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I hang out with a lot of dudes, historically. We share common interests like the Phillies, what Zoe Saldana looks like naked and not ever discussing Twilight. So I thought I knew how menfolk across our land were doing.
But if the SuperBowl’s series of “Men: Reclaim Your Balls!” ads were any indication, our straight males are perpetually getting hit in the head with tampons and ordered to keep their penises in a locked drawer.
I get that the event is, in essence, our nation’s annual holiday of Straight Man Fest, even though absolutely everyone watches it. We all eat wings, let out particularly stinky farts and yell at our flat screens. I dig it. But this year’s ads had an unmistakable pattern of trying to empower straight men (through shopping) that struck me as surprising. I had no idea the boys around me were feeling so castrated.
Some critics called the ads misogynistic. I get that, especially when it comes to the not-terribly-clever ad where the guy decides to protect his precious tires by tossing his wife out of the car, leaving her at the mercy of a bunch of thugs.
But most of them are really just mildly cute reminders of the stereotype that women and gays are all about feelings and thinking and junk and straight guys pretty much want beer and nudity, and X (wherein X is whatever product they’re selling which enables the acquisition of more beer and nudity). Like this jawn:
But the real surprise of the night was my reaction to the sound of Dexter’s voice listing the myriad concessions and comprises men must quietly make every day in order to please…. well, someone evidently. It’s never explained WHO they’re putting up with all this shit for exactly, but by the end, it certainly seems like their wives and girlfriends must be ruling them like a unified bloc of shrill harpies.
My first thought was about how Straight Man Fest has always run ads that are driven to be “edgy” by being divisive about gender. They create quasi-controversy by being all “blah blah women are bitches but we want to see them naked” like this is crazy fresh comedy. It lets men laugh a little bit and insists women either laugh along or risk looking defensive and cranky. “Blah blah, women we are dating/married to are nags, blah blah, straight men want to sit on the couch. Aren’t we awesome for pointing this out?”
But I thought about it some more. Yes, it still is stupid to act like straight men are really somehow oppressed by women. That shit is ludicrous. But the ad was true nonetheless.
It was about how PEOPLE have to make concessions every day. They have to work hard to provide, concede to those around them in order to maintain peace, do mindless chores, obey idiotic authority figures, compromise their time and effort to be responsible adults. In exchange, they get this one bit of freedom: (insert product here, which in this case happens to be a car). It’s the least the rest of the world can do: let us buy this thingee that lets us feel awesome on our commute.
If the ad had been both men and women kavetching, it would have been less controversial and less fitting with the standard Straight Man Fest narrative of the Battle of the Sexes and therefore, less memorable. But really, who can’t commiserate with the message? I’m no office drone with a mortgage and a harping wife, but I can get on board with having boring responsibilities and inane tasks.
So I guess, despite the intent to broaden the gap between dudefolk and ladies, Straight Man Fest actually brought us together in a shared love of buying things to make us feel better.