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.
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.