Archive for February 2010
What is Dodge trying to accomplish here? Besides being cute, there’s a deeper point that the company is using it’s public podium to get across. What is that point? Is it that men are wrong for resenting all of those things, just as women are wrong for resenting men for liking muscle cars? Or is it that men are so weak that they not only are feminized, but also that they can be roped into living a life that they hate just so long as they can own a muscle car? Obviously, that second hypothesis contradicts the blatant message of the commercial – that a muscle car is the solution to femininization – but as we all know, large companies like this are willing to risk short-term sales deficits for the sake of making larger statements. It’s undoubtedly true that what Dodge is doing here is subtly awakening men to how bad things have become. They’re betting that the veneer of reductio ad absurdum employed in this commercial will be seen through – that men will realize that things actually have become that bad, and they will rebel. Seriously, intelligently, actually rebel – not just buy a car right now. Dodge expects that in the long-run this will help them because American men will once again see the connection between the femininization of men in their personal lives and the pragmatic, appeasement-minded behavior, in their roles as economic participants and citizens, that all too frequently results. Once enough men have made that connection, they’ll once again stand up to the anti-Americans who work daily to undermine the capitalist system and America’s international position – and that will ensure Dodge’s continued success long beyond the foreseeable future.
Dodge, like all of American business, are renowned for this kind of principled action. American businesses are the “last man standing” in the culture war that’s on the precipice of being lost, and they’re standing firm. They would never attempt to seize upon petty, misunderstood emotions – and to offer untenable “solutions” in the form of their products – simply to achieve some kind of short-term financial security. No, it’s obvious that what Dodge is doing is far more profound than that. Their rebellion against the forces destroying America – by creating and airing this commercial – is orders of magnitude more profound than the silly “rebellion” of the men in that that commercial. 😉
That, is the end result of this, this, this, and this. The only thing interesting here is that they’ve included an more formidable antagonist to the “loveable alcoholic.” Before, there was emotional outrage by the person snubbed, or there was appeasement, or whatever – but now there’s clear, open, intellectual opposition to his brazen irrationality. Why is Bud Light so openly declaring that they’ve hit rock bottom? It must have to do with the economy. They’re getting whatever they can, however they can, as quick as they can.
If you were really comfortable with where you are in your life, you would not find this characterization of everything you’ve done to get there flattering. It wouldn’t have any effect on you – since the entire tone of it is resentful against “society” for “imposing” all of these “contradictory” standards and expectations on you – and if you were told explicitly that you really feel this way, you’d be insulted.
Why can Dove get away with making this point? Why is what is being said implicitly not made explicit and then rejected? Because many men in this culture are defeated, worn down, complacent. They’re perfectly happy to be bought off at low prices with things like fashionable body wash and sarcastic little commercials. They’ll accept the notion that part of being a man is learning to live with private unhappiness and resentment, and that psychological or existential change (which ever is necessary) are pointless. After all, there’s Dove’s new line of body wash products to give you a reliable, daily, if momentary, escape from all that.
This is the “get in front of it” tactic, as has been described a handful of times elsewhere on this blog. Because she knows her looks giver her the power profiled in this commercial, and is willing to admit it and joke about it, we’re supposed to regard her as something other than a marginally-talented actress, who’s only “skill” is her willingness to exploit her looks for something beyond what they deserve to bring her. In other words, something which shouldn’t happen, because of some type of human frailty, does happen. Somehow this is supposed to be different than regarding a cell phone which, if put in the hands of weak-minded people has the potential to cause all that chaos, as something more valuable than just a cell phone.
The message: men who are perfect – fit, studious, in touch with their “feminine side”, wealthy – don’t exist. Such traits within men only exist in cliche romance novels directed at women who have only vague, childish, fairy tale-derived ideas of how they could manifest in real life. The best way to accept the fact that these men don’t exist is to laugh at the implicit reminder that such men are actually narcissicistic (“… and now back to me“) or stupid (making up statistics, riding a horse backwards). Or, laugh at yourself for ever believing such things (“he was just on a boat and now he’s on a horse, he can eat the head of a golf club, of course he doesn’t exist”), and finally – most importantly – keep a small, tolerable bit of that view alive by having the smell of your man remind you of it. Take pride in it.
Of course, these “manmercials” are not directed at women. They’re directed at men. They one, allow men to momentarily absolve themselves of that feeling of self-contempt they have for not achieving virtuous traits (ie: they agree with women that such traits are unrealistic); two, a moment later, allow them to believe that they do have them and it’s just that the average non-exceptionally beautiful blonde woman can’t see them (ie: laugh at yourself for ever letting your woman’s constructive criticism matter to you); and finally – most importantly – keep a small, tolerable bit of these bad ideas alive by using Old Spice products. Take pride in it.
These commercials are directed at a certain kind of human weakness shared by both genders. It is just deftly disguised as “laughing with you” about it, rather than reminding you of it specifically to get you to feel inadequate, so that you’ll turn to their product as a way to quickly make that feeling go away. It’s a way of saying “we used to do that with our advertising decades ago, but we realize how wrong that was, and now we’re beyond it”, while still doing it.
The truth is that any person – man or woman – who finds these commercials funny is aware of the need for virtues, but cannot see them when they appear, because to see them means to see them completely, unflinchingly, unhesitatingly. And to do that requires possessing them yourself. To achieve them, and to achieve the ability to see them in others, is an heroic achievement. It’s no laughing matter. Old Spice wants to take advantage of the fact that people, on some level, understand that. First by giving away the opportunity to pretend that the achievement of virtue isn’t really important, and then by selling a physical object which serves not only as a cleanser, but also as a reminder of that conclusion, conveniently recreating it for the consumer whenever he needs it. This kind of psychological manipulation ensurs sales levels for Old Spice that far exceed what they would achieve were they advertise their products solely by their merits (since it’s so similar to it’s competitors products).
While this version is the original, unedited version of the commercial, and it did air for a time, the one currently being shown on television has the Orbitz employee pronouncing the couple’s last name differently. Is his pronouncing it incorrectly supposed to be making fun of something about Hispanic-American culture, is it making fun of something about non-Hispanic, European-American culture, or is it something entirely different?
On the one hand, his butchering it’s pronunciation points to the fact that there is an ambiguity, in both the English and the Spanish languages, in dealing with names that end with S and Z respectively. In English, a proper noun normatively refers to one person, place, or thing. If a speaker wishes to refer to a plurality of identically-named proper nouns, or to identify possession by a proper noun(s) of something else, the rule is to ad an S. Wilson becomes Wilsons or Wilson’s, Brown becomes Browns and Brown’s, and so on. In Spanish, the normative reference and the rule are exactly the same: Garcia becomes Garcias or Garcia’s, Santiago becomes Santiagos or Santiago’s, and so on.
Nevertheless, in both languages, there are proper nouns which themselves end in S or Z. The rule here creates an exception in spelling and an ambiguity in pronunciation. In English, instead of attaching an additional S, nothing is added when dealing with a plurality of identically-named proper nouns, and only an apostrophe is added when identifying possession. Williams becomes Williams or Williams’, Jones becomes Jones or Jones’, and so on. The rule for the pronunciation is that if the word is more than one syllable, the additional syllable isn’t pronounced. Thus Williams still sounds like “Williams”, whereas Jones sounds like “Joneses.” Similarly, in Spanish, where there is a name that ends with Z, all of the same rules apply. Gonzalez becomes Gonzalez and Gonzalez’, and is pronounced “Gonzalez”, while Cruz becomes Cruz and Cruz’, and is pronounced “Cruzes.”
So why imply – by having the speaker ad not only the appropriate additional “es”, but a second, inappropriate “es” – that either Hispanic names are unnecessarily difficult to pronounce because they follow illogical rules, or that non-Hispanic European-Americans are self-absorbed and lazy when it comes to learning the perfectly reasonable nuances of different cultures? Because Orbitz wasn’t trying to imply either. The actual intent was just to ad a bit of quick-witted, subliminal comedic value to the commercial. To “pack as much in as possible”, so to speak, by poking fun at something unimportant (just as they are doing when they poke fun at the inability of valet workers to operate hovercrafts).
There isn’t anything wrong with that – the same joke could have been made had the couple had an Anglicized surname (“Williamseses”) – so why was it edited out? As has been shown here, with just a bit of thought given to the matter, it becomes clear that the butt of the joke was not Hispanic culture, or even non-Hispanic European-American culture, but a silly linguistic ambiguity that both culture’s predominant languages share. Political correctness – the pathological need to suppress any and all even perceived expressions of racial or ethnic thinking – suppresses the ability to engage in that thought. Evidently Orbitz either anticipated, or was made aware of, unnecessary controversy from this well-intentioned, innocent attempt at humor. They were not even willing to risk keeping it up, and should any controversy erupt, hide behind the weak-kneed, apologetic explanation that what they were actually trying to do was poke fun at the widely-alleged egocentrism of non-Hispanic European-Americans. At first glance that is a very convincing explanation, but that would be seen as reactionary and insincere by politically correct witch hunters. Of course, for it to be seen as insincere implies that the seers are at least somewhat aware that there is another, non-racial target of the joke, and that Orbitz in their hypothetical “explanation”, and not them in their immediate reaction, are the ones incapable of thinking outside of racial terms. But because of collectivism’s (in this case tribalism’s) extremely strong grasp on American culture, it becomes virtually impossible for such a person to put aside knee-jerk emotional outrage and to bring that vague awareness into full awareness. Orbitz is aware of this, and instead of taking it on, evidently they decided it all wasn’t worth it to retain their sincere enjoyment of playing with the curiosities of language, and decided to edit their commercial.
Nothing more than appeasement. A new kind of appeasement. Conscious, eager, proud – appeasement. Also known as complicity, guilt, treason. Yet another consumer demographic makes the transition from the legitimate pride of accomplishment, and the resultant wealth, to the illegitimate pride of political favor; and doesn’t even have the decency to be open about it.