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Thursday, 17 April 2008

Not AdMen but SadMen

Wednesday night is TV night in the Milla’n’Rottie household, wall to wall pleasure courtesy of “The Apprentice,” Adrian Chiles talks to the You’re Fired candidate, “Desperate Housewives” and “Dexter.”
I couldn’t possibly go out. It’s all so exciting.

The eagle-eyed, and Radio Times-savvy, will compute that a certain amount of recording needs to go on to make feasible this heady feast, so of course it is the stuff on the commercial channels which is DVD’d. This we can then watch on Catchup. For the marvels of modern technology mean that one programme can be being recorded while we watch another FAST FORWARDING through the adverts.
What a lovely phrase that is, fast forwarding through the adverts.
I’m as fond of a good Honda ad as the next person, indeed I worked for the world’s biggest advertising agency a lifetime ago, and I’m gullible to boot, but it’s not enough. It’s not that it’s glossy lie after glossy lie. It’s not merely the personal injury commercials, or the ghastly soi-disant celebrities hamming it up about Iceland or Tesco. What really fuels my rage is the portrayal of family life, at the heart of which seems to reside FuckWit AdDad, his Eye-Rolling Wife and Disdainful Offspring.

Prince FWAD is the hapless fule who stumbles in one day in search of something fairly straight-forward, like a sandwich. Mother is busy being capable, children are doing homework or watching TV or something. All is calm, all works. The scene is set. Who’s going to cock it up, the equilibrium? Who do you think? FWAD wanders in, picks up the bread packet and frowns. What’s wrong, FWAD? Square bread of a sudden? Whiteish brown? Invisible crusts? Bit Of Both? What’s going topsy turvy in breadworld to stump you so? It’s all so very difficult to take in, love, you have the nation’s pity.
Mother rolls her eyes, catches the glance of Disdainful Offspring who raise a tired eyebrow, flare a nostril and do that silent harrumphy thing with their lips expressing a total disbelief in shared genetic material.
Yup, FWAD’s at it again, just can’t cope when the rules change.
Mother patiently explains in idiot speak. This is the clever bit. We sofa monkeys at home, barely able to cling to the simplest of concepts, in need of great help when it comes to leaps forward in breadland, are clearly the ones who need total idiot speak, thus has FWAD had to be invented, to be us – geddit?
What greater punishment can be doled out to middle aged white male, he who has conquered continents in times gone past, won Pulitzers, run large companies, landed on the moon and, er, been President of the United States, than to be the butt of 50% of all current advertising campaigns?

Women it seems have no sense of humour, so they can never have the piss taken out of them or be the butt of anything. We have to watch with our irony meter turned down low while they writhe orgasmic under the effects of a hair conditioner (going where no hair conditioner has gone before), or get down and dirty with a packet of soup, or go doolally over some newly packaged catfud breathing in with a happy simper particulate matter dense with roadkill brain spatter masquerading as Finest Duck. Or are flirted with by Chippendale types, wooed for their approval of a flavour of hot chocolate.
Our presumed need to be “pampered”, and for that pampering to be deemed Job Well Done thanks to a sachet of hot chocolate or a bit of bath oil irritates on so very many levels.
For every discernible reason (starting with “she’s loathsome” and finishing with “and smug”) Advert Woman is generally isolated. Good. No wrinkles, weird hair and friendless. There is a God. She will have a supporting cast (cat, fireman type) but on the whole she is lone, indulging in a love-in with herself, whether roller-skating on the beach, getting too damn personal with a cat, or looking whimsy in a mirror searching for lines which aren’t there: you’re 19! Stop it. FWAD is only allowed to shake off his intrinsic cluelessness and indulge in being manly when he is out in his car for cars, we all understand the rules, are the one place that Men can be Men.

Meanwhile FWAD has found his nadir in the sponsor ID links topping and tailing the ad breaks in “House.” Here we are presented with a familiar face – fat, 40-ish, blokeish, bit stupid, trying to eat something. He fails, naturally, landing him with his leg in plaster. Oh, the comic potential. For still the FWAD pursues tricky things like yoghurts, lurching at them hopelessly with his crutches, chopsticks for the big fat toddler emasculation has made of him. Obviously the yoghurt conspires against him, explodes on the floor rendering FWAD a flailing yoghurt-free zone on the sofa, which calls for Capable Mum to bustle in, sighing, with her Vax to tackle the trashed floor in only the way that Capable Mum can. She doesn’t even seem to mind much being waylaid from her day job of running the world from her kitchen.
There’s a similarly irksome smug individual who explains to a FW how to make tea, using filtered water. I truly dislike her.

It’s not surprising really, since this take on men has seeped into so much actual programming. No series is complete without some patronising, proficient woman mopping up after the great inept, men. In drama series these are called not BossyBoots, but Matriarchs. And virtually every HowTo series on telly is fronted by this ghastly boorish breed, teaching us how to clean, dress ourselves, cook. The sort of thing that mothers used to do without the eye-rolling. Now we need freakshow versions of pantomime mothers and they have to be on television since there is a new perceived truth that parents don’t know anything. The only truth lies on the screen. We’re worth it. But we’re so very stupid now, that we can’t even be trusted to cook properly. Thank God for Delia, an erstwhile by-word in common sense and since self-traduced via a packet of frozen mash into EverySlut incarnate. It’s exhausting, seeking out a truth in these very many representations.

Just as every man in parliament seems to be Scottish, so on TV if men do get a chance to get some action in the bossing around stakes, they have to be seriously gay. I’m thinking of Gok Wan here. The Jeremys are different, because argy bargy with the Scottish brigade and bruiting on about cars clearly call for Real Men so we’re lucky to have Paxman and Clarkson on hand.
But in thriller type programming, rights are restored, here, the producers have failed to realise that straight men are hapless, that they can’t even open a yoghurt or tackle a packet of bread. They’re brutish and mean and hit people. It’s all very confusing.


Edward said...

Good stuff again - I loved "newly packaged catfud breathing in with a happy simper particulate matter dense with roadkill brain spatter masquerading as Finest Duck". You did neglect one problem that watching recorded programmes throws up - for every twittering "Herbal Essences" you can joyfully elide, you can't record the subtitles. Watching US shows without subtitles is jolly hard work.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Yup - still love the ad with the singing dog though. And what about the irritating Pizza Ads which render the talentless, speechless . . . Hooray for the mute button.

nuttycow said...

I *don't* like the singing dog ad. The way in which the dog looks so scared makes me sad :( But you already knew that!

Re: Man and crutches/yoghurt. This one annoys me (as I took great pleasure in ranting to N the other night when also watching House). He's broken his leg. He has not lost the use of his spine. Instead of using bloody crutches to pick him yoghurt up, why doesn't he just bend forward and pick it up. *rolls eyes* ahhh men!

Grit said...

The TV remote zapper thingy comes with an off button.

if you can find it, of course.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Oh one of my favourite topics - adverts and making men look as thick as mince. I record as much as I can so I can FF through every single one of them. I am disgusted how ad people are making men look limp and useless. It has gone too far for too long. Oh don't get e started! Nice interesting post!

Frances said...

Hello Milla,

It is beginning to occur to me that I am beginning to lose touch with the current scene. I will fail to complete crossword puzzles, and when eavesdropping on the subway, will have not a clue what they are on about.

I just do not watch television anymore, other than a daily dose of the news. I watch the news because it is my addiction. I usually do not like what I see reported, but I cannot resist watching.

As for the "entertainment" side of broadcasting, I just cannot bear it anymore, and so I also am spared all those adverts.

All my contact with public opinion, or what folks want or talk about, etc., comes either from each day at the shop (and that is no random sampling, I assure you) or more likely, from looking over shoulders in the subway to see what mag or book or newspaper they are reading, or trying to snoop the screen of their little electronic devices. Often, I am treated to the sounds emitting from the very amplified personal sound systems to the music that folks choose.

Oops, Milla, this is way too long a comment. What I was trying to get at is that I do find myself drifting away from the majority taste, but still so very curious as to what that taste might be these days.

(Hoping that the dental visit has calmed things.)


Maggie May said...

Since this blogging addiction, I only watch things that I REALLY want to see. Very rare watch ads! Aren't they there to fast fore ward or run out to put the kettle on?
Thought this was a very good post. Makes you think!

Expatmum said...

Cor that was long - and compelling reading. I am now almost late for school!
Over here we have really irritating Peaceful, Post-Menopausal Women who roam around in packs of three. All skinny, stunning and gently speed-walking around the woods advertising anything from fiber drinks to depression medication ("ask your doctor about...."). Who has that much time?

DevonLife said...

Milla - what were you drinking when all this was going on?

elizabethm said...

Ah you have said just what I often find myself thinking but a million times more eloquently and you are funny while I am just cross.
My other pet hate, along with the useless men, is the "Because you're worth it" ads - worth what? why? it's just a way of making you spend money, stupid.

KAREN said...

What a brilliant post. I couldn't agree more if I tried, and I've tried really hard.

I've long had a Bee in my Bonnet about adverts, especially those that make blokes look stupid. They don't need any help in that department. (Just kidding.) That Flash advert springs to mind, with the chap from Brush Strokes, and that one where the bloke is cooking dinner while his wife makes sarky comments on the phone to her mate, "aromatic spiceees, I'll phone you tomorrer if ah'm still alive." Grrrr. Don't get me started.

Mean Mom said...

Are you sure you fast forward through the ads?

Not all of the women in ads are friendless, though. What about the one who discusses her 'bowel stuff' in the restaurant/cafe or whatever. She has friends, doesn't she? I don't understand why, but she does. Unless they're strangers and she just decided to sit at their table, after visiting the loo, of course.

Lane said...

Excellent bit of writing there Milla and ooh so true!

I need me some of this new recording technology so I don't have to suffer that bit of music during Desperates announcing 'Brunhilda does it after Five-Aside' or whatever. The repetition alone is enough to induce brain damage.

Current grrr is the unfolding BT 'story'. Smug woman moves in on hapless man with her two kids and is slowly working through his money, whilst she chats on the phone and loses 'folders'(?) *sigh*

Pig in the Kitchen said...

oh top, top rant Milla! So very erudite and right on the head, fab!
oooo yes, and I agree with Karen, also really hated that advert with the patronising, bossy bitch girlfriend!

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KittyB said...

It's the sofa ads that are the worst. And particularly if those who flop onto hideous mint-green leather L shaped sofas so dementedly, grinning like idiots, have no shoes on - somehow that makes it even more unpalatable.
This is why we don't watch long series on TV, but wait until the DVD comes out - you don't even have to fast-forward the ads - there are none. Genius. And then you can sell the DVD on Ebay because some poor fool pays even more than it cost you on play.com. Probably a f*-wit Tv dad.

LittleBrownDog said...

You sum it up so beautifully, Milla - you should be running that famous advertising agency instead of some FWAD - I'm sure your ads would be a lot less irritating. (Thank goodness for Catchup and Fast Forwarding, I say.)

CAMILLA said...

Hi Milla,
So many adverts on telly nowadays, all pretty meaningless, lager louts are usually protrayed as some kind of incredible hunk type of guy swigging beer, never shown as Mr Bean's type, why is that I wonder...... car adverts a plenty, no more hands that do dishes though.

Clarkson and Paxman, now you're talking Milla.