Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Color of Love

This morning, per my habit, I looked at a couple news items online. Like most internet users, I grow increasingly immune to the various means of advertising placed on websites of all kinds. My eyes scan past the banners, the Flash animation, the cute little games, and the free iPod offers with automatic precision. Today, however, one ad did catch my eye.

It was a Sprint ad, and the first frame said something like "the colors of love." What followed were pictures of phones in the three prominent colors. I shall detail them for you:

"Forgot our anniversary" silver
"Spent too much on golf clubs" pink
"Thursday is poker night" espresso


So what have we seen here? Nice phones, yes, in admittedly attractive colors.

And what have we learned?

First, we need to assume that these phones are being marketed to men with female partners. Then we can make the following conclusions:

1) only men make such mistakes as forgetting anniversaries, or do so with characteristic frequency

2) one good way to make up for spending too much on one thing is to make a completely unplanned additional purchase

3) it is a bad thing for a man to plan to spend an evening away from his partner

4) men can make up for their boyish folly by buying their partners stylish and expensive gifts

5) women will accept such gifts as restitution for the named transgressions, and possibly many others

This is yet another example of our social understanding of men as simplistic baboons and women as fawning materialists. Is it wrong to be disgusted at these assumptions? Yes, we are all simple creatures with primal urges and instincts. But if we're going to communicate on that level, let's not pretend it's all we are. If you want to sell me a phone, I'm more likely to listen if you begin appealing to my sense of utility (a basic male quality in my opinion) than the guilt I feel at having 'wronged' my wife.

This ad is funny in the way that the Super Bowl Snickers ad was funny. There's enough media attention on this issue that I needn't go into why it was inappropriate. I admit I didn't notice any distasteful content, being the straight middle-class WASP that I am, but reading comments and thinking more I realize the truth. It's not exactly gay-bashing, but how many boys who might be questionong their sexuality were sitting on couches with their fathers, brothers, uncles, and friends, and had it confirmed that yes, being gay is an awful thing, to be remedied only by stupid acts of "manly" prowess? How many of them laughed with the crowd and were secretly crushed at seeing how the men who love them would react to a possibly inevitable truth? (And just how manly is it to rip out one's chest hair, anyway?)

Disclaimer: This whole rant might be one more example of me taking myself too seriously. If it is, then I have misjudged the world around me and the lot of you may continue living your lives, no matter how superficial, judgmental, consumerist, or shallow I might think they are.

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