The popular image of men in the media has been an interesting journey. From Father Knows Best to bumbling dunce in 50 years. You see, sitcoms need someone to be the stooge, as do most comedies in any form, including TV commercials. In the 70s shows like Three’s Company could get away with a bubble-headed blonde woman being that nit-wit, as long as there was a balancing smart brunette in the mix. In the 50s and 60s Lucy could be the goofball woman-child and Desi the adult. In the past decade or so, the sex roles have reversed the Lucy-Desi model. The only socially acceptable group to show as scatter-brained in recent years has been men. There are so many sitcoms using the same premise that it’s become predictable — smart, sassy woman married to helpless man-child. This past season added another ingredient to the profile of the male stooge — unemployed. And there hasn’t been too much of a fuss kicked up about this negative depiction of the modern male from men’s groups… maybe there were no men’s activist groups?
But Ad Age recently reported that Huggies diapers from Kimberly Clark has crossed the line http://adage.com/article/adages/dad-fueled-poop-storm-huggies-alters-campaign/233203/. They created commercials showing incompetent, bumbling dads who need Huggies to help them scrape by as caregivers. And pow! They got so much backlash that they’ve apologized and pulled the ads for re-tooling. The article quotes goodmenproject.com as one source in the uproar (so there are men’s groups now). A blogger on that site says 32% of dad’s are the primary caregiver today, evidence that they aren’t so incompetent after all.
As a parent of two boys, I’m torn on this one. I don’t really like the idea of my young boys soaking up media images of men as losers who never grow up. I also know that I was a pretty darn good diaper changer and caregiver when my kids were small. And I read the statistics on young men increasingly opting out of going to college (or leaving home). So, I’m glad that men are starting to fight back on this one. On the other hand, if men, the last possible politically correct stooges can’t be satirized or mocked, where will comedy need to go?
Keep an eye out for ads and sitcoms with really stupid pets.