Thursday, October 29, 2009
Men at Work
I have written before about the negative depictions of men in television advertising. Indeed it has been a central topic of my research over the past five or so years. My perspective comes out of several research studies that I have conducted on the depiction of men as wolves and lower animals, men as cavemen, and men caught in public literally with their pants down. For the latter study, I collected twenty-seven examples of television commercials depicting men caught with their pants down. One of the better-known commercials featured comedian Dave Chappelle, in an ad for Pepsi, who has his pants sucked off by an over-active vacuum cleaner. While watching TV last evening, I noticed a new commercial for a company, Identity Guard. You can see the commercial above. Notice that the guy in the commercial is, well, depicted in public wearing only his underwear. While on the surface, I agree, this is humorous, and from a creative perspective, the image deviates from the norm and therefore is likely to garner attention. From a cultural perspective, however, I think more is at work. To be “caught with your pants down” is a humiliating experience associated with public embarrassment. The fact that the individual in the ad is oblivious to his situation drives home the point. If it’s okay to be stripped of your manhood, then there’s nothing left to loose. Considering the loss that many men have experienced during this current recession, there is consolation in the fact that there is, well, nothing left to lose. Maybe we can use such depictions to measure the state of the economy: if there’s nothing left to lose, then maybe the economy is at bottom and will begin to turn around. I have no idea if there really is a correlation; in fact, I doubt it. But when the economy does turn around many of those men who lost their jobs will not be getting them back. I wonder how will advertising treat them when times are good?