Mainstream Media to Men: You’re Dead Inside

One of my favorite t-shirt designs has a picture of a TV with a hypnotized-looking person staring at it, and the caption, “Why do you think they call it programming?”

So it probably goes without saying that I don’t watch (or even own a) TV.

I just can’t bring myself to expose my family to all the marketing messages, no matter how cool some of the shows may be, but because every commercial seems to end up on YouTube, I still get to laugh at how stupid the advertising people think we are. Although not everything is bad, popular media streaming like TV or Internet do use manipulative marketing to get to people, but there is still serious business that use the right kind of marketing on magazines or signs and use serious companies like Fort Lauderdale Signs to create it and in these way sell whatever they want to sell without fooling anyone.

And one of the easiest targets is men.

The mainstream media loves to portray men (and fathers) as buffoons and clueless bumblers, and thanks to characters such as Homer Simpson and Ed Bundy, our culture has come to see these lovable goofballs as typical modern males.

This leaves those of us who aren’t total nincompoops with a hard row to hoe: trying to be a good man in the midst of all of this stereotyping and peer media pressure.

From Mark Morford in Ode to the whipped white male:

“Verily, if all the vaguely sexist, slightly angry, carefully dimwitted advertising that surrounded the Super Bowl was any indication — and rest assured, at $2.5 million for 30 seconds, with every moment focus-grouped and milked for maximum effect, that five-hour swath of homoerotic gladiator spectacle is about as dialed in to the modern male id as you can possibly get — pasty white American guys are under serious duress indeed.

This was the message, reinforced a hundred ways from Sunday: Modern males are dead inside. They are whipped and weakened and have little left to call their own, so they run around in hideous underwear and never go out in the sun because personal hygiene and mindful grooming are essentially an afterthought, given how once you’re glumly married and stuck in the dead-end job in a miserable economy, well, who the hell cares about looking or feeling good anymore?”

Pasty white American guy under duress? Probably.

Is that me? Nope.

I’m not buying it. And neither should you.

Let’s bury those bullshit stereotypes under the stories of truly strong heroic men: men who live passionately and with principle, men who are more than their wardrobes or bank accounts, men who give a damn.

Enough already with the celebrity worship of men in the media spotlight – actors, pro athletes, silver spoon-fed explorers, trust fund-ers and politicians. Surely we can find better role models for our boys than those characters.

Let’s focus on the real-life heroes around us, like my friend Dennis Stenson, who has run his CSA farm for over 25 years with his family and community, growing enough food for hundreds of families, giving 100% all year in order provide the world around him with sustenance.

Or how about the men who volunteer to be Big Brothers? Anyone helping to mentor young men is a hero in my book, as are those who are willing to give of themselves in order to enrich another person’s life.

The men who live in a good way are the ones who ought to be idolized: men who respect their partner and their children, men who stick by their word no matter what, men who are quick to help someone in need, men who are always trying to do better by learning from their mistakes, and men who are willing to stick their neck out for something they believe in.

Those are the heroes, not some schmuck who cheats on his wife or hires prostitutes.

Because Tiger may hit a mean golf ball, but he’s still a man-child in my book. No matter how much press his handlers manage to get for his apology.

Image: Mike Licht, at Flickr

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

20 thoughts on “Mainstream Media to Men: You’re Dead Inside

  • Melissa

    Those Superbowl ads were infuriating. Especially b/c most of them relied on painting women as emasculating harpies who were making their men miserable. (The Dodge Charger ad was the worst.)

    It was sexist and insulting to women, and unfair and – I believe – inaccurate regarding men, their priorities and their relationships.

    Glad you’re sending the message to men to NOT buy into this notion that manhood is defined a certain way (in the Dockers ad, by literally ‘wearing the pants’ in a relationship) – but by basically just being a good human who is respectful and acts with integrity!

    • Derek Markham

      Thanks, Melissa!

  • I was mortified by the super bowl commercials.

    I am so tired of advertising in general. We are surrounded by this every day, it seems almost impossible to get a way from it…. no matter how one tries to limit their exposure, it’s everywhere… the stereo types of men, women, and even children.

  • As a father who work in a profession that allows me the freedom to take my child and newborn with me it is hard to see this constant barrage of untruths being spread. There are many of us out there who work hard, care for our families and do the right things to make this world a better place.

    This type of marketing about women would never be accepted and it shouldn’t be for men. So why is it?

  • I totally agree with you Derek. Who needs flashy, egotistical role models? There are plenty of everyday heroes who are worth a lot more. Those are the men I have respect for, not the ones who get paid to wear Nike’s as they jump around in front of TV cameras looking “successful”.

    And if women would rather have relationships with the TV hero type, more fool them. Who would want a real life James Bond?
    .-= Alison Kerr´s last blog ..Rain Gardening in the South =-.

  • Thanks, Derek. It’s nice to be reminded that real men are not like those portrayed in the media. In fact, I don’t actually know any men like that. Is it because I have arranged my life such that those kinds of men don’t enter into any of my equations? Or is it that the media portrayals reflect what advertisers want us to see rather than actual reality?

    I didn’t watch the Superbowl and neither did my husband or friends. But I did watch some of the commercials online afterward. Most were just dumb. But I have to say that there is one commercial that apparently ran during the SuperBowl which is sexist and stupid and the funniest thing I have ever seen. So funny I have played it over and over and forwarded it to my friends.

    Should I feel guilty for being so tickled by this thing? Or just appreciate its cleverness despite the F’d up message?

  • I see a general culture shift towards this… I mean, if you’re smart enough to make an observation like this and pay millions to advertise it, you’re probably at least cognizant of your life’s fullness or lack thereof. If people, whether men or not are looking for validation through mainstream media… it’s going to turn out badly most of the time.

    Interesting post!
    .-= JR Moreau´s last blog ..J.R. Phone Home =-.

  • Amen! I get so tired of the stereotype that men are babies needing to be led around. (I won’t say what we’re supposed to lead them by!) This image portrayed fosters a lack of responsibility, so that some men do shrug and just give up, putting in effort only where they’re told to. It’s disheartening — and extremely aggravating for the women out there!

    My husband takes a lot of pride in his appearance and takes pride in how he lives. He’s hardly the feeble-minded goof that is so beloved in popular media!

    This sort of reminds me of a little piece comedian Liz Winstead once did in some women’s magazine. She asked where all the sitcoms were about lovable, bumbling women. Overweight, unattractive women married to lithe, male hotties. They did nothing around the house when they could help it, constantly hurt their partners’ feelings and bumbled through relationships with their kids, but gosh they were just so durned lovable anyway! It was something of a wake-up call that this would be so acceptable for male role models on TV but not for women. What does that say about how we perceive men?
    .-= Abigail´s last blog ..You don’t need a cell phone =-.

  • I get so sick of these types of examples too. I also get tired of the commercials that only show moms/women doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and doing “chores” around the house. I always shout at my wife sarcastically and say, “Oh, so guys/dads don’t clean the dishes?” or “I guess men never do the laundry?” Those kinds of commercials are just as bad as the ones painting me in a bad light.
    .-= Tyler Wainright´s last blog ..My WHCC metallic prints are perfect…almost =-.

  • Kudos on this great post, Derek! I can’t stand the “making dad/husband look like a total buffoon” trend in commercials and on TV shows. One that I saw recently was for AT&T Internet in which the dad can’t seem to grasp the concept of wireless Internet. His daughter finally dismissively tells him that “the cord’s invisible” to which he responds “Ooooh!” a la Homer Simpson. *rolls eyes*

  • Those men who disconnect from the media, and thus from the programming, lead amazing, productive lives. Instead of being ego driven, a life of service and connecting with others is far more rewarding.
    .-= Global Patriot´s last blog ..Fossil Fuel Fundamentals – Coal =-.

  • It is the pigeon-holing of the american male.
    I was bike commuting a few years back and was waiting at an intersection for the light to change. Waiting with me was a construction worker heading to work. He turns to me and looks at my bike and says “DUI huh?”.
    “No” I replied, “just like biking and hate driving.”
    He was dumbfounded–gave me a look like I was the dumbest man he’s ever spoken with and said, “Oh…(mumble grumbel)” which I’m sure was something derogatory and something that he would have said much more clearly if I weren’t much bigger than he 🙂

    I see my dad, uncles, bro-in-laws, friends wasting their lives in front of the TV talking about shows and sporting results. I too am a sport lover–but I play. I could care less to watch the overpaid children disrespect their sports with their me-first attitudes…
    i digress…often.
    Good post Derek!
    .-= Joe´s last blog ..Re-Post on Mother Nature Network =-.

  • Derek, I’m so happy to see these conversations happening. I am weary of the media’s portrayal of men. I’m ready to see real men celebrated – everyday heroes who are strong, committed, humble, courageous, and involved with their families.

    P.S. I think it is very cool that you don’t own a TV. We have one, but we rarely turn it on. Life is too short to watch television…
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Couches {a writing exercise} =-.

    • Derek Markham

      Thanks, Stephanie! Always good to hear encouragement from women about these topics. Agreed, life is too short for lots of TV (But I have to admit that as a blogger and general social media fool, I do spend quite a bit of time in front of the computer… Always contradictions in our lives, eh? hahah)

  • This is a great post Derek

    I agree with most comments, these ads make us angry and for a good reason. But I also feel that especially for those of us raising children the best way “not to buy it” is to lead by example.

    I was raised in a family were my dad was crazy about sports, mainly soccer, go figure being European. He also spent his fair share in front of the TV watching games, commentary and everything in between. But, he also worked very hard (physical labor) and never complained about it, and was always the first to stand up after dinner and start doing the dishes. He helped mom with everything, well almost, probably the only thing I didn’t see him do is cook (and that’s a good thing :).

    For sure that thought me to admire the men who live in a good way, but the blame should not be just put on mainstream media. It also has to do with the balance we men strike in life and the example we set for our kids. Now that I’m raising kids of my own, I certainly hope and strive to be more like my dad than all the soccer superstars that I was accustomed to growing up.

    Stereo types will come and go, but the impact we (adults) leave on a child’s life is everlasting.

  • Great post. This topic has been on my mind and heart lately, enough so that I am toying with the idea of doing enough research to write a book about the phenomenom of male bashing through various media. The sloths amongst us males take advantage of the stereotypes. “I’m just a simpleton…I can’t think for myself…I can’t control where I put my pe#$%…it’s how I’m wired…i can’t control what I eat…I don’t know how to care for my child….I’m helpless…etc.”

    It’s just an excuse to be lazy and selfish. In my demographic (25-35), it’s rare to find honorable men that cling to their priorities; family, spouse/partner, work, volunteering in the community, etc. I’m surrounded by men that put the utmost importance in fantasy sports league’s, xbox, drinking to excess, etc. I believe it’s because they don’t expect anything of themselves. Our society has lowered the expectations for the males and females (and society in general) have come to accept the behaviour as “normal.” It is not normal. It is lazy, selfish, immature behaviour and I believe we “strong” males need to set new standards and examples to pass on to the next generation. Enough is enough. I’ll end with a quote from The Godfather as voiced by Marlon Brando: “Because a man that doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”

  • Absolutely hate TV advertising and silly programs … I do have a tv and generally only watch good documentaries oh and darn it Holby City!
    Anyway .. I totally agree with you about these silly stereotypical characters and the ideas that are planted in to the minds of viewers and young children!. It does great damage to society.Pooper am I?
    Do you know something that really really bugs me.. women who think they are cool because they sterotype themselves into the silly imelda marcos (did I spell that right lol) ohhhhhhhh i love shoes just cant enough of them… and they really think it’s funny to be so selfish and with such wanton waste… I get wound up…and then theres the guy who no doubt loves her but has nothing more to say about her other than “ohhhh she’s shoe mad”

    Must go… to get some new shoes now.. I’m fed up of them.. had them for two weeks and I’ve nothing left to talk about duuuuuh..


  • I like your thinking even though I see the motivation a bit differently. Most advertisers these days are operating under the train wreck effect; you know you shouldn’t look but you just can’t help it. They will do anything to keep your eyes and ears glued to the tube long enough for them to say the name of their brand name three times and show a big splash screen with their logo. If men are emasculated or women are objectified in the process, well, that’s just collateral damage.Shame on us for giving them the opportunity.

  • Men to mainstream media: You’re dead inside.

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