Ad executives, please take your issues to the couch, not the TV set

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, July 24, 2008 14:33 EDT
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Pam wrote on this earlier, but I can’t help but weigh in.

Holy motherfucker, is Snickers running a commercial that’s, at best, mocking men for power-walking (which I wasn’t even aware until right now was supposed to be emasculating), and at worst, unsubtle celebration of violence against men perceived to be gay? (Via.)

Usually I try not to waste my time being offended by stuff, especially stuff that’s at least trying to be artistic on some level, but TV commercials manage to cross the line. It took me a moment of being offended before I could collect my thoughts. Which are still scattershot, but here you go:

1) It’s clear that they think they can play this off as camp, by making it over the top and invoking Mr. T. Obviously, if they were less hostile to gay culture, they’d probably have a better understanding of what camp is and how it works. Because this? Is not camp. It’s just mean.

2) The campiness of the Mr. T character doesn’t hide the fact that the ad executives are hiding behind a racist stereotype to promote the idea that heterosexual masculinity requires hostility to men perceived as effeminate.

3) It’s clear to me now that exercise intended just for fitness and weight loss is being feminized. Real men are supposed to be above such feminine concerns as working on their appearance and preserving their health. Power walking is especially odious in that regard, because it’s the exemplar of exercising for the goals of weight control and health, especially since it’s a lot better on your knees than jogging. I hadn’t ever considered it at length before, but there is a hierarchy of manliness behind the various forms of exercise, with playing sports like football at the top, and then in a various cluster “extreme” sports, other sports like basketball and soccer, and weight-lifting. By the time you get to jogging or bicycling, you’re in frou-frou territory that’s only mediated by class privilege, i.e. yuppies get away with it. Feminine exercising is defined by being equipment-less and defined mainly by weight control and health improvement: power-walking, aerobics, and yoga. This isn’t a judgment on the validity of weight loss claims, just an observation of what factors make something feminine or masculine.

4) That men are encouraged to scarf down junk food and eschew exercising to prove their manhood probably contributes to their lower average life spans than women.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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