OK, you know the typical drill of a TV commercial: As the scene opens, some buffoon of a man, usually a husband, is struggling to have a clue as to what something is all about. Sure enough, an all-knowing woman (usually the wife), rolling her eyes and shaking her head in pity, is there to help the stupid buffoon of a man not utterly ruin everything. And of course the product  being peddled is usually part of the solution.  And, by the way, did I mention that the man is stupid? In an alternate version, it is the children who are all-wise, and they help the idiot father figure things out as they step in with the product. And of course we’re all supposed to laugh: “Ha, Ha, Ha look at that stupid guy. What an idiot!”

Obviously these ads are not trying to sell anything to me. I am far more prone to refuse to buy any product that says, “Hey, buy our product you buffoon.” Perhaps they are targeted to women? Even worse, to children?

OK, now remember this is a “rant.” And a rant is “to talk in a noisy, excited, or declamatory manner.” I don’t lack any sense of humor, and can laugh at myself and the male sex from time to time. But, after a while, these ads are wearying, and their frequency does indicate to me something that is fundamentally unhealthy in our culture.

The greatest harm, I think, comes to children who see men, and especially fathers, presented as idiots, crude, foolish, lustful and just plain stupid. A steady diet of this served up in commercials does not help them respect their elders, especially their fathers, and other male authority figures.

Neither does it really help women. The “men are idiots” thinking may have a certain “charm” or humor angle, (i.e., it’s interesting at times to poke fun at the differences between men and women), but in the end, it isn’t a good attitude to cultivate. Women do owe men respect, just as a fellow human beings. And, for those who accept Scripture, a husband is at the head of the house. Ridicule and caricature, are not helpful dispositions in cultivating family love and unity.

Neither do these ads help men. It is always best for men to see their best qualities exemplified. Instead what they get is a portrait that men are not only stupid, they are lazy, unfaithful, lustful, inappropriate, addicted to beer, lousy fathers, unkempt, inattentive to their wife and kids due to sports, and did I mention, stupid? How does a steady diet of this help men?

Some argue that these ads, of reflect culture. Really? Are all men like this? They may reflect culture in the sense that male characteristics are often on the outs and that it is politically correct to caricature men. Try reversing the roles and put the woman in the role of buffoon and see how that would fly.

But not only do the ads reflect culture, they help shape it. Again I ask, how does all this negativity help men and boys to understand what is good about them? There are very few healthy male portraits in current culture. It is not only the buffoonery of the ads, it is the extremely violent and hyper-sexualized  “heroes” of the movies, idiosyncratic actors, freakish rock and rap stars, often immoral or out of control sports figures, effeminate, and weak sitcom “dads,”  and the thuggish, criminal and unfaithful men of series such as Sopranos.  None of this helps young men toward grasping their better nature and becoming good, responsible husbands and fathers.

So there is my rant. Below are a number of videos that portray the “men are idiots” commercials. As always, I am interested in your thoughts.

Image Credit: Monoface

50 Responses

  1. Nick says:

    http://www.tvtropes.com

    “Men are dumb” is a trope.

  2. bt says:

    I just picked up a copy of The Way To Christ by Pope John Paul II. It is a series of sermons he preached at spiritual retreats. One chapter is entitled A Talk for Male Students, and another is entitled A Talk for Female Students. I suspect this is a good read for studying how good relations are formed between males and females.

      • Peter Ford says:

        I have read both of these; what JP2 (then Wojtyla) says is that ‘we all have a certain male arrogance’ and that the men need to work on humility/maturing out of machismo. What he says to the female students is that they need more interior independence, to be less needy and willing to do anything a guy wants. But for a good description of admirable authentic manliness-both interior and exterior-see the interesting autobiographical piece in yesterday (Sat’s) WSJ by a Navy SEAL. It is based on his book – and it struck me that either the article or the book could be useful for teenage boys to read and discuss with an adult male mentor.

  3. Linus says:

    I’m always struck by how far from the mark are all our modern mediums of communication. Instead of being a moral boon to mankind they seem to do little more than spread and reinforce what is most evil in our natures. They could do so much good, and they do in part, but mostly they work evil. I think the T.V. is the main culpret but the social media is fast becoming just as evil. What a world! I’ve just finished the Apocolypse for the third or fourth time, it sure makes one think when one reflects on the means of communication. It has become the sensual battleground for the struggle between good and evil. It gives us a perfect allegory of the final struggle.
    T.V. is the beast trailed by print, radio, face book, etc ( the heads of the beast), trailed by the view/listner, the unrepentent participants.

  4. Tom says:

    Why do you spend so much time watching TV? I gave that up years ago. No TV, no rant.

    Seriously, I do get your point and give you credit for pointing this out.

    But really, TV? I’m sorry, I just don’t have time for that anymore.

    Tom

    P.S. I did not view any of the YouTube clips above – that’s right, I don’t YouTube stuff that has been on TV either.

    • Why do you suppose I spend “so much time watching TV?” I watch about an hour a day, mostly news and History/Science TV. Dat OK?

      • Will says:

        My wife and I agreed to get rid of all TV, if you spend more time in front of it than in front of God during the day it has become an idol. Now we just order Poirot, documentaries and Rick Steeves from Netflix, so about an hour to an hour and a half once every three days.

      • Linus says:

        Msgr, Dat is O.K., I do a little more but am very selective. I’ve gotten to the point that I watch the news after hitting the ” menue ” button. That puts the menue on the screen but I can still hear the news. That really does eliminate those visual ambushes. But you know, we did live without it at one time. And at one time there was no radio, I think those must have been holier days. But we always think that. The past always seems better.

  5. Bill Greene says:

    s a tv spot and tv series director, myself, I instinctively know that if I want a humorous element in any situation, it will likely be a male character. Women and children very seldomly carry the same pathos abilities as male actors/characters. Male vulnerability and male comic ironies have been played out in the performing arts for centuries.

    In singling out mass media as a primary source from where our culture draws role models, then I would argue that, for me, I look up to the leadership characters of such strong types as Ed Harris, Robert Duvall, George C. Scott, and Morgan Freeman. Then, of course, in radio media there is the strong leadership, sagaciousness, and integrity of Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Miller and others.

    (Yet, aside from my aspirations and focus to be more like those strong male media role models, I resolve that I’m more of a goofy ‘Jim Carrey” type.)

  6. Howard says:

    Agreed. Even THE HONEYMOONERS was not so over-the-top, and no one was expected to take Ralph and Alice as exactly typical — not to mention the fact that the show took place in the context of most TV families being shown as a bit too perfect.

    There can be humor in a surprising inversion, such as the wife who’s more interested in sports or automobile mechanics than her husband, but only as long as it’s a surprising inversion. (Yes, I know that happens in real life, but it is still the exception.) After decades in which this is the only message that has been given, it’s no longer a surprise, and no longer humorous.

  7. Michael Demers says:

    Right on, Monsignor! Cynical and unhealthy ads should be boycotted. Hit ‘em in the wallet.

  8. Will says:

    It’s an attack of the Enemy and it does shape our Culture. It breeds an acceptance of questioning authority, lack of discipline, childish behavior from adults, acceptance of homosexuality, abortion and in the case of sports figures/celebrities; idol worship.

    To take from Peter Kreeft: Gods justice is not equality. Neither is nature’s.
    God the Creator is not equal to any of his creatures, but he is supreme.
    Among his creatures, spiritual creatures (angels and men) are superior to merely biological creatures.
    Among spiritual creatures, angels are more intelligent than men.
    Even within our own species, men are not all equal in intelligence, in quickness, in wisdom, in memory, or in many other things.

    As you stated Msgr the Man is the head of the household. There is supposed to be hierarchy but America has birthed the breakdown of authority (as well as the breakdown of the family) and discipline through advertising, television, music and worship of corrupt and fallible people that they put on pedestals. Padre Pio was right when he said there is something inherently evil in the idea behind motion picture. In today’s world women think it is okay to go off for a girl’s night out to drink and look at men (its their break, they deserve it), while men think it is okay to go to the bar and look at women other than their wives or worse a strip club (it’s their right, they’re “just being men”). I know several couples where it is “an accepted thing” that he will have copies of Playboys just out in the open in their house, and she will gossip about what new hot actor is doing. In cities, people usually gather at dancing clubs (a ritual carryover from pagan Rome/Greece filled with evil) or bars. Never a care that their $50 bar tab could seriously pay for someone’s food or clothing for a long while. In places where they don’t have the opportunity to do that or must put kids to bed, as soon as they do, they plop down in front of the dumb box and turn on Modern Family or Two and a Half Men. Those two are the top sitcoms these days and buffoonery, promiscuity, bad parenting and homosexuality are rampant. Watch that stuff and it doesn’t take long for a person to become warped and for the sinfulness of your soul to fight against the right and wrong laid down by God.

  9. Ellen says:

    I purely LOATHE these types of commercials. I like men and think they deserve respect. I;m not a humorless person and if there were only a couple of these commercials, I probably would just laugh but there’s a pattern of male bashing in our culture that bothers me.

  10. Mandy P. says:

    Dr. James Dobson, a Protestant activist, put out a book entitled “Bringing Up Boys” that addresses some of this make stereotyping in the culture and gives some suggestion on how to combat it.

    I think what bothers me the most, as a mother of a 4-year-old boy, is that commercials, tv shows, movies and books that portray men to be mindless buffoons only interested in sports, food and sex, sends the message to boys and young men that that’s completely normal, acceptable behavior. But at the same time we’re sending the message to our young men that they’re stupid apes and we don’t expect much from them (the unspoken insinuation here is “so why bother trying”), we regularly excoriate them for being those exact things.

    The other thing that really bothers me is how the self esteem and the idea of presenting roll models for boys has flown completely out of the window in our quest to make sure girls feel good about themselves. It’s almost like people think that going from one extreme, where men are valued greatly and women valued little, to the opposite extreme, where women are of the supreme value and men are completely forgotten, will somehow right wrongs of the past. They most certainly do not. Two wrongs never make a right. And in this massive effort to undermine men and boys so that we women can feel good about ourselves, we’re harming both our boys and girls by instilling in them extremely warped views of the sexes and their appropriate roles in society and home life. It makes me very sad for my little boy.

  11. Deo volente says:

    Monsignor, Did you mean to spell the title “Commericals” or was this meant as a tongue-in-cheek jest? I spotted that instantly and do not what your intent is. D.v.

  12. Sandy Butler says:

    How about the commercials that put the children in the superior position. I started to notice that way back in the 70’s when the cartoons would show the parents asking “Johnny” how to save the world or how to fix a situation. Now there are commercials that put the kids in the front dealing with insurance companies, demanding a certain type of van because the parents are singing a “lame” song.

  13. Kerstin says:

    These ads aren’t funny at all. They are poorly disguised attacks on the dignity of men. I can’t stand them. We as Christians understand that each and every person has innate worth. We are made in the image of God. And that is why these ads grate so much. So much what ails our culture can be traced to this one aspect: a poor understanding or ignorance of the innate dignity of each and every person.

    • Netgk says:

      I agree with most of what you said Kerstin. But my irritation over these ads has nothing to do with the Bible. Indeed, the Bible is where the idea originated that, if you hear God telling you to kill someone, it’s OK to kill them. This is what the story of Jericho teaches. Joshua supposedly heard God telling him to slaughter every man, woman, child, baby, and fetus in Jericho and elsewhere. He told his people what he supposedly heard God tell him, and they carried out the slaughter.

      No, in my life, I assign dignity not just to humans, but to animals and plants as well. They are marvels of biological and chemical complexity that have evolved out of the life-and-death struggles that have occurred over thousands and millions and billions of years. I view them as works of evolutionary art. But more and more are going extinct because of the out-of-control spread of humans. We should preserve them rather than ride roughshod over them just to build another house or shopping center.

  14. Ruth Ann says:

    I would like to see men portrayed fairly. Msgr. Pope, you had a great series of adjectives to describe the negative traits. Could you come up with a string of adjectives to describe men with positive traits? What do you and the other men commenting want to see more of in the media?

  15. Michael Patrick says:

    Definitely the intended consequence of radical feminism.
    But the great thing is that children easily see through the misandry portayed on TV if their own fathers are men who love them and their moms and are men of character and integrity.

    • Netgk says:

      They may not apply these misandry attitudes to their fathers, but they will more-easily fall into that pattern when looking at strangers.

  16. Ann says:

    This commentary hits the nail on the head. I’ve noticed this media male bashing for awhile now and I’m sick sick sick of it. As a mother of three sons I am particularly sensitive to these cultural “messages”–I also deplore the constant repetition of “you deserve it” in commercials and every other cultural medium. This drumbeat of entitlement is really hurting us. I see it with young people especially. As to those sit coms mentioned above–yeeekkkkk. (unfortunately Charlie Sheen personifies the very stereotyping of men we see on TV)

  17. Brad says:

    This is satanic. Full stop.

    The demon is tolerated to be the petty ruler of this world by the Father in a mysterious way (well, not so mysterious when one considers that in order for the enfleshed, wayfaring state to be a test to souls, the realm we are in for a little while must be one of adversity per se).

    The demon’s nature is one of perfect and reliable antipathy toward the Holy Trinity and the daughter, spouse and mother, she who was the instrument of his crushing destruction, her Son.

    Men in the role of husbands and fathers represent not only the Holy Trinity but St. Joseph. satan reliably does all he can to degrade and besmirch the Holy Trinity and St. Joseph. He can’t hurt them, but he can hurt their reputation among mankind and in so doing help souls send themselves to hell.

    Ultimately it all comes back to the reality of the Incarnation and the majors players, shall we say, therein. The bad spirit, as our Lady of All Nations was wont to say, of the world and in the world will always reveal itself by its hatred for the Incarnation.

    May God bless you Monsignor.

  18. Colin Kerr says:

    Thanks, Monsignor. I have often felt the same way as you. I like a good laugh, but why is it so one-sided? A commercial where a man stamps on a woman’s foot is outrageous (I imagine that one with the woman stamping on the man’s foot wouldn’t do too well in North America, either). Yes, you can make fun of men, why? Because we don’t mind so much. Women do not have near our tolerance level – is that why these commercial can exist?

  19. Peter Wolczuk says:

    I’m a little surprised that no one mentioned the Ten Commandments, especially “Honour your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.” as written in the New Jerusalem Bible.
    But then, after seeing all the good stuff here, I realize that I shouldn’t sow the seeds of resentments by putting people on pedestals and just accept the part which is given to me.
    I can do that by preceding the main text with a quote from Sigmund Freud, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” and even to add one that I personally like, “Everywhere I go I find that a poet has been there before me.” The man may have been worthy and famous but, he is like the rest of us, imperfect. Nevertheless he did add a lot toward better health in a broad part of what’s called the human psyche.
    A huge concern in society is the increasing number of single mothers; who all too often live in low income neighbourhoods due to the low fixed incomes so many of them raise their families on; leaving the sons to seek male role models among the pimps and drug dealers. And now, what do we see developing? The value of the mentoring of fathers who live with and love the children in all neighbourhoods being eroded by sarcasm, buffoonery, derision, etc. on T.V. and elsewhere. But today we deal with commercials, so I’ll focus on the task at hand.
    I’m starting to see derision as one of the most powerful weapons being used against Christianity today. A father, at times, has to give uncomfortable lessons and … can best present those lessons by experiencing some of the discomfort himself. Going out in the rain or exerting himself physically, along with his young charges, when getting wood for the fire during a learning experience about nature for instance.
    People can tend to shy away from uncomfortable, but necessary, lessons and – if a standard reaction to the father’s contribution is to dismiss that contribution as ridiculous – the children get deprived of the value of a positive role model. RIPPED OFF. The capitals show the anger I soothe away (not suppress) so that I don’t lash out in a way that will degrade what I seek to say.
    So, it would seem, the young people are not just being deprived of some of the lessons of one of the two important role models in their lives; they’re also being encouraged to run away from difficult, but important learning experiences. What a world.
    When I was in elementary school tv was just beginning and most parents were careful to limit the amount of time when my generation was allowed to watch it. There was no cable, very few broadcast stations and electrical activity in the air that made it pretty intermittent anyhow. Through my early adult years I observed the term “baby sitting machine” pass in and out of the language. Probably not mentioned now as the concept behind the term has become like water to a fish. Official baby sitting services are more accountable now than ever. Maybe it’s time for this one to be called to account a whole lot more seriously.
    Upon looking back to proofread, I’m so very glad that I prayed and asked God to guide me and feel free to access whatever He wished of mine so that my entry would be for His glory and not for my ego. Immediately after the Amen a line from an oldish song ran through my head; “That’s the glory of, that’s the story of … LOVE.” Seems like His way of tell me not to grip so hard that I fight the words because His hands are on the helm too.
    And, in order to include the other very important parent; Mother. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers and mothers to be who read this. I just read one mother’s brief comment on Mother’s Day in a street mission tract a day or so back. When she received her card and well wishes last year she was pleased to see the “thank you’s” for what she’d done but, was left feeling a little deprived for not being thanked for having loved her children. Later that night, when she said her prayers before going to bed, she thanked God for many things but … not for having loved her. Now, she wrote, she does. So do I.

    • Peter Wolczuk says:

      Upon talking this over with some friends who are concerned about childrens’ rights to learn from mentors of both genders I came to a realization that some tough and uncomfortable lessons which are taught by fathers could be judged as a sort abuse if the stage can be set that there is no worth in a father’s mentoring; ie teaching, being a good example, being protective, etc. Someone, or some group, could even use this to create a distorted, but believeable set of statistics that indicates that fathers are a lot more abusive than is really the case. Once there is a belief that a father’s lessons have no value then the tough and uncomfortable lessons which he teaches could be effectively presented as purely harsh.
      I’ll admit that this is a hypothetical concern at this point but, if only a part of the truth is presented in a carefully selected way a lie can become more believeable than the overall truth.

  20. Mick says:

    Why limit your “rant” to commercials? Regular programming has become a never-ending exposition of the weak, stupid male fortunately blessed with a wife (girlfriend) of extraordinary common sense, patience, insight, and intelligence. It is not, however, a new development. I recall Ozzie and Harriet, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, That Girl, the afore-mentioned Honeymooners, Third Rock, etc. The approach was/is almost universal with a few outliers like Leave it to Beaver and The Cosby Show. If you are searching for a strong male character in TV serial programming today, chances are excellent he is gay.

    Going a step further, programming for teens and pre-teens reinforces this myth and adds another: the moron principal supported by idiot teachers outflanked by deceptively clever and creative students – almost always young women aided reluctantly and slavishly by young men. Long ago, Scott Fitzgerald (in “Tender is the Night” if I recall correctly) wrote of “the emerging Amazon.” TV would suggest she is here. Do we believe it?

  21. Sherry says:

    There is a terrific article about the portrayal of men on the Catholic Education Resources Center website (catholiceducation.org). It is written by a Canadian newspaper columnist named Barbara Kay:

    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/facts/fm0098.htm

    We need strong male role models for children to “see what it looks like”.

  22. Mary says:

    Your commentary is right on target. I had the occasion to watch some of the “tween” shows and noted, that all of the adults were stupid in comparison to the wacky but sensible teens. The male characters, though, were depicted as being dumber than the female. In one show, the lead character lives with her older brother, no explanation why there are no parents, and the brother is a perpetually dumb.

    In a spin off of the dumb dad scenario, I recently saw a television add for some laundry product and the father happened upon a scandalously short white mini-skirt of his daughters so he got it dirty on purpose. The wife finds it and uses this product which makes it like new. The last scene is the teen daughter leaving the house, looking like she would be at home in a red-light district with the mother looking on approvingly and the dad sitting fuming in his chair, but saying nothing.

    Sad and one of the reason I am turning off the tv more and have thought, more than once, of getting rid of it.

  23. Netgk says:

    Excellent column, Charles! I found this page by searching for the terms “ads ‘stupid male'” because I knew someone out there had to have noticed this pattern besides me. Only after reading some of the comments here did I realize that this is a religion-oriented blog. I am an atheist, but we have in common these opinions you’ve expressed. And you’ve done a great job documenting your point with all the commercials!! Well-done! That cereal commercial was one of the slaps in the face that originally woke me up to this problem, with the wife giving the poor husband that phony smile at the end. Really? What kind of marriage do they have?? Many thanks for this column! I’ll refer others to it.

  24. RC73 says:

    Misandry in the media and reality is a symbiotic relationship. You see it on TV, and you see for yourself the wife publicly belittling and nagging her husband at the family gathering, in public, or your own house. If a man were belittling or nagging his wife verbatim, various white knights and fembots would intervene.

    I witnessed it in my own parish, with the priest pedestalizing women, and snubbing the Knights of Columbus every chance he got. The priest would belittle the authority of his own father from childhood, insisting that his mother _actually_ ran the house, to the chuckling of the female parishioners. It sickened me.

    However, the last straw came on Father’s Day years back. Remembering the almost pagan adoration he gave to mothers on their day, this priest, on Father’s Day, had the children come up and collect pins which stated “Fathers are God’s Servants”. I never saw him making the children pass out “Mothers are God’s Servants”. I’m not going to argue or disagree with doctrine that Catholics must serve God. Given. But I will argue with the double standard applied to men and women in society, and in my particular case, my (former) parish.

    Today’s society sees men as a disposable, servile utility. That priest thought it was A-OK to bash his own father, but nearly worshipped his mother. He made belittling comments about husbands and men in his homilies, but wouldn’t hesitate to flatter the females every chance he got.

    And so you have the society that we do, and men are increasingly saying NO to marriage.

  25. Ge Ki says:

    I’m an atheist, but I greatly appreciate and fully agree with this excellent rant, supported by actual commercial clips. I’ve referred others to it several times in my ongoing campaign to stop the male-bashing. Thank you!

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