Anthropologist Grant McCracken had a good post a while back about the mythic Beer Guy. Beer Guy is the guy you usually see during Super Bowl commercials. He is the likeably dumb, happy-go-lucky former frat boy. He showed up during this Bud Light commercial . McCracken didn’t get into this, but Beer Guy requires that the people around him-often, women-be his foils. They are humorless, dull, competent. They join book clubs and actually want to talk about the books.
I skipped the Super Bowl, but watching these commercials , I’m not seeing a lot of Beer Guy. I see his angrier counterpart. This guy maybe used to be Beer Guy until he started dating some horrible shrew who makes him carry her lip gloss. Now he’s just resentful. Beer Guy was hovering in between the joyful, beer-soaked depths of his animality and the banality of civilization. This new guy, he of the Flo TV and Dodge Charger ads, has tipped over into civilization and feels oppressed.
The Dodge ad is about escape, a solid if not particularly groundbreaking theme for a minutelong spot. This universal fantasy of deliverance from daily life is taken, for reasons unclear, to be exclusively male. Men like to drive fast cars. Women? Well, we adore recycling, cleaning the sink, going to work, walking the dog. And don’t get me started on sorting the laundry! Bliss. We couldn’t possibly ever dream of getting away from such chores; mostly we dream about our male partners learning to master them. The men in the ad are only truly themselves when they’re driving. Women are most fully realized while separating whites from darks.
So before I go share a very special moment with my vacuum, I'll just add that the the Dodge commercial brought to mind Fantastic Mr. Fox , a good movie with the same sad theme-likeable male fox struggles to choose between animal nature and the graces of civilized family life. Dull, humorless wife-fox pushes for civilization. We know life would be easier if Mr. Fox submitted. But we’re never really on the side of the shrew. We’re always pushing for revolt against the pressure of civilizing conformity. And so when the story inevitably casts the woman on the side of domesticity, the woman inevitably loses.
Photograph of couple by Stockbyte/Getty Images.