Random musings on whatever subject strikes my fancy, published every other day.

Tag: advertising

Pre-Paid Patriotism

While we know that a volunteer military has to advertise to gain recruits, advertising is usually identifiable as such.  But team outpourings of patriotic fervor: the “hometown hero” demonstrations on the fields before and during games, the flyovers, the hilariously large flags and so on… are they just another expression of the tribalism that is sports fandom?

When a magazine or newspaper publishes long-form content that is written by an advertiser, they label it as such so the reader can understand the dividing line between the editorial and business sides of what’s in the book.  We can assume that visible name-brands in TV shows and movies are paid for by the advertisers: apparently nobody in Portland has ever heard of Windows, if you believe Grimm, while in New York no one uses Apple, according to Elementary.  But these shows mention their deals with Apple and Microsoft in the credits.

Not so your typical NFL game, although perhaps they should:

This is doubly unethical: we expect even private companies to disclose these arrangements, though they arguably have more of a right not to.  But we’re asked to accept a certain level of openness amd integrity from sports events, yet taxpayer funds spent on these “advertorial” segments are routinely not disclosed.

Sports, militarism and toxic masculinity are all probably bound for all eternity in a testosterone-fueled Celtic knot, but at least we can demand some honesty in how tax dollars are used to subsidize it.

Amazon Signaling

Drew of Toothpaste for Dinner has a companion blog called The Worst Things for Sale.  Every now and then you will see an item there somewhat along these lines:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Steren - 1.5' 2.5mm Male To 2.5mm Male - Stereo
Steren – 1.5′ 2.5mm Male To 2.5mm Male – Stereo
by Steren
  Learn more  

Now this doesn’t look so bad, a simple 18″ audio patch cord, useful for connecting a portable MP3 player or phone to a stereo AUX input, perhaps in a car. The thing about this item that landed it on Drew’s blog is the price: $50,000.

Why? Why would someone place this item for sale at that price? Are they trying to hack Amazon’s bizarre pricing algorithms? Is it a bit of online tradecraft among spies, akin to a shade pulled down or a car window visor flipped in the “real” world?

It would be interesting to be able to track if anyone ever actually buys these things — they are sprinkled all over Amazon.  Or perhaps they are just decoys, or test entries. But Amazon is not transparent enough to afford us this amusement.

On the other hand, some of them do attract entertaining reviews.

Get Out of the Box

From the earliest age, boys are taught that there is a certain range of behaviors and feelings required of them if they will ever be considered men, and that straying beyond these borders is really not acceptable.  “Act like a man!”  “Real men don’t cry!”

Vignette: I’m eating lunch at work, sitting with some other men.  Bob (no real names, of course) tells us he has just traded in a sporty roadster he’d been driving for a four year old mid-sized import sedan. He was able to pay cash for the sedan, which eliminates car payments as part of a larger effort to repair his credit, damaged by a business that went under some years earlier.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Not to Carl!  He starts on Bob right away.  “You bought a WHAT?  Why do you want a pussy car like that?  That’s a woman car.”  I snap at Carl, defending Bob’s right to drive whatever the heck he wants, especially as it’s part of a sensible financial plan and not some display of Homo Sapiens Americansis’ peacock feathers.

On an intellectual level, I am puzzled by gender-insults being hurled at a car.  But in a deeper way that I can’t get rid of, I know exactly what Carl means.  After all, I, too, have been trained in the finer points of “manliness”; on the playgrounds and in the locker rooms of my youth.  How many years of such training am I up against here?  In some sense, is Carl just another prisoner of the Man Box?

Males are trained right from the start of life to be in control.  To obtain money, cars, and girls (only girls!) for sex.  To be aggressive, tough and athletic.  Failure at any of these things is failure to “be a man.”  To display any weakness or sensitivity, to cry, and oh especially to feel any attraction to another boy is truly a failure to “be a man”.

In this TED talk Tony Porter recounts an early experience where he had to deal with this pressure.  Watch to the end (about 10 minutes) for what a nine-year-old had to say.

Nine years old.

Now as we all, know, beer is the Official Beverage of the Man Box.  You can plainly tell by watching TV on a weekend afternoon for the repertoire of 30-second dramas recounting beer’s benefits, and its noble efforts at helping all men obtain money, cars, and girls (only girls!) for sex.  One brand recently took it to its logical conclusion and offered a view of the other side of the coin.  In this video, we explore not the benefits of remaining comfortably within the Man Box, but the penalties for venturing outside it.

Oh, no!  You stepped outside the Man Box!  You will now be crushed to death, as obviously must happen.  Afterward, your friends and lovers will forget that you ever existed.  Within about three seconds.

At this point, I think the only counter I can offer is awareness.  Be aware as men (or as women in relationships with men) of when the Man Box is restricting us from something natural, something right.  Then step outside it.

I promise the giant beer cans are not gonna get ya.

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