Monday, September 14, 2015

Idiot Men and Wise Women

Consider your average commercial.


As the scene opens, some moronic clown of a man, usually a husband, is struggling to figure out how to do some basic task correctly and is failing miserably. It doesn't really matter what he's doing (laundry, sweeping, doing the dishes, even something as simple as eating lunch...), he's doing it wrong.


But don't worry about him, he's covered! For sure enough, an all-knowing woman (usually his wife but sometimes his co-worker) is there to pull his bacon from the fire. Rolling her eyes and shaking her head in pity, she saves the idiot of a man before he utterly ruins everything. And of course the product being peddled is usually part of the solution. And afterward, the all-wise woman gathers with some of her fellow women (all of whom are wise) and has a nice laugh about the guy, who can be seen in the background messing something else up.


And, by the way, did I mention that the man is stupid?


And of course we’re all supposed to laugh: “Ha, Ha, Ha look at that stupid guy. What an idiot! Good thing all that women were around, right? Because men can't be trusted to breathe and chew gum at the same time without messing it up!"


Now, sometimes there is a variant of this commercial in which it is a pack of children, almost always led and spoken for by a girl, who are the all-wise rescuers of the helpless idiotic father figure. They (the children) step in with the product and save the day.


You know, I have no idea who these people are trying to sell things to, but I know its not me, because commercials like this tend to make me boycott those products. I refuse to give my money to any company that, in their commercials, says to me "Buy our product, you stupid schmuck!"


Now, this is not to say I lack a sense of humor or I lack the ability to laugh at myself from time to time, but I have to tell you, after the thirtieth or fortieth time in a single day I see the "Idiot Man/Wise Woman" style of commercial, I'm tired of laughing and am getting irritated about what is clearly a problem.


You see, I think these commercials are actually hurting our society. They are helping to promote and continue the sexist (not to mention false) attitude that men are all incompetent doofuses who need someone smarter and wiser (not to mention female) to watch over/control/guide them before they hurt themselves or someone else.


Even worse, what are these commercials teaching to children? From what I can see, they're teaching children (especially male children) that adult men are idiotic, crude, foolish, lustful, and untrustworthy. A steady diet of disrespect for a single gender served up in commercials that adult men (especially their own fathers) are to be laughed at, abused, and generally disrespected.


What a healthy message to teach any child, much less a young boy. How does constantly being told that when he grows up, a boy will be a man who is lazy, unfaithful, inappropriate, rude, addicted to beer, unclean and unkept, inattentive, addicted to beer, and an utter moron help that boy become a decent human being?


The "men are idiots" message in these commercials might have a certain humor about it (it is fun to make light of the honest differences between men and women, after all) but in the end, its not the attitude we need to be cultivating. Women do owe men respect, if only as fellow human beings, in the same way that men owe women respect.


Constant ridicule of one segment of society is not helpful for anyone.


I've spoken on this subject before and people have responded with "Yeah, well, its just a joke." Yeah, well, its not funny anymore. One woman told me that "These commercials reflect our culture." Really? You mean to tell me that you think the men in your life (your fathers, your husbands, your sons, and your friends) are truly like this? That they are all idiots and morons who can't be trusted to tie their shoes correctly? What a wonderful opinion you have of them.


Try reversing the roles in these commercials and making the women the butt of the joke and see how funny you think they are after the twentieth time you see women depicted like that. See how soon you decide to boycott the product they are selling in the commercial.


Commercial advertisement, like all forms of public media, not only reflects our common culture but helps shape it. So I ask one more time, how does all this negativity toward men and boys affect the public perception of male human beings in general? I can't see it affecting them in any way but harmfully.


The truth is that its not just the commercials.  There are almost no healthy, balanced portrayals of men in our current popular culture. Its not just the morons displayed in the commercials, its the fact that men are generally portrayed as over-aggressive, overly violent, crude, dirty, and hyper-sexualized. In popular media, the "heroes" are often amoral, out of control, and bordering on criminal when they aren't seen as unintelligent, weak, and ineffectual.


None of which helps anyone become good, caring, attentive, and most importantly responsible husbands and fathers.

3 comments:

  1. I agree. I've seen this getting worse as time goes on myself. It's everywhere: TV, movies, novels, even today's comic books and cartoons. Today's most celebrated and heavily marketed movies aimed at kids, such as 'Brave' and 'Frozen' to name a couple, are all telling this sexist tale.

    Sure, back in the 40's and 50's, there were a lot of commercials, TV shows and movies that made women out to be helpless idiots, but the problem isn't solved by just reversing the roles. If women truly want respect, they need to respect men and value their roles in society just as much as they expect men to respect them.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes! I've been telling this to anyone who would listen for over 20 years. I think it started with Archie Bunker. Before him, "dad" was always the wise grounded character in a sitcom. After Archie all dads were buffoons.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes! I've been telling this to anyone who would listen for over 20 years. I think it started with Archie Bunker. Before him, "dad" was always the wise grounded character in a sitcom. After Archie all dads were buffoons.

    ReplyDelete