Tag Archives: rant

Beer Commercials: A Rumination On Homophobia And Reverse-Wish-Fulfillment

[It’s time for another disparate-point essay about something I was thinking about today.  Today’s topic: light beer commercials.  This is a rewrite of a post I threw up yesterday, briefly, half-baked.]

Look at the calendar.  It’s January.  That means it must be NFL playoff season, which in turn means it must be time for American macrobrewries to continue their assault upon the intelligence of their consumers.

In the recent past, Coors Light has conspicuously avoided discussing their beer and instead has found new, astoundingly moronic ways of advertising the packaging.  Last year, Miller Lite showed us men more interested in their relationship with their beer than in the hot women mystifying interested in these meatheads.  Budweiser claims that guys who drink beer rejoice in homophobic “kidding” as the highest form of camaraderie.

This topic has been covered here before.  And a quick Google search will show plenty of discussion on how these commercials are insulting to everyone who views them.  But there are two points I want to make about the new Miller Lite “Man Up” commercial series.  Two examples can be found here.

Point one: Miller Lite should “Man Up” and confess to what the real message of these commercials is: “Don’t be a f*ggot – drink our beer.”  They’re not allowed to say that, of course, but that’s the message, and they believe their audience trades in such moldy currency.  These beautiful bartenders mock men for fashion decisions, most which carry effeminate connotations (even fashion itself is effeminate).  The Budweiser “kidding” commercial contains witty lines such as, “Has he told you about his scrapbooking?” and, “Even Europe thinks your pants are too tight.”  Every single one of these commercials is a disguised gay joke.

It’s satisfying when the schoolyard bully gets called out by the playground monitor.  It would be nice if we could do a better job of calling out these beer companies as being homophobic.  It would be fun, but it would also present an interesting parallel between homophobia and beer brewing.  These macrobrews have successfully branded “real men” as liking beer.  BUT! real men don’t have a varied palette for beer (thus they drink beer made in batches by the billion).  By implication, then, microbreweries and the men who enjoy their beer are not manly, ie, gay.

In the same way that jocky homophobes feel threatened by gay men, so big beer companies feel threatened by microbreweries.  It’s cool when you can map consumer preferences, marketing theory, and societal tensions all on top of one another.

Okay, on to point number two:

no role models for hot women

Wish fulfillment goes both ways.  In the story of the beggar and the genie, we rarely think about the genie’s feelings.  Sure, these ads use hot women to sell beer, and in doing so objectify these women.  But these ads are also offensive to hot women, a demographic not accustomed to much societal sympathy.

Imagine the op-ed letter written on behalf of hot women (we pick it up halfway):

…Miller Lite structured an entire, ubiquitous campaign around hot women on dates, in relationships, or clearly in love with knuckleheaded men who don’t know body language from boogie boarding.

These commercials are offensive to hot women.  Everywhere we turn, we see ourselves being treated badly by schlubby men and drinking (or serving) lousy beer.  We are depicted as having terrible taste in beer, in men, and little or no backbone.  For every wish-fulfillment you bestow upon your consumer base, you strip a wish away from a hot woman.

Look, it is very hard to be a hot woman in modern America.  Young hot girls need dynamic, multifaceted media portrayals of hot women, so they are not pressured away from the rewarding life decisions many hot women have made.  Family support and social service organizations can only give hot girls so much help.  (Not to detract from the critical work undertaken by groups like Curvy Paths and the NAAHW.)

I want my hot daughters to believe that they are allowed to drink, and prefer, double IPAs.  I want them to have high expectations of the dating pool, and not assume they will end up with watery-beer-loving jerkoffs with gelled hair and emotional tin ear.  Show us those hot women, Anheuser-Busch, and maybe then we will end our embargo against talking to macrobrewery and advertising executives.  Maybe.

For every objectification, there is an object, and an -ification.  Too often we only think about the ification.

15 Blurted-Out Reactions To The Insanity Of Cliff Lee Signing With Philly

the beautiful prom date Philadelphia couldn't stop thinking about

The universe, and Ruben Amaro Jr., are more absurd than I gave them credit for.  Cliff Lee is going to sign with the Phillies for 5 years, $120 million.  I’m not even happy about it.  So many things I thought I knew about baseball have been proven wrong.  I can’t organize my thoughts into a tidy five-paragraph essay (sorry, 9th grade English teachers!) so here are many of them in bullet-point form.

  • Ruben Amaro Jr. is both brilliant and terrible.  The Phillies just lost the NLCS because they couldn’t hit.  So Amaro lets Jayson Werth walk and signs Cliff Lee.  Natch.
  • Here is what the Phillies have spent on Cliff Lee: 4 minor league prospects + $6 million dollars + Cliff Lee + paying Joe Blanton $24 million over 3 years + losing the 2010 NLCS + $120 million dollars + next year’s first round draft pick + next year’s supplemental round draft pick = Cliff Lee.
  • I’ve always felt that Philly had an obsessive relationship with Cliff Lee.  He was like the beautiful prom date with whom we had one magical night.  Afterwards we figured it wouldn’t work out, so we started seeing somebody else (Roy Halladay).  But in our diaries (ie, Philly sports media) we secretly hoped he might return.
  • We traded Cliff Lee last year, in part, because we though Roy Halladay was better than Cliff Lee.  We were right, we’re still right, and now we learn that Cliff Lee agrees with us.
  • The Phillies really are now the Yankees of the National League.  I have no idea how we can afford another $20 million-per-year player.  I wonder if Citizens Bank is going to foreclose on Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2013 when Amaro and Gillick can’t pay their credit card bills.
  • This signing is overkill.  Yes, we now get to boast a fantasy baseball-like pitching staff.  But our offense is way too left-handed and streaky, our payroll surely now is maxed out for years to come, and Cliff Lee is not going to be worth $20 million dollars in 2014.  Maybe we’ll trade Cole Hamels and Domonic Brown for Justin Upton.
  • The Phillies are certainly going to be good next year.  Hell, I bet we’re going to be winning 120 games…after 7 innings.
  • Maybe we’re entering the post-bullpen era.  Each starter goes 7 innings, and then whichever starter is scheduled to throw a bullpen session that day pitches the 8th and 9th.
  • Last year, we tried to trade Joe Blanton to free up money to sign Cliff Lee.  When we couldn’t do that, we traded Cliff Lee and signed Joe Blanton.  Now we’ve signed Cliff Lee, and are going to free up money by…trading Joe Blanton.  This is insane, and the rest of baseball is laughing.  We can’t afford Blanton (I guess?  who the hell knows), and now we want to trade him.  “Hey baseball,” Amaro is saying, “who wants Joe Blanton and his $16 million dollar contract?”  We’re going to give him away for nothing, because baseball knows the Phillies have no leverage in those negotiations.
  • Maybe now Joe Blanton can retire and join the other heavy-set white guys with trashy facial hair getting drunk in the bleachers like we always knew he should.
  • Early favorite nicknames for the Phillies’ rotation: ClH2O, or CH2O .  Chlorine + water is how you treat your pool.  CH2O is formaldehyde.  We’re also more than halfway to spelling CHOOCH with our starting rotation.
  • This is the first time I can remember that the Yankees could not buy the player they wanted.  The streak is over.  Maybe this is a watershed moment.  Like when Napoleon lost at Waterloo.  Or Voldemort couldn’t kill baby Harry Potter.
  • Jayson Werth must be pissed.
  • By 2014, the Phillies will be Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, and a bunch of players we haven’t even heard of yet.  But hey: the Phillies will have enough money coming off the books in 2011 to sign the entire Tampa Bay Rays.
  • Roy Halladay + Cliff Lee + Roy Oswalt + Cole Hamels is as good on paper as the Maddux + Glavine + Smoltz + Avery/Neagle/Millwood Braves of the 1990s.

Education as Political Vaccination

It’s cold and flu season, when our immune systems encounter this year’s strains.  It’s also election season, when the body politic is assailed by this season’s political rhetoric.  A massively simplified conception of a vaccine is the injection into the body of an agent which familiarizes the body’s immune system with a bacteria or virus, prompting the body to prepare itself against the future arrival of that strain.

Our educational system needs to do this with political arguments.  Education as political vaccination.  We need to bring debate and rhetoric classes back into the curriculum.  Vaccinate our children against the most common strains of manipulative reasoning, and that investment will eventually result in a better political environment.

I think most people would agree that, in an ideal world, they want to see civil political discourse.  We want candidates explaining their positions and their best ideas, drawing clear but professional contrasts between themselves and their opponents, and drawing upon whatever characteristics or experience they have to show why they would be dutiful and superior public servants.  We don’t get that.  Instead, we get xenophobia, racism, classicism, personal attacks, money, volume, fear and manipulation.  The life of our political arena is rich, nasty, brutish and cyclical.  Constitution-as-holy-scripture seems to be this season’s political H1N1.

a common political ad, in a nutshell

Virtually all underhanded and deceitful political strategies being employed today are not new.  They have been around for as long as there have been manipulative people seeking power.  No matter whether they are used by liberals, conservatives, Christians, Muslims, bakers or dentists.  They are not new.  And they are not helpful.  They do not allow us to make better decisions about who should represent us in government.  In fact, they cloud our judgement.  A candidate’s talent for scaring the locals about his opponent’s possible “otherness” does not prove his qualifications to be county treasurer.

(To listen to our national political discourse is to be told that America is a nation filled entirely with honest, hard-working, humble Christians and that the only disreputable people anywhere are the ones seeking election (or re-election).  If only one of those honest guys would run for office, right?)

We’re getting this kind of politicking because it works.  Through our susceptibility to campaign tactics that do not accurately reflect the candidates’ abilities for the job, we have created (and are responsible for) that oily sheen on politicians’ fur that makes us wretch when we breathe too deeply.

I believe we have created a national political atmosphere where your opponent’s failure is your success, and where no progress is preferable to progress credited to your opponent.  Better the ship sink, than the other guy save the day.  I believe this is profoundly obnoxious at best, and dangerous to the country’s livelihood and long-term prospects at worst.  One way to stem this infection is to teach our children to identify some of the most common forms of manipulative and disingenuous argument.  Forewarned is forearmed.

Teacher, what’s a straw man argument again?

Dissect political campaigns in the classroom.  Examine historical examples of political and social oppression, not just for what happened but how it happened and why it worked.  If our children know that correlation does not imply causation (“Our state has lost X jobs while my opponent was in office”), if they know what it means to demand negative proof (“Prove Obama isn’t a Muslim”), and if they know that statistics are only as reliable as the person quoting them (any budgetary conversation of any kind), we can force future politicians to raise their game.

Do this with debate class.  Rhetorical lessons.  Use scenarios to allow students to employ these techniques for themselves.  Teach students about the times in history when tricky concepts like patriotism, religion, and “the Other” have been used as weapons.  Explain how and why these arguments work, and that people seeking power will attempt to use them again.  Expose students to these germs early, so when they hear them again as voting adults, they will demand more from the speaker.

Teach our children humility in the face of a complicated world.  Vaccinate the body politic.  Give our children a healthy skepticism of easy answers, too-bad-to-not-be-true accusations, and anyone who wants to be in charge.  Future generations might demand more from their elected leaders, and we will eventually get the leaders we want, not just the leaders we deserve.