Who let the dogs out?

Men are dogs, aren’’t they?

Adrants notes a trend in the ad world: portraying men as "clueless idiots.”"

His case in point is a Domino’s Pizza ad that shows guys salivating at the sound of a door bell in a hardware store.  If you haven’’t seen it, you can find it here, courtesy of Ad Age.

Adrants thinks this might be a "reaction" to all those years of portraying women as belittled housewives.” 

I beg to differ (no pun intended).  The Domino’s ad shows guys in their new persona: as big, happy lugs with simple appetites and not a brain between them.  For several years now, we have seen men portrayed as Labradors, or, in this case, as German shepherds.

Men communicate through actions, as a German shepherd does.  [N]on-verbal communication is all you can rely on to understand your dog.  It is all you should rely on to understand a man.  […]  Your chances of turning your romantic vision of a relationship into a reality improve dramatically once you come to recognize and accept that, in a relationship, men are as different from you as they can possibly be.  (Sterling, A. Justin. 1992. What Really Works With Men. New York: Warner Books, pp. 86, 88.  Thanks to Denise McLeod for this reference.)

Men don’’t have to be dogs.  The novel Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman and the film Someone Like You (2001, Tony Goldwyn) suggests that it makes more sense if we think of them as cows.  In The Animal (2001, Luke Greenfield), the protagonist (Rob Scheider) plays a dog, monkey, dolphin and goat.  The point is, men are now seen an animals, elemental, appetitive, and, as Adrants says, clueless.

Where in the dickens is going on here?  I think this new trend is a follow on from the feminism of the 1970s.  When "second wave” feminism fall apart, we were looking at a gender stand off.  A key statement here was the Madonna "boy toy” video of some years ago, which argued that women might as well present themselves as sexual objects.  Men were never not going to treat them as sexual objects, so it was time for women to "get real"” and act accordingly.  As long as they controlled and profited from the outcome of this treatment, a new sexual "parity" was possible.

This is the "gender separatism”" I have addressed before in this blog (2002.12.24) and it is as Adrants say, a little sad.  But what’’s especially sad is that men never seem to object to this notion that they are when all is said and done, big, happy Labradors.  For many people, those who embraced a socio-biology point of view, this seems to be a final reckoning with the facts of the matter.  But it serves us to remember that is a trend like any other, and that this too shall pass. 

The anthropology of contemporary culture is a study of cultural categories that are constantly in a state of transformation.  The categories that define gender are especially changeable, as we variously call for and accept new definitions of what "maleness" and "femaleness" should be.  We know, for instance, that hip hop has made an important contribution to the "man as dog" definition of maleness.  And we know that there is a generation of women coming up who are, they tell me, thoroughly sick and tired of the present terms of reference. 

This will be an interesting trend to keep an eye on.  Our culture is a little like the weather in Ireland, "if you don’t like what you see at the moment, wait awhile and it will change."  It won’t be long before Dominoes is selling pizza with a different notion of what men are.  In the meantime, I feel like Godfrey Cambridge, who, when asked what he thought about Jimmy J.J. Walker, the TV star who entered every room shouting, "Dy-no-mite,"” said quietly, "That doesn’’t happen at my house.”"

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