April 15, 2011

What Is A Real Man?





nope


"Real Men Don't Buy Girls" pretends to be a PSA against child sex slavery.  What it really is an effort in rebranding.

In this clip, you see Ashton Kutcher.  If you had to find 300M Americans to be on a list of "Real Men," and every person in America except for Ashton Kutcher had been eaten by a giant squid, Ashton Kutcher would still not make that list, ever.  This isn't to say he's a bad person-- he stuck with Demi (admittedly, not hard to do) and seems to have done right by the Willis kids-- but he's not in Jung's Psychological Types.

In the clip he's disheveled, unshaven, he's wearing a knit cap, he has dirty socks-- real men  don't care about their appearance.  But he can't even fake it; his stubble is carefully maintained, and I don't know any guy in the world who has an extra pack of socks available "just in case."  No guy buys socks unless they need them right now; if you see a guy picking up a pack, he stepped in a river.  You see a guy buying underwear, he's going to put them on in the car.  

Real Men, as defined in these ads, means 35+yo men acting like 10th graders.  All of the men in the PSAs-- Justin Timberlake, Jaime Foxx, Bradley Cooper-- are unmarried. Kutcher is technically married, but in the PSA he "isn't."  Yes, he's wearing a ring, but the room is obviously only for him.  There are no decorations;  the only visible book is "Travel As a Political Act" which they give you free at high school graduation.  There's a crumpled shirt in the corner, waiting for Saturday when he can take it to his mom's.




Here's Bradley Cooper reprising his Hangover look, and you can tell he's a Real Man because he eats breakfast cereal.  Meanwhile, he eats it out on a deck that no guy has and crosses his legs the way no man ever does. 




I know Jaime Foxx is a real man because I saw him in a Kanye West video pretending to be Ray Charles singing about bitches.  Also, he drinks beer because that's what real men do; never mind he puts the beer to his lips like he's a bulimic actress fumbling her way through a Doritos commercial.

All of these "real men" are pretending to be what they think a "real man" is.  But it's clear that they have no idea what that means-- so they go for image. 

The end of the ads puts each actor's face in a picture, and then cuts to other real men-- Die Hard Bruce Willis, Cowboy Tom Selleck, Han Solo Harrison Ford.  Those are all fictional portrayals of real men.  But by putting Jaime, Bradley and Ashton next to them, they inherit the branding.

All of this is conscious, purposeful emulation of images.  If I don't shave; if I act like John McClain;  if I am single-- then I am a real man.  It doesn't work.  The ads grossly reveal how obviously they are faking it-- even though they actually are real men.  What makes them not real men is precisely the conscious pretending to be a real man.

That last part is the important piece.  Here's an example: the one thing Ashton Kutcher has done in his life which is indisputably evidence of being a real man is that stayed with Demi and helped raise and support her kids.  Say whatever else you want about this egomaniac, that is a real behavior that is of real consequence, that is the essence of "real man."   But Ashton himself doesn't see that-- he even tries to hide it.  None of these people do.  Maybe because they're actors, maybe because they are part of The Dumbest Generation of Narcissists In The History Of The World-- they cannot help but put appearances over behavior.  

Note also that at the end, it is a woman, a super hot It-Girl like Jessica Biel or Eva Longoria, who judges what a real man is.  That gives them considerable power.  We the viewers  understand that it is their sexiness that lets them be the judges of men, but did anyone notice that they also become the ones to judge who is a real woman?  Hence their endorsement of Arianna Huffington and Randi Zuckerberg(?!)  And in that endorsement, the It-Girl brands herself as not just a pretty face-- smart by association-- after all, she was smart enough to choose Randi Zuckerberg and not some dumb model.  It's transparent and patronizing, and a lie.  Does she actually believe she can convince men that Randi Zuckerberg is a "real woman" just because she said so?  The answer is yes, she believes it.  Since she can judge men, she can also judge women.

So what have we learned from these ads?  Real men are image; real women are hot, or liberals.

---

See also Does The "Real Men" ad work?







Comments

I don't get it. Are they g... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 12:37 PM | Posted by eduardo: | Reply

I don't get it. Are they going for irony, that the guys in the video AREN'T real men? They don't act like the real man as described by the narration - ok so Bradley Cooper hires prostitutes? Oh, no, the title under his photo album picture says "Real Man." I'm sure there will be NO THAI PROSTITUTE JOKES in Bradley Cooper's new Hangover 2 movie that might glamorize irresponsible [sex] travel in Thailand.

Was there a screening process to ask every actor pictured whether he had purchased the services of a prostitute before? What if it was just trading drugs for sex with a girl at a club? Bruce Willis (pictured as Real Man) even makes jokes now about his own 80's party past.

Jaime Foxx is unusual as a "Real Man" choice because of widespread rumors in the entertainment industry that he is bisexual.

While the cause is worthy, this is an absolutely terrible campaign.

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Enjoy tossing red meat to t... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 12:57 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Enjoy tossing red meat to the crowd? I'm trying to think of how many of your buttons this horribly executed and ill-advised campaign pushed ... you pulled out all the stops to defend some sort of real masculinity, tsk tsk sexual minorities (bisexuals must not be "real" men) and take unrelated pot shots at liberals. A regular trifecta of knee-jerk reactions.

As it's a Friday lunch special, feel free to down-rate ... and have a great weekend y'all.

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agreed that this is a ridic... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 2:26 PM | Posted by Buck: | Reply

agreed that this is a ridiculous and confused campaign rooted in branding, but i'd say cooper's leg-crossing and foxx's beer-drinking fall within the range of the campaign's awareness, at least - aren't they playing with masculine stereotypes in enough divergent ways (for example, presenting a lineage of variously crafted cartoon men in cartoon frames) to suggest that any subtle and time-sensitive differences in the branded conception of manhood (to include the whole metrosexual spectrum) are irrelevant compared to the very real moral problem of human rights violations?

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Another giant celebrity cir... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 2:52 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Another giant celebrity circlejerk. Everybody goes home knowing they did their part and changed the world. Good job, fellas. Have a nice pat on the back -- you've earned it.

Too bad no guy booking a flight to Thailand is going to reconsider because Ashton Kutcher sniffed dirty socks.

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They have to know this isn'... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 3:47 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

They have to know this isn't gonna make anyone reconsider their moral stance on child prostitution, so what is it for? Does it just mean "we're onto you, don't think you can get away with it forever"?

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I'm pretty sure that when t... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 4:30 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I'm pretty sure that when they're making TV commercials with celebrities it's an admission that law enforcement is impotent on the subject.

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"...tsk tsk sexual minoriti... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 5:22 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Liz: | Reply

"...tsk tsk sexual minorities (bisexuals must not be "real" men) and take unrelated pot shots at liberals."

Who exactly are you referring to? Because Alone never mentioned sexual orientation - the first commenter did. (Nice reading comprehension.)

And do you want to explain how the comment about the left leaning politics is either off topic or, y'know, wrong? Because right now it looks like you're dismissing something because you just don't like it and have no answer.

"As it's a Friday lunch special, feel free to down-rate ..."

I've always strongly suspected that anyone who tries to show how little they care about those downward arrows, probably cares a little too much. Otherwise, they'd just leave their comment and see what people think.

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From what television taught... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 5:48 PM | Posted by ErisGuy: | Reply

From what television taught me as a child, a real man would have poured cheap beer in the cereal box instead of milk.

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I don't think that my argum... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 7:42 PM | Posted by eduardo: | Reply

I don't think that my argument about Foxx is actually based in a hateful prejudice - it's based in logic. I do sense a lot of hypocrisy in the ads themselves from the people in them.

First, if one believes the rumor, you wouldn't expect Foxx to "buy girls," because he would prefer boys. Second, I would think it IS odd to hold out a 'sexual minority' bisexual as a "Real Man" in a campaign designed to avert selected sexual activities, then following his appearance up with a series of caricature hyper-masculine action heroes.

You could argue that gender attraction and purchasing sexual activity are not behaviors. But any time that you are attacking a behavior (buying sex) as being some unacceptable deviation away from the mean behavior range (monogamous heterosexual unions?), using someone who doesn't fall within a typical range of sexual behavior probably shouldn't be your lodestar. Bisexuality may even be more rare than use of prostitutes, at least as a % of population participating. Recent surveys have shown that the homosexual and bisexual identity at around 3%, and prostitute use at 15%.

I didn't mention this before, but... Harrison Ford? While those I know who have dealt with him in Jackson Hole, WY say he is a cool guy, I think his strip club exploits are fairly well publicized over the last decade. He's allegedly a "regular." The fact that a guy who pays for lapdances can be used in an anti-prostitution advertisement totally kills any credibility the campaign could have had. Who's in the next web ad, Eliot Spitzer? Charlie Sheen?

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Argh, typo ¶3, "gender attr... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 7:44 PM | Posted by eduardo: | Reply

Argh, typo ¶3, "gender attraction and purchasing sexual activity are not [b]equivalent[/b] behaviors."

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This is tangential to the p... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 8:05 PM | Posted by Bi-winning: | Reply

This is tangential to the point, but it's been reported that Harrison Ford personally helps rescue workers in dangerous situations in his private helicopter. I don't think he's personally commented on that, though.

So well, I think anonymous heroes who put their lives in the line for others are "real men" for a wide range of conceptions of masculinity -- more power to them if they could go Bono and choose to keep it hush -- I say fuck it if the man sees hookers or strippers.

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I'm reading the ads as "dud... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 8:54 PM | Posted by Elspeth: | Reply

I'm reading the ads as "dudes, the bar is pretty low sometimes, and that's ok; there's low that we can laugh at, and low that nobody's laughing at. Know the difference."


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Real men are men who don't ... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 9:26 PM | Posted by heysherri: | Reply

Real men are men who don't apologize for being themselves. They are guided by personal character, whatever that may be, regardless of what society or hot women would prefer. They are fine alone and don't need you or hot women. Of course all the men in the commercial are unmarried. What woman wants a man she can't change? A real woman might want such a man, but she doesn't need you either.

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I don't care if they do it ... (Below threshold)

April 15, 2011 9:26 PM | Posted by Paula: | Reply

I don't care if they do it well- I am so happy they are trying.
Stop being so bitter- people are stupid- this is what it takes to get any attention.
I wish they would talk about womens reproductive rights, voting rights, and economic health as well.
It would be a miracle if they confronted religious beliefs about women asking for it or being less as human beings. But... i am happy awareness at all. This world is better then ever and it still really sucks.

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Because pedophiles will tot... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2011 12:19 AM | Posted by Chiara: | Reply

Because pedophiles will totally stop their activities because they want SO MUCH to be like Ashton Kutcher.

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Yep.At first I did... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2011 1:08 AM | Posted, in reply to Elspeth's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Yep.

At first I didn't get these ads at all. Seemed like a hodge podge of overrated celebs desperate for attention.

Then I got the joke. Guys do a lot of stupid stuff, like eat cereal out of the box with a soup spoon, or sniff their dirty socks. Guys do some stupid stuff, but decent guys NEVER buy girls.

That's the idea.

"Real men" is a mockery. It's a joke. These hypermasculine male stereotypes are intended to be funny (like, what, being a cowboy makes you a real man? Or hans solo? Those aren't real people).


The point is that guys get away with a lot of stuff (like being dirty and lazy) but sexual abuse is not acceptable.

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This is a pointless campaig... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2011 1:14 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This is a pointless campaign, because anyone who might ever consider forcing a girl into sexual activity is not at all interested in ashton kutcher, jaime foxx, bradley cooper, or eva longoria. These are celebs who appeal to girls and feminine men. Why didnt they throw in ru paul and oprah too?

In general, if you are the type of man to force girls into sexual activity, you really don't care all that much what society thinks about it. It's something you will do in secret, deny it if questioned, because you don't care about peoples feelings, other than your own. You might not brag about it, but an advertisement like this won't have any influence either way.

The only way to reduce sexual abuse rates is to make it much more threatening to men to do it. Strict prison sentences, blackballing your name in the community, etc. It's too easy to rape someone and get away with it as it is now. People who commit sexual abuse don't care about other people's feelings, so an appeal to morality will fail. You have to treat them like misbehaving dogs, and simply choke the chain tighter if they show signs of primality.

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"Because pedophiles will to... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2011 1:21 AM | Posted by heysherri: | Reply

"Because pedophiles will totally stop their activities because they want SO MUCH to be like Ashton Kutcher."

There might be a couple people who aren't sure if they want to be pedophiles or Ashton Kutcher. You only advertise to the undecided.

If I was advertising to the undecided in this case, what would I do? Would I claim that sex with old women is hot? Yes, I would since I am a hot old woman, but that's not the angle they went with here. They went with the angle that child porn is hot, but wrong, so be a narcissist and masturbate to yourself instead.

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"Robert Scoble is a real ma... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2011 3:19 AM | Posted by JM: | Reply

"Robert Scoble is a real man, are you?"

I couldn't decide whether to laugh or to cry.

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The Ad has been read into f... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2011 4:37 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The Ad has been read into far too much. The add is not saying anything about what a real man is (if anything it is just a play on cultural stereotypes, there are many cultures that would not pick up on the reasoning that because he is drinking a beer, smelling socks, etc that he is a man but for a strange reason we like to associate the two) but rather the main reason the adds are presented is to show what a real man is not. A real man is not someone that purchases prostitutes, specifically in this case child prostitutes or sex slaves. Thus the whole add wrapping up into "Real men don't buy girls".

Not What a real man is but what a real man Isn't

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I disagree. I think that a ... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2011 8:39 AM | Posted, in reply to Bi-winning's comment, by SusannahFC: | Reply

I disagree. I think that a well-rounded "real man" is considered so by his every action, not just SOME actions. You can't play half a role or a part of a role and expect to be treated as the whole role. If you're the real deal - a real man, then you are a real man in all areas of your life. What you do is who you are.

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Don't tell me that sexual s... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2011 12:04 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Don't tell me that sexual slavery is limited to girls. To make a real impact there is supposed to be an ad by some Paris Hilton, sniffing whatever he might or awallowing whatever he wants to, and then some Elton John proclaiming "Real Gay don't buy boys!" That would be real balanced I'd say.

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Wait, what? I thought the ... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2011 4:16 PM | Posted by philtrum: | Reply

Wait, what? I thought the men in the ads were parodying Foul Bachelor Frog-style behaviour, not claiming that real manly men replace clothes instead of washing them or eat cereal out of the box. We watch Ashton Kutcher not do laundry, and the tagline is "real men do laundry". So Ashton Kutcher, as presented in the ad, is not a real man. Right?

The ads are saying that these behaviours presented as masculine -- specifically, being wildly inept at domestic chores -- are pathetic, and trying to say that buying sex from underaged girls is pathetic in the same way.

I don't think it's a particularly well-conceived set of ads, but I'm pretty sure it's not meant to make us admire the manliness of Ashton Kutcher.

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The analysis in this blog p... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2011 8:03 AM | Posted by Medusa: | Reply

The analysis in this blog post is way off the mark. Lots of people missing the whole tongue-in-cheek point of the PSAs.

"Real men are image"

Exactly, this is the whole point of the PSAs. That the idea of 'real man as image' is a false and superficial one. That is precisely the message they are trying to communicate. And they know that pretend men like Han Solo and John McClane are just that...pretend. They aren't real, they are images, ideas.

I think it's obvious that the producers were aware that smelling your socks and opening beer with your remote are not activities that indicate the behavior of a real 'real man'.

It's an appeal to those who do think that eating cereal out of a box or just throwing socks out instead of washing them has something to do with manliness. Those that believe that Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis must be real men simply because they play them in movies. Because some of those people who hold these idiotic ideas are also the same morons involved in the sex trade, who think buying and selling sex makes them a 'real man'.

And to those of you who say that ads like this will have no effect on the morality of those involved in the sex trade, I'd say that is probably correct, but you are also missing the mark.

It's to appeal to their NARCISSISM. Not their morality.

I think the goal was to confront these idiots with how idiotic they really look. These ads are supposed to be mirrors for the targeted demographic. Those who wish to portray themselves as 'real men' don't want to come across like idiots, right? Like the boys-pretending-to-be-men that they really are?

Unfortunately, I fear the irony displayed in these ads will be lost on those idiots for whom they are made, because they are too moronic and/or non-self aware to understand or be able to get what's really going on with these ads.

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You have to treat them l... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2011 9:29 AM | Posted by Worms: | Reply

You have to treat them like misbehaving dogs, and simply choke the chain tighter if they show signs of primality.

Nice. Even better, shoot every abuser who's been found guilty because of DNA evidence. For the same reason people kill rabid dogs too.

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the impression I got from t... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2011 9:41 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

the impression I got from these video is that they merely represented the vision of a real guy from the view point of a clueless female

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What is a real man?<p... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2011 12:10 PM | Posted by Davey: | Reply

What is a real man?

Don't ask me, ask an anthropologist - they'll have some idea as to the ways that masculinity has consistently manifested itself throughout the ages.

My guess is that those traits would include: being quick, decisive, courageous, and strong.

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Another thing you'll find i... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2011 5:22 PM | Posted, in reply to Davey's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Another thing you'll find if you ask an anthropologist about real men: they're extremely warlike. (Read _War Before Civilization_ or _Before the Dawn_.)

And yes, they buy girls. The unit of account in Irish mythology is the price of a female slave.

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Hah, and to think my countr... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2011 3:17 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Tats: | Reply

Hah, and to think my country's original currency was something as boring as squirrel pelts. Also, our language doesn't have separate 3rd person pronouns for men and women, and we gave women the right to vote as one of the first countries in the world.

Men here must be wussies, eh?

Or then true masculinity is something apart from oppressing others, be they men or women...

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I'm thinking the real messa... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2011 8:18 AM | Posted by Jess: | Reply

I'm thinking the real message is that "real men" should feel guilty and pull out their wallet. If not, you'll become pathetic and forget how to shave.

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"And yes, they buy girls. T... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2011 9:12 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Liz: | Reply

"And yes, they buy girls. The unit of account in Irish mythology is the price of a female slave."

Not quote accurate. The unit of acount was actually cattle. Where I think you're making the mistake is that female slaves were not counted as people - their worth was seen as being equal to three cows.

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But isn't that what you alw... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2011 9:11 PM | Posted by meistergedanken: | Reply

But isn't that what you always tell guys to do - "fake it"?

Stop giving mixed signals!

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What is a real man? Obvious... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2011 9:31 AM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

What is a real man? Obviously, TLP is an example.
Hey, I just discovered there is actually a valid medical questionnare called the TLP Questionnaire. Search for it in Pubmed. (If you are under 30yo, sure, you can try Google.)

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Regarding Irish slave-girls... (Below threshold)

April 19, 2011 7:26 PM | Posted, in reply to Liz's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Regarding Irish slave-girls as currency:

I was thinking of specifically the following paragraph of the Tain, a speech by Queen Maeve:

"Go thou to him, macRoth, and ask for me of Darè the loan for a year of the Brown Bull of Cualnge, and at the year's end he shall have the meed of the loan, to wit, fifty heifers and the Donn Cualnge himself. And bear thou a further boon with thee, macRoth. Should the borderfolk and those of the country grudge the loan of that rare jewel that is the Brown Bull of Cualnge, let Darè himself come with his bull, and he shall get a measure equalling his own land of the smooth Plain of Ai and a chariot of the worth of thrice seven bondmaids and he shall enjoy my own close friendship." (http://adminstaff.vassar.edu/sttaylor/Cooley/Occasion.html)

("My own close friendship," incidentally, is a bowlderized version of "an affair with me." Queen Maeve's husband was just a little bit wimpy.)

I never looked up whether the _cumal_ had an approximate conversion rate into cattle, but it would almost certainly have to.

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yeah, the jamie beer drinki... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2011 9:45 AM | Posted, in reply to Buck's comment, by zxcvb: | Reply

yeah, the jamie beer drinking part is obviously tongue in cheek. but i guess Real Men are autistic.

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I kind of don't get TLP's p... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2011 12:53 PM | Posted by kurt: | Reply

I kind of don't get TLP's point. I get that the real point of the PSA is to rebrand the image of a real man, but why does TLP have disdain for Kutcher et al. for failing to portray his ideal of a real man?

One message I get from reading this blog is that pretending to be an image such as a "real man" is not a good way to behave. Yet he seems to support Willis' and Sellek's portrayal of real men, the kind that would buy socks after stepping in a river and never sit with his legs crossed like Cooper. Aren't these images equally invalid as the images Kutcher et al portrayed? They are afterall just actors also pretending.

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I think that the commercial... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2011 10:54 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I think that the commercials are serious -- the highly-paid male feminists, eaters of fat-free plain yogurt, and other Hollywood types behind them really do think that "real men" are androgynous slobs and fictional drug smugglers, and they're trying to send the message that "real men don't buy girls."

Perhaps ridiculing the idea of "real men" for forty years was less prudent than it looked at the time... This begins to sound like something Theodore Dalrymple would say.

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FYI, bisexual attraction an... (Below threshold)

April 23, 2011 4:36 PM | Posted by Whatever: | Reply

FYI, bisexual attraction and activity very common among people, although only a small percentage of people check the "bisexual" box on surveys

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TLP daddin' out.... (Below threshold)

April 24, 2011 12:44 PM | Posted by crumbskull: | Reply

TLP daddin' out.

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I was thinking the same thi... (Below threshold)

May 2, 2011 7:57 PM | Posted by ZS: | Reply

I was thinking the same thing about beer commercials.

Do real men drink light beer (and take care of their bodies, or say, healthy/athletic elitism) or do they drink regular beer (and participate in some sort of good beer/connaisseur elitism)?

Both ads ridicule the man who doesn't participate in what they are promoting, making them unattractive, incompetent, etc.

Once again, the bartenders are always women and they are the ones that get to ask and then deem the man worthy or not.

This creates an interesting tension when I am staring at the coolers, trying to find something that makes me look manly.

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In America, manhood, exists... (Below threshold)

May 3, 2011 9:30 PM | Posted by Jevioso: | Reply

In America, manhood, exists in a state of anarchy. It is whatever you want it to be.

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Wait, now this reads as:</p... (Below threshold)

May 9, 2011 3:33 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by DG: | Reply

Wait, now this reads as:

"You might be a dumb guy, just don't be so dumb that you buy a teen girl"

Here is the most effective ad these guys could come up with:

A guy walks into a massage parlor and asks for the happy ending

they bring out a young girl who looks way too young to be there and say she is great.

He looks her up and down and says "Are you kidding me? I am a man I want a woman not a fucking kid"


Credits roll.

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These ad campaigns are so t... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2013 2:00 AM | Posted by real men........ real joke.: | Reply

These ad campaigns are so twisted and confusing.

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