Advertising for the New Decade

Did anyone else notice a motif of emasculated males in this year’s Super Bowl commercials? Stranger than the theme itself is the fact that the message seemed to get louder with each related ad. The first–and tamest–of these was for Dove’s new line of skin care for men. The commercial, which shows a man growing up, entering adulthood and having a family of his own, quietly instates the image of man as domesticated husband and father, whose many jobs include opening pickle jars.

Then came an ad for the new Dodge Charger. Exhausted, sad-looking men stare into the camera as a voice-over states all the things they do for their spouses. “I will clean the sink after I shave. I will put the seat down.” And then: “I will say yes when you want me to yes. I will be quiet when you don’t want to hear me say no. I will carry your lip balm.” Their slogan? “Because I do this, I will drive the car I want to drive. Charger: Man’s last stand.”

FloTV’s ad for their portable live television got straight to the point. The ad depicts “Jason”, a man whose girlfriend “removed his spine” when she made him go shopping with her on Super Bowl Sunday. “Change out of that skirt, Jason,” the narrator urges.

Stereotypical portrayals of both genders are nothing new when it comes to advertising. What is new is the stereotype being portrayed. The depiction of men as domesticated puppies is noticeable because it’s a new stereotype. Where are the macho, super-masculine, physically commanding men of commercials as we know them? It’s funny how stereotypes become invisible once we get used to them.

What’s behind this new angle? Maybe it’s an attempt to appeal to men in a tough economy. The rise in unemployment has shaken the image of men as breadwinners, now that many of them are unable to fulfill this part. We’re seeing new cultural roles, gender and otherwise, arise as a result of our socioeconomic circumstances. Something big is happening. And I’m willing to bet it’s not because women are suddenly making all of our Super Bowl commercials.

–Mo Hickey