BEER & DONUT ADS ALSO CORRUPT CULTURE
May 11, 2009
[A trip down memory lane from the 1990s; the more things change, the more they remain the same. Look for Culture of Terror forthcoming in June].
If there was a patriarchy in America, one would expect to see it flaunted on advertisements accompanying televised sports. After all, it is there that messages can be beamed directly to men in the privacy of their caves. But a glance at a couple of common ad series that dominate sports broadcasts indicate that humiliation, contempt and sexual confusion is the real diet with which ‘Madison Avenue’ feeds its male audiences.
These has not changed for more than a decade except that the ads grow increasingly perverse and contemptuous, the depicted men more weak, feminized, artificial or performance obsessed as the years pass, the media flogging along the regression of culture. It is a distraction machine from the operating systems and personae of culture but also a constant tutorial in the ways of ignorance and virtual identity.
But back to 1998: Joseph Coors of Coors Brewing Company that feeds us “banquet beer” from high country malt has (or had) the reputation of being a conservative, donating liberally to various groups that somehow thrive in a cow-pie culture without partaking of the flop. In recent years Coors has promoted itself with two series of Beer ads: the first featured gangs of vapid, gargantuan twenty-somethings sporting amid simulated mountains, not “the mountains of Bush” but of Coors, no doubt. The climax came when a flowing-haired blond giantess pounded a spike-tap into a huge keg of Coors while a tape loop endlessly moaned “tap the Rockies.”
Huge, open-mouthed smile, lots of teeth, gleaming eyes and long flowing locks, the “fifty-foot woman” updated and appropriated to selling beer and goddess worship.
For the past two seasons, Coors has been beating minds to death with another slogan, conserving our anti-culture with the now immortal phrase, ‘Hey, Beer Man!’ These ads feature a diverse series of sad sacks whose identity has collapsed into being a vendor of Coors Lite. Who now can turn away from a job and an identity, albeit clownish? “People know me wherever I go” chuckles one gray-haired oaf. “At home it’s, ‘hey Beer Man, pass the peas!’ When the mail comes it says, ‘Hey, Beer Man: you may have won ten million dollars!’ Being a Beer Man’s a wonderful thing.” This average Joe, ad style, shared top billing with “Bobble-Head Doll Man” to push the suds ‘n stuff.
Whether in schools or straight from the eye of the monster, the instructions stream in ever more degrading fashion that we are encouraged to find amusing.
The keynote of these superficially amusing, deeply degrading ads is the unselfconscious zest with which the men mock themselves: they know the script, the teaching manual so to say. Whether it’s a 70-ish dreamer declaiming to an empty stadium, a 20-ish esthete apostrophizing “a snowflake named Steve” (never miss a chance to bend gender and boost the “Malthusian” agenda) or a former peanut vendor slinging his suds, all are happy to be buffoons, ‘real’ men as defined by the managerial class of virtual nation. The topper is a jovial shave-pate, a dead ringer for Curly Stooge who chides “don’t call me Lager-lugger, brew brothuh, suds buddy, Captain Cup or Sir Pour-a-Lot” (terms imagined by the ad managers, perhaps, and then stamped into the “collective unconscious”) before yielding swine-like to the summons of a young Circe who snares him by calling, “Hey, Beer Stud!” It’s a leer and a wink and a nyuk, nyuk, nyuk; here comes the beer.
There’s another ad where a dazzling young thing confronts a young slob as he carries a frosty from the counter and gazes lovingly at his beer. Stripping off her top she reveals not two gorgeous, fruit-like globes but her vendor’s apron: “She’s a Beer Man” stutters the enraptured guy while she stares at him contemptuously and comments, “yer spilling yer beer,” as the fluid drips from his flaccidly held container. All the lady needs to do is “strap it on” and she passes too…
If you haven’t noticed, “strap it on” has become a familiar term of art in sports and other parts of the culture pie for ‘being prepared’ or strong: interesting that athletes routinely use a term suggesting prosthesis to describe their determination.
Then there’s the more recent ad for another liquid in which a bronzed Aphrodite emerges from the sea and begins gyrating for a bunch of six-inch high lizards that dance and leap at her excitedly. The images become ever more obvious and the ‘plays’ more regressive.
If the conservative conditioning of Joe Coors isn’t gassy enough in mocking men, sample the latest ad campaign from Dunkin’ Donuts, a coffee getting less tasty as the company goes nationwide from its home base, where else, near Boston. First the featured a dumpy but fussily effeminate nerd named “Fred” scooting around chirping “Time to make the coffee! Time to make the coffee!” A lot of advertising is about learning to take orders, though not only this explicit. Then there was a series with attack of the fifty-foot bagel. The spanking new feature, back in spring ’98 was “Bagel fest” whose tag might as well have been, ‘for women only.’
In what passes for real life, when you stagger through the pink and orange doors, drugged by the sticky and sweet confections and heady aroma of brewed bad water, there are lots of guys lined up with assorted female lifers and junkettes craving a carton of minis or crullers for a gut-filling fix. Not so in Bagelfest ads: one features a glamorous school teacher harried by a class of brats but coolly sipping her DD without spilling a drop on her ‘vote for Hillary’ lesson plan. Another features a stylish mom in a house full, and then a car full of brats but she’s cool under fire, just her, her bagel and her Styrofoam cup of brown juice.
Even a beer man can grasp the message: women who slurp DD’s brew and dough are super cool and unencumbered by males (except brats). None are overweight or less than extremely attractive. All are smug and hyper-real. Must be the flavors and fancy names of the product: must be the precipitate of the distraction machine that deals in shadows…
American men are so used to being insulted and vilified that they sit still for being ‘whited-out’ or depicted as morons by the media. Ad execs assume that if you toss in some sports, men will shell out for masochistic entertainment packages and those who object can be profitably ignored. Or as Machiavelli said, sensing that the power of the State supports the other faction, most will keep quiet. Making fun of men is big business and politically astute in this collapsing nation which, after all, is meant to collapse. In the ‘90s, President Bozo rendered yeoman service toward this end; he was not unique.
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Back to the future present: the Red Sox are playing the Tampa Rays tonight on national TV (ESPN part of the Disney-ABC group). Since it’s Mother’s Day the game must be in Boston where the Sox may break out the pink lettering, pink bats, bases, ribbons, even strap on the pink jocks for all one knows. If they didn’t, no one would love their mother or care about breast cancer, it’s implied. How they loved or cared before this innovation remains for the marketing-corporate geniuses to explain.
But they need not explain anything for the postmodern mottos are “stop making sense” and, especially, “who is the master, that’s all!” Humpty Dumpty rules the roost. In honor of the Day, AOL provides email users a pink surround; how thoughtful.
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It is in the little routines and slogans of life that a culture defines itself, the details of public speech and symbols. With Coors Lite, Dunkin Donuts and their successor health ‘care’ ads dominating sports casts, it is clear the managers and masters of our culture consider moronic men the coin of the realm. From “epicene willowy youths” burbling on TV, to “fat gelding” Doctors at body recycling centers there’s a lot waiting at the end of the road . And when tragedies strike, the ‘thought leaders’ scratch our heads for us and wonder why kids go wrong. “She’s a Beer Man…”
1. Anthony Burgess, The Wanting Seed (1962; W.W. Norton 1996), 3 passim.
This is an edited version of an essay published in April 1998.
© 2009 Eugene Narrett - All Rights Reserved