The men of television – stupid or really, really stupid?

Look at Trixie and Alice. How they suffer, married to those two imbeciles.

There was a big flap recently when a diaper maker chose to hype the incredible ease with which their diapers could be placed on little poopers.  As you may have heard, they chose to describe the diaper as being so easy to use that even a Dad could do it.  As you probably also know, it didn’t go over too well.  Unlike cavemen, who only have a few delegates, plain old regular Dads represent a pretty sizable demographic.  There was outrage and multiple pouty guys interviewed on the  news whining about being unfairly ridiculed.  As is the case with just about any issue these days, there was a Facebook page where sensitive, caring fathers could weigh in about their quiet, painful outrage.

In this age of hypersensitivity and rampant political correctness, you have to wonder how an ad agency could have thought this angle would have skimmed by without ruffling feathers.  My guess is that they just took a look at the typical representation of guys on TV and went from there.  If that’s true, it’s actually kind of surprising that they felt that there could possibly be a diaper design simple enough to work.

Men of television commercials and comedies, for the most part, are complete, bumbling idiots.  They can’t find their sunglasses when they’re right inside the hoods of their sweatshirts.  They can’t remember anniversaries or birthdays.  It’s a wonder that Tim “Tool Time” Taylor could find his way home from work every day without a trail of breadcrumbs and a GPS.

Since its infancy, TV has portrayed men as the blithering stooges who their women simply had to tolerate.  In “The Honeymooners”, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton were constantly hatching idiotic schemes.  In case anyone watching forgot what dolts they were, they’d occasionally don silly raccoon hats as a visual reminder.  When their secret plot would inevitably fall apart, Trixie and Alice would look at each other with knowing glances – sisters in the sorority of intelligent women who stood beside their knuckle-dragging, idiot men with the noble air of martyrs.  To further accentuate the differences, the women always look so much better than their men.  Ralph was a fat slob and Ed constantly wore a pork-pie hat, T-shirt and vest – a fashion statement which has yet to catch on, 150 years later.  Meanwhile, Trixie and Alice were as svelte and sophisticated as two women with under-achieving husbands could possibly be.

"Which truck is mine? I mean, they're all brown and full of boxes, how am I supposed to figure this out?"

As the years have flown by, it seems the men of television have managed to get even dumber.  They continue to just barely bring home the bacon to their lovely, long suffering wives.  “The King of Queens” followed the trials and tribulations of another fat slob married to a looker.  It was a weekly contest to see whether Kevin James could appear more idiotic than Jerry Stiller, whose character was so pathetic that he spent many of his golden years living in his daughter’s basement.

How many times did we have to watch as that dopey Ray Romano made his wife look like a Nobel Prize laureate in “Everybody Loves Raymond”?  I realize he was playing a sports writer and not a nuclear physicist, but you get the picture.  Now that Ray’s TV wife is married to the janitor from “Scrubs” and living in Indiana in “The Middle”, we can see more clearly just how bright she actually wasn’t.

You really have to wonder why this is.  There have got to be a ton of guys writing these shows and commercials.  Is the portrayal of men as idiots an accident?  Is it a formula which worked so well for so long that people just accept it without question?  Or…is it something more sinister and calculated?

I’m going to go ahead and float an idea for you.  I think that the portrayal of men in popular media is an elaborate plan to both fool and appease women.  Studies have shown how effective subliminal messages can be (I have no idea who did the studies or what they even say, but I also know that starting a sentence with the words “studies have shown” tends to give a whole lot more weight to whatever words follow).  By making women think we’re dumber than we actually are, these writers have given men the ability to get away with all kinds of things, just by feigning a lack of intelligence.  The idea of idiotic men has become so pervasive in our society, we don’t even have to know what “feigning” means or how to spell it.

A feeling of intellectual superiority is strong medicine for the women of America.  Studies have shown that even in present day America, women still do much of the shopping for the household.  If women were insulted by programming which showed them in a less than flattering light, they might turn the channel and miss critical soap and canned chili advertisements.

Women regularly get together for bunko nights and girls’ nights out, spending countless hours comparing notes on whose husband has the thickest skull.  They laugh and giggle, secure in the false belief that they have the upper hand and superior intelligence.  They revel in the notion that their lame-brained partners are sitting at home scratching themselves then sniffing their fingers like the Al Bundy of old, while they enjoy sophisticated fun.  In reality, these women are the victims of a complex ruse.  It turns out their husbands are intelligent, urbane examples of civility, almost all of whom are more than capable of changing a diaper without getting ka-ka on themselves or surrounding furnishings.

If women choose not to believe me that’s fine, but it doesn’t make them look very smart.

Mood Music for E.D.

In yesterday’s post, I dissected the advertising strategies used by the two biggest players in the erectile dysfunction (ED) pharmaceutical market.  Part of the piece described one company’s use of a Howlin’ Wolf song in one of its ads.

An actual photo of the Howlin' Wolf clowning with the microphone (Photo by Doug Fulton)

As an added bonus for blues aficionados; I’m going to list some of the best Howlin’ Wolf songs for Turgidity meds:

1) “Smokestack Lightning” – for obviously phallic and incendiary reasons

2)Moanin’ at Midnight” – no explanation needed

3) “Wang Dang Doodle” – its got the word “Wang” in the title, and bonus points if you pointed out that it was a big hit for Willie Dixon.  Uh-huh huh! He said Dixon

4) “Backdoor Man” – Duh

5) “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy” – We all can’t have washboard abs

6) “Shake For Me” – If he’s three hundred pounds, you gotta figure she may have also been built when meat was cheap

7) “Goin Down Slow” – Don’t make me explain these to you, people

8) “Built for Comfort” – Another obvious sexual reference

Please feel free to comment with your own blues favorites which might be well suited for an erectile dysfunction commercial.  Please, no jazz or easy listening tracks.

Advertising in the age of E.D. drugs

The Astoria Column - How has this not shown up in a commercial?

Over the past several years, big pharmaceutical companies have begun spending increasingly huge amounts of money on advertising for almost all of their products.  They’ve always given out pens and mid-size sedans to doctors, but now they’re also bombarding the airwaves telling Average Joes the great news about how well their products work.

Before this advertising blitzkrieg, relatively few people even knew what E.D. stood for.  Now, thanks to countless commercials, millions of Americans are exposed to those letters every day- especially if they’re watching golf or NASCAR.  Erectile Dysfunction medications are being hyped all over the tube like Color-Safe Fabric Softener and Ginsu Knives.

For obvious reasons, the ad agencies have to find ways to sell the E.D. products without actually showing how well they work.  The two biggest purveyors of woody medicine have fairly different approaches to the task.

The first manufacturer’s strategy shows men being men.  Sometimes they’re sailing, but usually they’re driving – classic muscle cars or pick-up trucks hauling horse trailers.  The sound track is often some fairly obscure blues track.  Fans of the Howlin’ Wolf such as myself will take note when hearing his familiar guitar licks on the TV.  At first we’re tickled because someone somewhere took the time to find this cool song and put it on TV.  Then a moment later, we’re disheartened to realize it’s being used in a commercial for boner pills.  The ads focus on portraying these handsome, accomplished men as masters of their own destiny, having figured out how to get where they want to be in life.  The unspoken message is this: If you can figure out how to get that horse trailer unstuck, you can certainly  figure out how to solve the linguine-in-the-pants problem.

The ad agency for the other main pharmaceutical company goes with a different approach.  They show men and women engaged in mundane, mutually tedious activities.  Then they brush elbows, and the garden shed they’re working on re-organizing magically morphs into a Tahitian love-hut complete with tropical breezes and an ocean view.  They discard their work gloves and start slow dancing onto the lanai.  As always, the commercial ends with the two of them sitting alongside one another in matching bathtubs watching the Polynesian sun set.  One could argue that if those pills worked so well, the two of them would have jumped into the same tub.  This particular Madison Avenue approach puts the emphasis on the romance and emotional connection of sex, rather than the dirty, sweaty aspects of it – otherwise the “erections lasting longer than 4 hours” part would be part of the sales pitch, not part of the disclaimer.*

Speaking of disclaimers, there’s also the one which warns users to “consult with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to have sex in the first place”.  Like any disclaimer, it’s there for legal reasons. In lay terms it’s because unlike the rugged horse trailer drivers in the commercial, the actual users of the pills may not be quite so fit.  In other words, many of the actual users of these pills may bear more of a resemblance to the Michelin Man than to the Marlboro Man.

When it’s all said and done, ED drugs and the rest of the pharmaceutical goodies in the world are hawked no differently than any other products.  The subliminal psychology is used and abused to give people all sorts of messages which are patently absurd.  You may suffer from that medical problem, but you’re no more that guy in the vintage Camaro than your wife is the smoking hottie in the air freshener commercial.

Now go enjoy yourself.  If things don’t change in another 3 hours and 52 minutes, you’re going to have to seek medical attention.

*Now that I’ve written this, the company has stopped using the powder-room-with-the-backed-up-toilet-morphing-into-a-mountain-cabin-with-canopy-bed approach and just shows men and women getting close.  They share crossword puzzles and snuggle on couches.  Anyone will tell you that there’s no better way to kill desire than sharing a crossword puzzle – I mean, who could be attracted to someone who couldn’t come up with the five letter word for “calcified instrument of lovemaking(?)”, beginning with b.  The twin tub part has now been reduced to a stylized logo at the very end of the ad.  I’m trying to write here!  Couldn’t you guys leave well enough alone and not change your commercials long enough for my references to be topical!?