Thursday, July 27, 2006

Agenda in Ads?

Sometimes I think I am one of the few people that watches advertisements closely and critically. For at least ten years I have been saying (although not on these pixels) that the people that create advertisements in this country have a liberal agenda. Over the next two or three days, do a little, informal experiment. See how many times you notice the following things:

  • Fathers are optional.
  • Men, and especially white men, are portrayed like idiots (when they are portrayed at all).
  • When showing groups of more than three people who are not family, it is always a mixed race group (except when it is a group comprised exclusively of minorites, which seems to be permissible).
  • Minorities are presented in disproportional numbers.
  • Really young boys have to have cool, "punk-rock" hair-styles. (This doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the blog. It just pisses me off.)
You can interpret these trends however you like. Me, I happen to have a bit of a problem with the first two, and no problem with the second two. I'll explain why in a minute. First I want to tell you about the ad that I just saw.

This is the first time I've seen this spot; I have no idea how long it has been running. The ad is for the Ford Freestyle Crossover sport utility vehicle. It shows a seemingly happy family. Dad, Mom (Mom is driving - I am watching a replay of this on TiVO as I describe the ad and I didn't notice this the first time), two kids (one of each, natch ) and a dog. They are obviously on a weekend outing. They stop at a fruit stand. Parents are bonding with children. They arrive at the beach. Then the drive home. Pulling into the driveway. Home, sweet home! Then the ad cuts to Dad taking out bags from the back of the Freestyle (500 miles on a tank of gas!).

Wait, what's this? Dad is hugging little sis, and there, blurry and indistinct but undeniably there, is Mom still behind the wheel. Cut to shot of Dad hugging both kids.

"Thanks for inviting me this weekend."


"All right, guys. I'll see you next week."

"Bye, Dad."

Cue graphic: BOLD reaches out. Voice over: "Bold moves. They happen every day."

This ad, to me, gets to the heart of one of the things that popular entertainment has lost: its aspirational mission.

Sure, when we watch old movies today, they seem corny. There's no foul language. No sex or nudity. Barely any kissing. No drug use. No violence or gore. It's not as if the writers, directors, producers and actors of the day didn't know about such things. Of course, they did. Many of them lived lurid off-screen lives. But they also seemed to feel an obligation to provide better fare.

Critics will argue that such entertainment doesn't "keep it real" (O how I loathe that phrase!). I would argue, so what? What's so great about "real"? Real is coarse and harsh. Real doesn't inspire you to be better. Sure, brutal and harsh entertainment can remind you of the behavior to which you can aspire, but that's negative reinforcement. Heroin is bad. I get it. You won't catch me watching Requiem for a Dream twice (my burning love for Jennifer Connelly notwithstanding - I fell for her hard in Labryinth).

I wouldn't be surprised if, when the Clios (the Oscars of advertisements) roll around, this ad were nominated. I can just imagine some breathy critic proclaiming it's "daring" and how it shows a family that looks more like an American family of 2006.

That's all well and good. Really. It is. But what's so bad about entertainment that reminds us that we can be and do better?

1 comment:

Dad said...

Thanks for your thoughts! I agree with pretty much everything you wrote save one - - that the entertainers of yesteryear felt an "obligation" to provide a better fare despite the fact that they often lived lurid off-camera lives. I believe there was a pretty strick code, which included no shots of men and women in bed (even though they might be married). Also, the society at least publicly was puritanical and innocent.