Sunday, May 31, 2015

Thank You For Minimizing My Existance

There are a many generalizations that have a great degree of truth to them.

Women are fussy about their hair
Most mechanics are men
Little girls like dolls
A new car won't break down
Boys don't like to play dress up

And the list goes on. Unfortunately the people that create TV ads have a clear grasp on these generalizations. They are used to create the ads we all have to get through to watch our favorite shows.

A couple of their favorites seem to be ...

Men don't like to shop
Women do the shopping for the household

I can say both of those generalizations work in my household. I've never enjoyed shopping and I think I shop the way most men do. For what I need and nothing more. There is no "looking around" when I enter a store. I know what I want and make a beeline to it.

On the other hand my wife loves to shop. In our household we have used that to our (or maybe my) advantage. Since I do quite a bit of the cooking; (that's against the generalization) when I make up the meal plans, I put together a list of what I need. I give that list to my wife and she checks our food stores and then gets whatever we need.

How have the advertising agencies taken these perfectly accurate generalizations and applied them to selling products on TV?

Men are stupid

Of course I'm generalizing and of course there are a many commercials that follow this format. Even so, over the course of the past 10 years I have watched the "men are stupid" ads growing in number.

I don't have to like it but it makes perfect sense to me. Why market to the gender that is not interested in going to the store? Why not build up the gender that does by making them feel they are the one that SHOULD BE making the decision because they're the most capable.

In my mind these ads are in the following groups:

The Incompetent / Inept Man

This ad shows a "semi-geeky" looking man putting the last tile up on the wall. Then he steps back and surveys his work.

The look on his face tells all. He did this by himself and is proud of what he's accomplished. That is when the first tile falls out, followed by every other tile on the wall.

As the tiles fall the audio continues to get louder until the very final tile falls. The period at the end of the sentence.

What surprises me is that this commercial is for Lowes. Arguably a company that should have an interest in building up men instead of tearing them down like this. It seems to me, since men do quite a bit of the remodeling being done these days, a commercial showing a guy that hasn't done tile before completing a nice looking bathroom would go a lot farther towards getting a man in their store.

Men Think With ... You Know

This is one of a series of commercials produced for Carls Jr / Hardees. The concept is simple. Men are easily swayed by their own sexual urges.

This translates to a commercial that has a scantily dressed model eating a hamburger. This particular one stars Katherine Webb, who is one of the models in the 2013 Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition. A real page turner ... if you keep them unstuck.

This particular commercial is 47 seconds long. Only 16 of those seconds show a burger. What kind of buns are being sold in these commercials?

Men Are Just Stupid

When all else fails just call them what they are; idiots. After all, if it weren't for women, most men couldn't find their way out of the house every morning.

It doesn't matter that they have an education, a decent job and are the father of your children. They are nothing without you and really shouldn't even be allowed to think for themselves. God only knows what would happen if they did. Let's face it, they just shouldn't be left alone.

I know I've gone a little over the top with some of my comments but I've done so to make a point. Over the past 30 years there has been a steady assault on masculinity. A steady narrative in our society instructing men to get in touch with their "feminine side". That by doing so they will be a better person for it.

A lot has been done using the same technique I used in this blog. By OVERSTATING an idea to make a point. It's not just in commercials, it's all over television. You don't have to look any further than some of the biggest sitcoms of all time; "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Home Improvement". In both of these sitcoms the woman is the voice of reason and the "intelligent" one.

This has been going on since the beginning of television. Watch any episode of "The Honeymooners". It was the biggest show of its time and starred Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randloph. It was a story about Ralph and Alice Kramden (Gleason and Meadows) and their neighbors Ed and Trixie Norton (Carney and Randolph). The men were portrayed as buffoons that couldn't be trusted to make a good decision. The women were the voice of reason.

The underlying  message in these commercials connects to this narrative. If you are just thinking like a man ... you are deficient. I will take this one step further and say I believe this thinking is a contributing factor in the destruction of the family as we know it.

You may think I'm stretching it here but I believe that society now accepts the concept that a father is no longer necessary to complete a family. That since the woman is the more "complete" of the genders and they bear the children they are the only ones really necessary. That all that is required for a child to properly grow up is a "male influence". That could be anyone; grandfather, brother or even a new husband. The only absolute need for a man is at conception.

There's a reason men and woman are different. It creates balance in the rearing of children. It provides consistent parenting because the decisions made in child rearing are made by two parents that love their children and each other. It allows them to take their natural differing perspectives, and with compromise, come up with the best parenting decisions.

What we're ending up with is a generation of adults that feel commitment is not a priority.

The men in this generation have grown up watching the women in their lives move from man to man. The message to them: you are easily replaced. So in their minds: why work at fully committing to a relationship when it's likely not to last?

The women on of this generation are re-creating the concept of the family unit. That used to mean parents and children living in the same household. It worked because you had 2 parents with different outlooks on life. They committed to each other and the natural progression was for each to fill in the gap the the other was unable or unwilling to do.

Since "parents" has turned into "parent"; that had to change. The family unit is now a cobbled together group of people that fill whatever needs the "parent" can't. In this family unit the role of father has been eliminated and has been replaced by "male influence".

The problem with "male influence" is that it comes without consistency. On the outside the concept looks good. Find the best man for the job at hand. Need a guy that's into sports? Uncle Jimmy can do that. How about someone to give them those important life lessons? Grampa can cover that. And the list goes on.

So if there is one; who is this man living in the house with the kids? That's the "husband/boyfriend" and he's there for the mom, like it or not. The "husband/boyfriend" may or may not like the kids. Lets face it, he didn't fall in love with the children. He didn't see them somewhere and think to himself "I LOVE the kids so much that I'm going to find their mother and marry her so I can be their father. It was what I was put on this earth to do!". He may or may not care how they turn out. After all, they're leaving when they turn 18. He does not have the same commitment to their growth that their father would.

He may have no say-so at all, even if it would be helpful. Even if he's given some say-so, it's granted by the mom and remains under her control and can ALWAYS be overridden. He ends up being just one more thing that mom has influence over.

So in the end it's the mom having the final word on EVERYTHING. That is just not the way it's supposed to be; and it's a recipe for disaster. Very few of us can get it right EVERY single time. Everyone makes the wrong decision from time to time. When you make one with a child you may not see the effect for years. That's why having the balance that the traditional parent provides is so important. It's the natural check and balance that nature has provided us.

But what does nature know ...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Get Your Pitchfork Ready ... You Idiot

It's official ... the political season is upon us. Since I can remember, I've always found the political process objectionable. We are barraged with viciousness that's wrapped in one half-truth after another. Over the past 20 years, political campaigns have become intolerable for me. I expect it to continue to get worse. Why? Because it works; it's as simple as that.

Why does it work? Because there's a segment within our society that's growing at a rapid pace. It spans class, race and education; I call them "knee-jerkers". People so busy with "their lives" that they can't take the time for due diligence when it comes to what they choose to believe. They have become so lazy they blindly pick something or someone to follow. It may be a political party, a TV network, a politician, some talking head on TV or (the part that scares me) anyone spouting the "party line".

Facebook and Twitter have become breeding grounds for "knee-jerkers". The brevity of the posts on these platforms has done nothing but make this situation worse. After all; why check a fact when someone who seems to know what they're talking about posts a 140 word Tweet that you can agree with. Why bother checking out the "facts" only to find out you have been duped and all that rage you have was unfounded?

This topic was brought to my mind by this posting I recently saw on Facebook. It was posted by a comic I have known (we're not friends) since I started. He has 53,000 followers on his Facebook page and 23,000 on his Twitter account. I know him to be a very intelligent man. He is now, and has always been a very political guy; he has a great passion for politics. He incredibly successful.

Along with this meme he posted the following:

in your 60s?

think you were retiring soon?

Not under @JebBush: retirement immediately becomes 70 if he wins.

They hate you, you know. And they want you dead before you see a penny of what you invested in your retirement.

Usually I ignore political stuff. Since I only believe that which I can prove I find reading the opinions of people that have not done their own research is a waste of my time. Every once in while one of these will catch my attention and force me to do a little research. So, when I saw the words "immediately delay retirement for all Americans" on the meme and "Not under @JebBush: retirement immediately becomes 70 if he wins" I felt I needed to check to see if that was true.

It wasn't because I already have an interest in what should be done with social security. Truthfully I feel so removed from the process I just wait to see what happens. What I do have a interest in is finding out if a statement that seems as exaggerated as the one above is true. After all; how is it that the President of the United States can just change social security like that? Something that has been debated and argued about since I can remember without a lot of real change cannot be that easily changed.

Not to mention even I (who has no political savvy) knows that the President can't just change the terms of social security like that. That has to be done by law and it goes through Congress and The Senate. He has no control over either one even if his party is the majority.

So I did a quick fact check on the Internet (which took all of 5 minutes) and found Bush's actual quote. It was the same on more than 20 sites including sites like CNN and MSNBC.

He said this:

I think we need to raise the retirement age, not for people that are already nearing, receiving Social Security, or already on it, but raise it gradually, over a long period of time for people that are just entering the system," Bush said. "And I think we need to do that in relatively short order."

Clearly he has no plans to raise the retirement age to 70 immediately. Clearly no one will lose their social security benefits, nor will anyone that is about to get it have their retirement age changed "immediately" after he takes office.

In short ... it's clearly not true. So why did this well respected comedian post this? Was he fooled? Did he actually know if was false?

The reason is not important. What is important is that on Facebook so far 270 people have liked his post and 198 have shared it. Comments like this one were made by the people following him:

"He is a perfect storm of stupidity. I'm collecting my "entitlement" and if they screw with it I won't be the only one on that bus to start the revolution. I worked 46 yrs and paid into that system and am still paying by working part time to supplement my income. This blow hard can kiss my fat ass."

I'm not here to discuss the merits of Jeb Bush's statement. Nor is it important to me the reason behind why this comedian posted what appears to be an absolute falsehood. I'm more concerned about the FACT that nearly 200 people shared this post as if it were the truth which it clearly was not.

The point of this writing is that it's up to YOU to make sure your beliefs are grounded in truth. Your duty is not to fall for everything you read in social networking or see on TV. Do your own research; check the facts yourself.

All it takes is a couple minutes of reading to keep yourself from looking like a liar or an idiot ...