"The American Male in Advertising Today," Coby Richards (2002)
Over the past twenty years, television advertisers have changed the character of the American male. The male that knew how to fix his car, or fix things around the house is gone. He has been replaced by a male that can’t pick up a wrench and can’t fix anything. Sometimes the job will get done if there is a female around to tell him what to do. It appears the television advertisers have dumbed-down the American male.
There was a time when the American male was portrayed by television advertisers as having more intelligence and more ability. He would mow the lawn, fix the car, repair the plumbing, and paint the house. He could do it all, and fix it all, without the help of a female. All you had to do was look at the television ads on the weekend and you would see this scene played over and over. Think about some of the typical commercials.
The commercial starts with a picture of a car in the driveway. Mr. Fixit is lying under the car with only his legs in view. We assume he is under the car to fix something and not to take a nap. You see an arm come into view as he grabs the wrench and takes it under the car to work on something. During this visual you hear the voice of a narrator telling you how ABC Auto Parts is open all weekend so you can get the parts you need seven days a week. Mr. Fixit now slips out from under the car. Another job well done. He gets into his car and drives off into the sunset. By now, if you are male, you feel pretty good. You probably forgot all about the name of that auto parts store, or the fact that they are open late on Friday and Saturday nights. That’s OK, because these things really didn’t matter. You felt good after that commercial because Mr. Fixit, the representation of every guy in America, had enough brains to fix his own car.
Now let’s fast forward to the year 2002 and beyond. I call many of today’s commercials the ‘dumb male’ commercials. Somebody has replaced Mr. Fixit with a guy that is more sensitive, more in touch with his feelings. Somebody replaced Mr. Fixit with a bumbling idiot that can’t fix a thing without a woman’s help. A quick look at the televisions commercials will prove my point. How many men do you see that are fixing the car or repairing the plumbing anymore? If the advertiser is really good, a male can look dumb without even doing much.
There is a new car commercial that shows this exact point. I believe the ad is for Honda, but it may be another import. The advertiser wants to make a point that they have an advanced technology built into their engine. This technology is so advanced that everyone is talking about it, except these guys in the ad. As the commercial starts, you have a view from the engine compartment looking out. You see three males standing there staring at the engine in this car. You can only see these guys from the neck to the waist, and that was probably calculated. These could be any three guys from anywhere in America, it doesn’t matter to us. The advertiser probably left these guys faceless so we would not connect with them, only with what they say. None of these guys speak in complete sentences, which makes you wonder what they are trying to say. One-guy points, then he says a couple words, and then the other guy responds by saying ‘ya’. Several rounds of this conversation take place when the narrator speaks up and tells us of the new technology these guys are speaking about. "So advanced that everyone is talking about it." It is kind of funny, but it is the type of dumb male commercial that we often see. Men don’t change their oil, or repair the engine anymore. They stand in the driveway with their buddies pointing and saying a few words.
I know that women have asked for men that are more sensitive for years. A guy that is a little more less macho and a little more in tune with her feelings. So maybe this is a message from the advertiser about men and not about the car. We are certain that the advertiser is trying to sell us the new technology in their car, but maybe at the same time he is sending the American male a subliminal message about how we are acting.