s sick, it’s perverted and it is just plain WRONG. The children of America NEED two parents, rather than being raised by emasculating female she-wolves who teach neither morals nor values to their young, but rather only predatory behavior.

    What has happened to us? We used to be a nation that at least TRIED to be moral and honest and straightforward. Sure we failed, but we did TRY. Now it seems that everybody is so wrapped in their own, narrow little universe that the ageless concept of right and wrong is irrelevant to them.

    It is troubling and terrifying what we are becoming.


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