Iron Law of TV Commercials, Cont.
At PJ Media, Dr. Helen receives correspondence about a Volkswagon ad showing a father and son playing catch. The son throws like a girl, and then we see the dad throwing like a girl as well. The reader wonders how anyone could expect the commercial to sell Volkswagons. We probably shouldn’t be surprised that Volkswagon would portray neutered males. This doesn’t turn off any of their core customer base – moms and kumbaya dads – and if it appeals to moms then dads will disclose their credit report and pay stub in a heartbeat.
The ad flicked me back into the frame of mind of the iron rule of TV commercials – a concept first brought to attention by John Derbyshire and then expanded upon by Heartiste. It reminded me of a commercial I’ve passively consumed about 80 times, but had honestly just not thought anything about. So many commercials portray doltish dads that even someone like myself who is aware of these things just scans over them after a while. I even bought into the frame that the dad was somehow being immature, unfair, and obnoxious.
Probably everyone has seen the one I’m talking about. It’s a Sprint commercial (full disclosure: I’m a Sprint customer) where a dad, a mom, and their two kids are trying to figure out who gets to use data on their un-Sprint phone plan.
How about the person who pays the goddamn phone bill gets to divvy up the data? But the ad-makers set the frame so this thought doesn’t even cross the dad’s mind. If the commercial shows the dad being a dick and acting like any self-respecting dad should, there would be no quick punchy mini plot. So instead we get the whiny kids and the dissatisfied wife who takes digs at the breadwinner dad who is worn out by his concern for the family budget (in an earlier commercial the dad indicates the he’s the one who pays the bills). And then at the end we see the dad contemplating his own sanity as he wipes his hairless scalp.
The look on the dad’s face sums up exactly why these commercials can exist in the first place. He won’t stand up because if he stands up things might get ugly. So he just takes it and takes it and takes it because gritting and grinning and bearing it is a slow burn whereas the explosive reaction is the fast burn, and he’ll earn no sympathy if he commits arson.
Even as I write about this I’m not pissed or anything. I’m not what a feminist would be if the shoe were on the other foot. One reason I’m not pissed is because nobody else is pissed. And nobody else is pissed because if all of us really got pissed we’d all end up in jail.
I’ve documented several other examples of the Iron Law and corollaries: Corona, Brinks Home Security, and Citigroup.