Today’s Friday Rant is about advertising. As a former journalist and current writer, I must say, I hate advertising. It’s usually just bad writing (except Budweiser commercials). As a person with a brain, I also hate advertising. It’s so dumbed-down, so simplified, so reliant on stereotypes, it’s actually insulting to anyone with a brain.
Think about all of the stereotypes in advertising:
- Old man/woman with dementia: Ain’t that funny, Earl? That old coot cain’t remember nothing! He cain’t even get up off that durn floor!
- Jolly fat person: There are some great fat actors, but they’re only allowed to play happy — how ’bout a mean fat guy? A sexy fat guy, one they don’t play for laughs? A smart, hard-working fat woman? But that would go against …
- Lazy fat person.
- Sullen teenager: Look, my kids have Ipods too. They don’t glare at me for interrupting their play with pointless conversation. They smile. They help with groceries.
- Hyperactive Asian: They talk so fast because they’re so smart and so good at math, they just can’t slow down their lightning-quick thought processes … (Though that Asian teacher with the glitter is awful cute.)
- Cute Asian (lots of Hello Kitty).
- Stuck-up European (who can still somehow steal your wife).
- Metrosexual Englishman.
- Randy Italian.
- Effeminate gay guy.
The list could go on forever. Most of the time, I don’t care. Advertisers pay millions of dollars for 30 seconds of air time; you can’t expect character development. But some advertising stereotypes are really damaging. Look at how advertising treats blacks and women.
Here’s a typical white-black meeting in advertising: A white guy and a black guy sit down on the front steps of an apartment building to eat hamburgers together. They’re friends or co-workers, right? But no, the black man is young; therefore, he must be an Angry Black Man. Suddenly he slams his shoulder hard into the shoulder of the white guy, who of course is Wimpy White Guy. Wimpy White Guy juggles his hamburger, almost drops it, and gives Angry Black Man an uncertain, “are you really pissed?” look. No, it was just a joke! The black guy laughs, all the mean black people around them laugh, and the white guy gives them a sheepish smile. They resume the eating of hamburgers.
Or then there’s this scene: The football team is winning! The fans are in the streets cheering, dancing, hugging, smiling, happy. The camera follows one knuckle-bump after another, a chain of them, people celebrating, getting along, white, black, doesn’t matter, we’re all fans, team spirit, team spirit, team spirit! Then, a large SUV rolls up, and the window rolls down. Wimpy White Guy holds out his hand for the knuckle bump.
And you realize, this is one of the football players. If it were Peyton Manning, this would be a love-fest. But no! This isn’t just any football player. This is an Angry Black football player. He gives Wimpy White Guy the death stare. He refuses the knuckle bump. Wimpy White Guy looks uncertain and embarassed and finally knuckle-bumps the air in the general direction of Angry Black Man.
Does this not piss you off? What exactly is this selling us? That we fans blindly support these teams when the players find us generally annoying? This will encourage me to buy football tickets? But more to the point, this is damaging. This perpetuates a terrible stereotype of young black men. This divides races. Please, Ad Man, retire the Angry Black Man stereotype!
Then there’s the treatment of women in advertising. Being a woman myself, I find this one especially irritating. Maybe the guys in the viewing audience don’t even notice. Therefore, I must teach. The other day I saw a commercial for a shipping company. They showed their workers wearing outfits representing lots of different occupations. There were three women in the two commercials I saw: a bride, a model, and a ballerina. Seriously? I guess that’s better than a lot of the commercials I remember from when I was a teenager. Back then, women were usually just dumb. We needed our husbands’ help for everything, gosh darn it! Now, we’re all Super Mom. We know with just a glance how many paper towel sheets are required to clean up a mess speeding toward Daughter’s favorite doll. Bumbling Dad uses too many! That would waste 0.005 cents. Mom ratchets that towel roll back to one sheet and stops the spill just before it reaches Dolly. Mom saves the day!
Or how ’bout the commercials in which Dad and kids try to cook? They make Mom a great meal and a sweet, lopsided cake. How cute! And they destroy the kitchen — spaghetti sauce drips from the ceiling, flour shrouds the counters, dishes teeter three feet high in the sink. They couldn’t possibly clean this mess up! This is rocket science, after all.
How many commercials show Bumbling Dad and a whole passel of Clumsy Kids make mess after mess, then LEAVE. They all relax on the floor with a train set or lounge on the couch watching wholesome programming together while Super Mom cleans up all the messes and makes that kitchen sparkly clean!
Get the underlying theme? Mom is still barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. She’s still the family servant. This is so sexist, it makes my blood boil. Don’t flatter me with the Super Mom label and then insult me with “now get in that kitchen and clean, wench.” I’m not buying your product, Ad Man. I’m buying the no-name cleaning product, because that company doesn’t have money for advertising.
Advertising is supposed to sell me something. Pissing me off makes me buy someone else’s product. Stop pissing me off, Ad Man. (Okay, I know I’m frothing this a bit. But it’s Friday. I’m supposed to rant.)
So, does this piss you off too? What’s pissing you off today?
(BTW, I changed the title of this because my son was afraid I looked like a racist.)