Yes, below is a beer commercial. I know, I know…But, you see, I often find beer commercials very telling about where we’re at, they’re like a snapshot of the Zeitgeist (in part because beer companies are so loaded they can hire the best agencies to produce the most astute, pin-pointy ads). But does this one tell us where we’re at?
Actually, what is it trying to say? Set to Neil Diamond’s Hello Again, it’s about reclaiming the original bloke, freeing him from handcream and stupid handshakes and silly cocktails. The subtext is that men have been prisoners to this for the past decade or two, living a lie, trying to be something they’re not, and now it’s time to get back to “real”.
It’s quite an old discussion point.
There was a bourbon commercial about 8 years ago called The Bloke’s Dilemma that frothed about the same thing. It followed a terribly confused guy trying to balance between being a good old fashioned dude (opeing doors for chicks) and being the metrosexual that chicks expect him to be (going Dutch on a date). He can’t get it right (and the women around him bludgeon him for his conflicted efforts)…so he has a bourbon instead. At the time I thought it was very astute. They nabbed the issue right as it was arising for the first time, before the magazine stories about the Return of the Bloke, and The New Bloke.
So, are blokes still confused? Or is it just Generation X blokes, the ones who run the creative agencies that make these ads? Gen X men, I can see, are caught in the crossfire. I just spent a week on holidays with four of them – all single and, dare I say it, a little confused. This is the dilemma – they were raised by Dads who were old-school, but then had to mature with female peers who expected more of them (we want them to pull their weight with parenting, housework and to be emotionally communicative…just to keep up with us and share the burden of the dual roles we now juggle). But with no role models, and no real inclination to change (the workforce, in fact, the whole of LIFE supports men in their traditional uni-dimensional role as breadwinner)… not much really changed. Or, if it did, only in pockets (they started wearing hand cream).
The thing is Gen X women did put the pressure on blokes to go metro (I’m simplifying here). But then we changed our mind. Or, rather, we found the men who just did what we told them to do, soft. End of the day, we wanted real men who could display in some way an ability to take care of us – it’s a primal urge, but one that can take many contemporary forms.
I say this often: women want a man who makes them feel taken care of. Men want a woman who tells them they’re doing a good job. Essentialist, but true.
And when this very simple equation is disrupted, things get messy and awkward. Take this example: the men I know (aged in their 30s and early 40s) have 943857 women – aged between 20 and 40 – throwing themselves at them, due to the shortage of men in the area I live in. The men say this is great….but eventually they tire of it. Why? Because men feel best when they’re pursuing, not being pursued. You know, the hunter on the savannah thing. When denied this, they feel emasculated. Essentialist, but true, I find.
I know this is a bit of an odd post today. But it’s an issue I’m fascinated by. I get a lot of male readers asking me questions around this kind of stuff. What do you think? And what about younger blokes who’ve grown up with more role models (or, on the flipside, around more women….single-mum households or with absent fathers)? Are they feeling this conflict?
And how are men going to get clear on this issue for themselves? Do women have a responsibility to help them?