Today is Father’s Day, the third Sunday in June in which we take time to celebrate the many good qualities of our fathers and husbands.
That’s one day a year. What about the way men are depicted in the TV commercials that air 365 days a year? In the typical “slice of life” commercial, instead of showing men as intelligent, authoritative, loving, or any other number of honorable characteristics, more times than not, the wives in the ads are shown as barely tolerating their husband’s simplemindedness.
It’s as if the mom and the kids are the competent members of the family and dad is like a special needs child. “Poor dear, he doesn’t know enough to put the lid on the blender before turning it on, and now I have to use (fill in the blank) brand of paper towels to clean up the mess he made.”
There are plenty of examples of this kind of commercial. For instance, take the Yoplait ad in which the husband isn’t smart enough to realize the wife is talking about flavors of yogurt, not desserts. Or the Sears spot in which the mouth-breathing husbands play ping-pong…because of course, all men are instantly drawn to games…while the smart wives make the decision about the washer and dryer.
But the ad that has aired recently that offends me the most is the Hanes sock commercial. It’s the one in which the wife comes home to find the husband dipping their son in paste because he’s tired of socks that don’t fit and he has invented a solution to the problem.
Her response is to say, “That’s really stupid” which is akin to saying “You’re really stupid.” She might as well go on to say, “It’s a good thing I’m home now to make sure you don’t play with matches and set the house on fire.”
How did this “men are idiots” trend start and why is reflected in so much of what we see on TV? How over the last 50 years has the attitude about dads on TV changed from “Father Knows Best” to “Dad is Totally Clueless?”
It’s complicated. I’m sure chroniclers of popular media and social trends could fill volumes will the reasons.
All I can deal with in a blog is my immediate world. So although treating your husband with arrogance seems to be the norm these days on TV, it is not the way most women I know treat their husbands. It’s not the way I interact with Steve…well, there was that snotty comment I made last week about him not bringing the trash cans…but a tone of superiority towards him certainly doesn’t work to create a partnership in our marriage. This is our life, not a sit-com where snappy put-downs are applauded.
I was trying to come up way to wrap up my blog when Steve related a story from his past. A copywriter in an ad agency he worked at in the 1970’s had a popular ad tag line hung on the wall of his office. The line was “If you want him to be more of a man, try being more of a woman.” To which the copywriter had added, “And less of a bitch.” I agree.