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« They Say "Racist!!" Your Reply Is ... | Main | Ad Copy »

October 05, 2008

Doofus Guys in the Media

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A few more entries in the "American guys as presented by the American media" sweepstakes.

Lifetime TV thinks it's OK -- maybe even fun -- to show a typical American husband as a fat, pleading schlub, an overgrown child gone to seed:


Our hero in the above picture is resigned to playing second fiddle to wifey's TV pleasures. Get in line, big boy.

Software maker Circus Ponies contrasts together-girl with overwhelmed-guy:


Nice of Circus Ponies to get in a swipe at age and experience too.

Putting on a sincere face just for a moment ... I'm genuinely surprised that American men don't insist on a little respect, from the media as well as from women. But, hey, maybe men who can't command respect don't deserve to be treated as anything better than walking jokes.



posted by Michael at October 5, 2008


You've touched upon a subject I find deeply disturbing. About all I can say is that these advertisements and shows are, after all, fictional; in real life men are more likely to run things than be the downtrodden schlubs.

Posted by: Peter on October 5, 2008 7:08 PM

Women are the targets of these ads, so these ads represent an image, not of reality, nor one appealing to men, but rather a fantasy designed to snare the kind of women who watch Lifetime.

As women have moved into the world of work, they have encountered a male working population whose drive, competence, and ambition far exceed theirs. Overwhelmed by the evidence of their own creative, intellectual and productive mediocrity compared to men, modern American women, practicing the kind of denial that disqualifies them, precisely, from any position of genuine leadership and power, retreat into resentment, envy and fantasies of "empowerment".

Advertisers have long since discovered this market and continue busily to exploit it, playing to women's seething resentment and their gnawing sense of inadequacy...

Anything he can do I can do better! I can do anything better than him!

To which advertisers (overwhelmingly men, I should note) respond:

Yes you can! Yes you can! Yes you caaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!

And the dollars come flowing in.

No advertiser ever went broke overestimating the resentment and envy of the American woman.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 5, 2008 8:44 PM

PatrickH -

Interesting theory, but it's certainly never been my impression that women by and large feel inferior to men and resent their success.

Posted by: Peter on October 5, 2008 11:15 PM

Two little words retain their magical force to dispel a century's contempt and derision of masculinity:


Posted by: Robert Townshend on October 5, 2008 11:23 PM

I ignore all propaganda that suggests women want complete equity with men. Those two ads fall under that category.

I think women clearly deserve equal pay at the office, but deep down, do not seek nor would accept dominance or even equality when it comes to a relationship.

I base this theory on listening to the woes of single women, who don't want to date another chick, but are looking for a man who makes them feel protected and secure.

Posted by: Joe Valdez on October 5, 2008 11:29 PM

I don't mind this stuff because if it ever comes up in real life, you can always shut them up by pointing out how men run the world, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

You can't mention anything else that men are good at, btw -- like mentioning how much better we are at athletics, contra the image of a fat schlub. What the penis-enviers are really pissed at is how productive and powerful we are, the former more than the latter, since sex differences in productivity can't be written off as due to institutional injustice. (But if only we yelled loud enough at our daughters to "Be more ambitious!"...)

The standard snark-stopper I bring out goes like this:

Snarky Woman: "I mean, guys just sit around on the couch all day, scratching their asses, burping, farting..."

Me, interrupting: "Building civilization..."

That stopped a snarky prof of mine dead in her tracks, the only time that semester -- possibly ever -- that a student piped up in the middle of her lecture, let alone in order to step on her dick.

She's a good person and mostly an ideological fellow-traveler, but she had an annoying habit like this -- as an alpha-female, she was just trying to see whether the males in the class were too chicken-shit to call her out. All of them were, except for me.

Sometimes you have to smack a woman when her delusions flood the rational centers of her brain -- which is often. Some groups of males are like this too, like pundits.

Posted by: agnostic on October 5, 2008 11:44 PM

Both of these ads tap into women's negative feelings towards men. If you're doing a positive ad, you can go all United Colors of Benetton - in fact you pretty much have to. If you're going negative, you have to use relevant art.

The network ad builds on "I'm so mad at my husband", while the software ad reinforces "What does Daddy (or my daddyish boss) know, anyway?" Both offer the prospect of getting even by living well. The parodic schlub has to be a caricature of a relevant man, and that's presumably a middle-aged or older white guy for these demographics.

Besides, middle-aged, middle-class white guys are one of the few groups you can make fun of as a group without running afoul of any identity rights nags.

Posted by: robert61 on October 6, 2008 3:26 AM

Somewhere around 15-20 years ago this was called the "Dagwood Syndrome", as in Dagwood Bumstead. Funny, but too true. Though I'm sure my daughter (30-ish) would respond well to this sort of advertising, in real life she and her colleagues are remarkably egalitarian and man-friendly, in a mutual respect way. So much more advanced and "reconciled" than my own generation that it's very gratifying. I think the worst of resentful feminism is far far behind us.

Posted by: Sam_S on October 6, 2008 6:29 AM

Peter, you're right, of course. Most women also don't respond to the Lifetime ads or purchase Notebooks. Most women neither hate nor envy men, and most women's resentments of men are really just the traditional exasperations each sex has for the other, 21st century update version.

My point, which admittedly could have been clearer, is that the market for these man-unfriendly ads is composed of those women who do seethe with resentment and envy of men. These women have a frustrated urge to dominance, are focused on status and accomplishment, and may be that 25% or so of the female population that tends to the "masculine" brain that S. Baron-Cohen described in a different context.

These women generate the market for the ads that depict men in such a negative light. So, think not of most women, but that subset of women who seem to have a bee in their bonnet about men, who regularly emit snarky remarks about men, who react (as in Agnostic's example) to any statement about male superiority in anything with anger and defensiveness.

The kind of women who blame men for everything bad in the world, but who go ballistic when it's pointed out that since men run the world we're responsible for the good and the bad. That congnitive dissonance (Men are inferior/Men have run the world for millenia! Men are stupid, insensitive clods who understand nothing about women/Men control every aspect of women's lives!) is the giveaway.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 6, 2008 9:13 AM

Hey, RT, everytime I get behind the wheel of my minivan, I deeply grieve my snazzy little car with, yes, MANUAL TRANSMISSION. Wouldn't trade my kids for it, but Lord how I miss it. Vrooom! *sigh* Sorry about those ads, guys. I really love most of you and yeah, they stink. You big fellas ought to be able to handle it though. It's my sons' perceptions I worry about when I see this stuff. So few good male role models for a kid and then this poison.

Posted by: Bradamante on October 6, 2008 10:23 AM

I'm a dude and I'm always surprised at how touchy my fellow world-runners are when it comes to stuff like this. You'd think we'd be too busy running shit to notice.

As for women in the workplace, it's a given that they keep things organized while men (myself included), who are most likely in charge, bluster around from one project to the next, excited about the over-arching ideas that generate the projects, but neglectful of the details. That's a quality, by the way, but one that is in need of women's attention to detail in order to succeed.

Seriously, do any of you guys even work with women on a daily basis?

Posted by: JV on October 6, 2008 11:17 AM

You big fellas ought to be able to handle it though.

So should your son then, so, why worry?

Posted by: Usually Lurking on October 6, 2008 1:01 PM

It's feminism, of course. I think the steady barrage of stories on how women's brains process letters or numbers differently from men's are going to eat away at this; sure they can only print the ones that say women are better, but people are smart enough to put 2 and 2 together.

Posted by: SFG on October 6, 2008 5:53 PM

Let's face it, making fun of white dudes is fun because it is completely safe, and it is safe for the rather obvious reason that white dudes never really take offense at it. I think that's because we (yes I am one of them) don't feel like white men. We just feel like we are people. So we don't feel that these ads are about us. Lefty intellectuals sometimes cite this as one of the things that makes us so evil (ie., we think that whiteman = normalperson). But it does have an upside, at least for the lefty: you can attack us as much as you want with complete impunity. We aren't capable of giving a flying, furry rat's ass.

Posted by: Lester Hunt on October 6, 2008 7:16 PM

I agree with JV. I meet no women, really none at all, that display the typical feminist man hating attitude. In fact most women I work with actively seem to dislike feminists. And these would be women from all of the political spectrum. Maybe it's different on the east coast?

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on October 6, 2008 8:10 PM

JV: As for women in the workplace, it's a given that they keep things organized while men (myself included), who are most likely in charge, bluster around from one project to the next...

JV, you're a teacher, aren't you? I'm not even sure that in that cesspool of mediocrity that that kind of thing is the norm. In any case, I wasn't talking about the world you live in. "Positions of real leadership and power" are what the seethers crave, and for which they are emotionally and intellectually unsuited. It is the higher levels of accomplishment, attainment (and recognition) that are closed to them.

An example of the kind of position I have in mind: running advertising agencies that turn out anti-man ads. The most important fact about these ads, which Michael hasn't really acknowledged, is that while they are targeted at women, they are created by men. Everything of importance is created by men.

It is of course in the interest of the men who do run things to portray themselves (chuckle, chuckle) as blundering doofuses. Think about it. But do remember, JV, the saying "Behind every great man is a woman" has two premises that the advertisers who made those ads believe wholeheartedly: that they themselves are indeed great men, and that women are in fact behind them.

Waaaaay behind.

P.S. Remember the original song I paraphrased? The song ends with the woman victorious as she continues to belt out the final triumphant note while the man lapses into coughing, hacking defeat. This was a patronizing(!) sop thrown to women even back in the antediluvian era of the song, so this stuff--the product of the men WHO RUN THE WORLD--has been going on for some time. Long before feminism.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 6, 2008 9:01 PM

Women don't think or worry about "men running the world". When women, or men, for that matter, think about who runs the world & controls their lives, they tend to think a particular class of people - the "elites", the rich, the bureaucrats, corporations, the media, politicians, whatever, not "men". Rather it's "us" (the regular people, men & women alike) and "them". When Michael grumbles about the government doing whatever it wants regarding, say, immigration, despite the wishes of the populace, I don't think he sees them as "men" doing this, even though most are, but as the elitist suits screwing us all over.

Quite frankly, I think women, in their family lives & personal relations, which is what most people care about & which has long been considered women's domain anyway, feel very much like they run things. And most ambitious women don't sit around grumbling about women as a class not having 50% representation in the corridors of power; their career is a matter of individual achievement - if they can "break the ceiling" that's very nice, but they're not losing sleep over how to overthrow the patriarchy and probably (correctly) feel their interests are aligned with their male counterparts, not the downtrodden secretary.

There's not much going on here with these ads. When feminists yell about how ads that allegedly depict women as sex toys and bimbos are a sign of the hatred that lurks in men's hearts for women, I roll my eyes. I can't say I find these ads any more alarming.

Posted by: yt on October 6, 2008 10:32 PM

Y'all are dodging a substantial question here, which is, Why do American men put up with these kinds of portrayals?

I'm no world traveler, but I think it's safe to say that men in many other countries wouldn't stand for being portrayed so disrespectfully on such a regular basis. Joked about and teased, sure, and god knows dudez like playing the buffoon. But finally treated respectfully.

American men have long had a rep as being henpecked; American women have long had a rep as bossy ballbusters. Is this nothing but a continuation of same? Still, once upon a time media portrayals of American males included actual men: Cary Grant, John Wayne, Duke Ellington, Clark Gable ... The "dignified man" thing has become so pulverized by razzing that we seem to be left with sheepish boys with bad cases of bedhead, deeply convinced that chicks rule and that's just the way it is.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 7, 2008 12:18 AM

All right, Michael. Fair enough. The challenge, as I take it, is to see if there are indeed portrayals of dignified men available in our popular culture, whether to act as role models for the young, or just to indicate that our popular culture is capable of generating such portrayals.

Hmmmm...if you're right, such portrayals should be difficult or impossible to find, or if found should be clearly marginal, an acquired taste for a subculture, disconnected from the mainstream.

So, you're on. I will attempt to find such portrayals, and if they are present and they are not marginal, then it might be possible that this anti-man stuff is just advertising, is just the same old same old gussied up for the 21st.

Okay...let me think...positive portrayals of dignified men in our popular culture...


Posted by: PatrickH on October 7, 2008 11:30 AM

From the standpoint of somebody who's involved in the media business, I can tell you precisely why these types of ads dominate, although I can't tell you why we put up with them.

Advertising agencies are dominated by young gay men and fag hags. It's that simple. Young gay men seem to be eternally entertained by presenting heterosexual men as clueless oafs who can't match their shirts to their pants. When gay men mock hetero men... that's entertainment! When hetero men mock gay men... that's bigotry!

Start the name calling now. Of course, I'm a bigot... but I worked in these places. The fag hags swoon over the gay boys in these offices, telling them how clever they are and joining in the chorus of contempt for hetero men.

It's really that simple. The people producing these ads are New York and LA homosexuals. They are telling you what they think of hetero men... or at least what they hope is true of hetero men. And, they receive endless praise from the fag hags they work with for ridiculing hetero men. Gay men feed their egos. Fag hags tell them they're geniuses.

What's hard to understand about this?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on October 7, 2008 12:30 PM

Patrick, I was a teacher, now I'm back in corporate Web development. What I said about men and women in the workplaces applies to my current gig. Has your experience working with women been different? Every office I've ever worked in has the same dynamic, with men starting (and stopping) projects, and women taking care of the details and keeping the daily things running.

This is not an indictment of either sex. Both qualities are needed and complement each other quite well. And of course, there are the outliers in both sexes. And then there are the slackers in both sexes.

And I gotta stick up for my former colleagues in teaching. The majority were FAR from mediocre. Patrick, have you spent one day in a classroom as something other than a student? I always say everyone should spend a week in a classroom, preferably as a substitute teacher, but at least as an observer or aide, and then get back to me about how teaching is easy and most teachers are mediocre. I'm not saying it's the hardest job on earth, but it's one HELL of a lot harder than many people give it credit for. It's the hardest (and most rewarding) job I've ever had, way harder than typing away on the computer machine all day.

Posted by: JV on October 7, 2008 1:31 PM

If men wanted to see Cary Grant types or other "dignified" men on movie screens, we'd have them. Instead they've made Judd Apatow and his slovenly, perpetually adolescent men-children major box office draws. That's the male icon of the moment and I am fairly certain that's not due to gay men or women. It's men who find them entertaining.

Being dignified is hard. It means you can't always do the fun stuff you want to do. It implies self-restraint, stateliness, propriety in conduct, manners, appearance, character. I see no evidence that the public is crying out for this.

TV shows, magazines, etc. aimed at and happily consumed by male audiences do not portray men as incompetent, but they are certainly not portrayed as dignified More like crass, adolescent, frat-boyish, and "cool". Is there really a big demand out there for sophisticated worldly gentlemen types like Grant or hard-working family man types that were pretty typical in the media decades ago? Doubt it, cuz responsibility and grown-ups suck and eternal adolescence rules.

Posted by: lenny on October 7, 2008 2:34 PM

A couple of thousand hours of teaching experience, JV. My point about teachers wasn't that they were stupid or losers or sub. I said they were mediocre...that means average, nothing special. Not the scum of the earth, just nothing special.

My original point remains unchanged, I believe, because it referred to those women seething with envy over men's domination of the higher reaches of human accomplishment, status and power. At the mediocre level, which is where I live, men and women are just about their mediocrity precisely.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 7, 2008 10:18 PM

Well, of course most of them are mediocre, isn't that the very definition of mediocre? Unless you live in Lake Wobegon, we're all mostly mediocre. So I don't get your point when you say:

"JV, you're a teacher, aren't you? I'm not even sure that in that cesspool of mediocrity that that kind of thing is the norm."

I think mostly you're backtracking, because that quote is pretty damning to teachers, singling them out as especially "medicore."

Posted by: JV on October 8, 2008 12:03 PM

Okay, the "cesspool" is a giveaway. I do believe Educ. dept's are the bottom of the university intellectual pecking order, hence the cesspool comment. The Education dept at the university I attended was a joke, and I have never encountered a less intelligent, less curious university population, and not simply because they were older. They seemed mediocre by the standards of the pop as a whole, and therefore sub-mediocre by the standards of university. The cesspool was an implicit comparison of educ students to other students at the university, so "mediocre" in that context was intended as a damning comparison, since I really meant "sub-mediocre".

Posted by: PatrickH on October 9, 2008 11:57 AM

Patrick, you keep wavering back and forth. First you say teachers are a cesspool, then you say you didn't mean that, just that they're nothing special, then you go back to saying teachers are sub-medicore. I think you just like countering whatever it is my most recent comment states. :)

Anyway, I disagree wholeheartedly with your characterization of teachers as less curious and intelligent than people in other fields. I've worked in a few different fields (OK, 3 fields) and I've found teachers to be the most engaged and interested group out of the bunch. Are they the most "intelligent?" Not in the sense of specialized knowledge/talent, but imparting knowledge to a group of mostly disinterested youth is a talent all its own, as I'm sure you know based on your experience as a teacher.

I'm interested to know what you taught. I taught high school English, Literature and a speech class. I know, such a soft, feminine field of study, right? I mean, who needs to read when we all should be out clearing brush and shit.

Posted by: JV on October 9, 2008 12:33 PM

No, JV, I'm not wavering. Teachers are the bottom of the university intellectual barrel. I'm not wavering! They're the bottom!

And they're average by the standards of the population as a whole. I'm not wavering!

In any case, we're no longer even close to the topic, and I'm not that interested in this, so I shall bid you adieu here and go check the racism foofaraw to see if you're hanging out there.

Ciao, JV.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 9, 2008 3:16 PM

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