There’s an ad on TV for Valentine’s Day that has been annoying me for a few weeks now. This guy completely demolishes the kitchen trying to make blueberry pancakes because “she loves them,” and in his childish incompetence he’s trying to figure out where she’s keeps the fire extinguisher because he’s just about set the kitchen on fire. Then we pan out to the diamonds he is also going to buy her, as if to compensate for his ineptitude, as if he owes her this jewelry to make up for his complete failure as a human being.
I’m really sensitive to advertising, to messaging, and to the presentation of men as bungling, incompetent, and inept children. It’s a trend that has gotten really bad in the last decade. That is one issue, it’s very demeaning towards men, outright sexist really, and I wonder what is the motivation, what is the intent? Why are we working so hard to portray men as incompetent? Who benefits from that, what is the payoff?
Let me also tell you, this ad is the precise opposite of romance. I’m chuckling here, because I’m sure there are multiple issues going on within this one ad that are far more important than the complete dousing of cold water that just kills romance, but that is what I want to focus on anyway.
I could not have come up with a better series of romance killers if I had tried. First off we never see this man, so no visuals. Second, we introduce the vision of a completely demolished kitchen, because what woman is not charmed by thoughts of having to clean the kitchen? Next we have this really starchy stack of blueberry pancakes dripping with butter, which conjures up not only body image issues and calorie fears, but that completely non sexual feeling of having over eaten. And now the kitchen is on fire, yet another distraction.
This is better than a polar dip on New Year’s day when it comes to killing romance and desire. There I am, feeling all bloated from those pancakes, distracted by a messy kitchen, trying to put out a fire, and now forced to feel maternal towards this incompetent man-child. I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but women are not attracted to their children. Maternal feelings are not romantic feelings!
Let’s add financial worries to the mix, because to compensate for his complete lack of appeal and epic sexual failure as a human being, he must now buy diamonds to soothe his own ego, to reaffirm his own worth. Now the gift isn’t even about me! I’m actually starting to feel really resentful and annoyed…
So what is really attractive, romantic? The complete opposite of everything in this ad. Women like that elusive thing we sometimes call confidence, competence, grown up men who are capable. We can be easily distracted by grocery lists, chores, the pressing need to clean a messy kitchen. We like men we can look up to, perceive with some kind of respect. And I don’t want to speak for every woman, but in general when we pig out on pancakes, it does not trigger a desire to suddenly start running laps or engage in exercise of a more intimate sort.
The man in this ad would have done better if he had just loaded the dishwasher, tossed her an orange, and handed her a rock he found on the beach, as if it were a diamond, as if this rock possessed great worth and value, because he has great worth and value, and he took the time to collect it for her. Ah, now is that not the sweetest thing ever? I’m feeling the romance already.
One last thing, that playful nature of little boys, that innocence and propensity for mischief in men, that can be very sweet and charming, but in small, infrequent doses and preferably never involving a fire extinguisher.