Because life is a series of edits

Play a Man’s Game, But Will Men Will Show Up to Play?

In Humanity, Sports, Television on February 10, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Over the past few days, I've read several interpretations of this year's Super Bowl commercials, many in which men seemed chastised for not being "male enough." (I noticed the trend myself in real-time on Sunday, but hadn't had time to put down my thoughts until now.)

Personally, my reaction to the ads was positive, if for no other reason than that advertisers seemed to be targeting a demographic other than just the metro-sexual and hyper-sexual male types. Instead, this year's crop of commercials seemed aimed at the wimpy male type – the guy who, either outwardly or inwardly, has basically surrendered his masculinity to his more "feminine side" (if there is such a thing) and needs to buck up and be the man in the relationship (whatever relationship that happens to be).

The first ad toward this end was for Dockers and their call for a Pantsformation. What I took from it was the call to men (mostly slobbish, out-of-shape guys who take pride in their slobbish out-of-shapeness) to dress up a bit and, well, "wear the pants" of initiative in life:

Another one in this same vein was for This commercial applied the "buck up" theme to a particular male/female/sports relationship triangle in which a guy lets his girlfriend walk all over him when he would rather be watching the game. CBS sports anchor Jim Nantz's comment at the end: "Change outta that skirt, Jason." (Ironically, Nantz divorced his wife of 26 years last October, so I'm not sure his words and example are the best to follow concerning the aforementioned male/female/sports relationship triangle.)

Apparently, a lot of women had trouble with this next ad from Dodge, as it came off "ridiculously misogynist and hyper-masculine" in its portrayal of men's brooding anger at having to deal with women's demands before making "Man's Last Stand" and choosing to drive a Dodge Charger. While I'm no expert on the matter of misogyny, there does seem to be a fair amount of emasculation the men in the commercial are trying to withstand (albeit with a pretty shallow course of action in simply owning the car of their choice):

Perhaps the one spot I liked most was Dove Men+Care's "Journey to Comfort" ad. Though I have no plans to buy their product (sorry, Dove, but I feel comfortable enough in my own skin not to care that much about it), I could relate to the frenetic life documented in the commercial, as well as the sense of accomplishment that comes with having (so far) survived it.

Whereas the typical Super Bowl fare might (and did) include the typical
"cars, cash, and cuties" commercials, this year's collection seemed
more geared to appeal to a man's needs as much or more as his wants.
Though wrapped in humor, subtle acknowledgments of a man's desire for
purpose, respect, adventure, and success seemed to upstage the
normal bounty of commercials boasting of beer and babes.

The thing I take from all this is – newsflash! – there's some real confusion out there as to what true manhood entails, so much so that it's become a national joke during the biggest television event in the world. Have we really come to a point where men are so comfortable laughing at and thinking of themselves as mere "male wannabes" that advertisers have recognized a whole new market to target?

  1. Great post – our SB crowd noticed the same trend in the commercials. In the vein of defending masculinity, have you seen or heard Brad Paisley’s, “I’m Still a Guy”? Makes me laugh every time.

  2. My favorite commercial during the whole Superbowl was “Mans Last Stand” (Dodge Charger). I wonder if it has anything to do with twisting my wife’s arm into letting me purchase a motorcycle for the first time a few months ago?!?

  3. Katie, I’ve heard the song (and laughed at the chorus), but Paisley’s take on things (masculinity as excuse) is not what I’m after, either. I know too many guys whose marriage philosophy is “Deal with me,” and that’s not good. Character has to trump gender, regardless of male or female.
    Tim, for the sake of your marriage, no comment.

  4. I agree with you completely. But the song still makes me laugh.

  5. Here’s a few from NZ along the same lines. The second one is the best.

  6. Those are even more uncomfortable to watch than the American ads, Travis. Good thing you’re down there to raise the testosterone level a bit. Be brave, little soldier.

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