September 25, 2013

Real Men Want To Drink Guinness, But Don't Expect Them To Pay For It

Guinness.jpgthe reason the bubbles go down is because of the drag created by the bubbles rising up the center. 
yeah, like a metaphor.

Click this ad. It's great, the internet told me so, it says it represents something good about humanity. You're going to cry and feel good about the future and then consider ordering a Guinness.  That is, unless you already like Guinness and then you're going to have a totally different reaction, like switching to Belhaven.

"The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character."

Yeah, we're sheep.  Message received.  That wasn't the message?  Are you sure?

According to social critics around the internet this ad is "such a refreshing change", "great to see sensitivity and strength combined",  "promotes a new kind of masculinity."  I'd like to know what was wrong with the old masculinity?  The one featured on Game Of Thrones?  Was it too masculine?

Before you applaud this ad for "breaking the mold of beer adverts" you would do well to remember that all ads are aspirational, not representational, and for sure not inspirational, i.e. the ad thinks this will work on the target demo because it describes an aspirational image for the demo, i.e. i.e. the ad has made several important assumptions about the kind of person who would like this ad-- not the product, the ad-- and you're not going to like them.  Still don't see it?  Take yourself back to 1990. What would this ad have looked like?

In 1990, the ad would have shown the masculinity and heroism of the crippled guy: him, in his chair, keeping up with the bipeds, both physically and mentally, taking shots and landing zingers.

Wheels (laughing):

You still throwing bricks?  What is this, a Masons' convention?  I got an idea, let's just gather up all these bricks and build a shelter for the homeless so your mom has a place to live.

Group (laughing):

Oh no he didn't just bring up your momma!

Biped (laughing):

Can someone sub in for Mr. Motherfucking March Of Dimes?  He needs to take off for two hours to watch 60 Minutes.

Group (laughing):

Ooooohhhhhh!  Snap!  His momma looks like Morley Safer!

Wheels (laughing, fouling a tree ent): 

Sorry, you either smoke or you get smoked.  And you got SMOKED!

Biped (laughing):

Tree ent! Oh, that's funny on two levels!!

(Wheels shoots but is blocked by Biped)

Biped (laughing):

It's true, white men can't jump!

("good game", high fives all around.)

Voice Over:

A real man doesn't see limits.  He doesn't see disability.  He takes on whatever life throws his way, sets up, and shoots for 3.   It's not about the best trick shot,  it's about points on the board.  And the way he handles the rebounds will define him as a man.  Life is a team sport, and most people play to lose.  For the winners, there's Guinness.

Then we'd pass the bong around and watch Simon & Simon reruns.  I may not be remembering everything accurately, it was a long time ago.

But this ad does the exact opposite: it shows a bunch of "men"-- signaled by the modern exterrnal cues of tricep tattoos, wide gaits and carefully managed stubble-- playing down to Davros's level, not as a one time offering, but as a regular weekly game

That's very sensitive, but, just curious, do these guys who grab a shower in the locker room have another weekly basketball game where they play standing up, or is this all it takes to satisfy their interest in recreational athletics?  Because I can't imagine anyone who actually likes playing basketball to be able to do it only this way.  Perhaps their Cosmo girlfriends give them two evenings off a week for bro-ing? 

Get ready for a super-sexist comment that is nevertheless 100% true, good thing my rum makes me impervious to your idiotic criticisms: reducing yourself because you think it's a show of solidarity is a straight up chick thing to do, see also Slut Walks and crying excessively for the deceased.  It was super-brave that Kellie Pickler shaved her head to support her friend with breast cancer, but what the hell was the point?  "Breast cancer awareness!"  Isn't that what the implants are for?

kellie-pickler-300.jpg getting the message out

The most generous interpretation of her "look at me" behavior would be, "I'm supporting my friend, showing that people can be beautiful even without hair, especially if they have a spectacular body and a national dance show, and a glam squad, and a wig, and are not on chemo."  Message received, oncology can bite me, I'm calling a stylist.

I can hear the grumbling, so I'll make a slight modification: only a woman would allow another person to reduce themselves in a show of support.  When Joseph Gordon-Levitt improvised the head shaving scene in 50/50,  Seth Rogen didn't then grab the hedge clippers and say, "I'm not going to let my BFF feel bad about himself"  because that would be, you know, ___________________.  "Is it gay?"  "No, no, is it retarded?"  You're both right.  Everyone's a winner!

I could use this ad as a commentary about the wussification of America, "the guilt of privilege",  the Land Of Sensitivity Training, etc, etc, but that would be wrong and anyway I don't have that kind of time.  I started writing a porn book, this book has become my own personal nightmarish Hamlet, a scary real life example of what the "return of the repressed" looks like, and FYI it looks horrifying. Remember the scene in Ju-On where whatever the hell that ghost thing is materializes in the window, not to look at anyone specifically, but... only to reveal that it is watching?

According to psychoanalysis, this is what turns me on. 


All of the psychologically necessary praise for this ad can be attributed to two things: 1) It's for Guinness, which is already a kind of masculine product;  2) the woefully deluded premise that ads try to sell you on a product.  Oh my God, what year is this?  Stop it, this is WRONG.

Ads do not try to sell you a product, is Mad Men canceled yet?  On that now unwatchable soap opera Creative stays up all night eating chinese and trading tag lines, trying to capture the essence of the product.  Essence of the product-- for whom?  In fairness, back then there was only one TV and one wallet per household, so demos tended to be a little more broad, by which I mean women.  Fair enough, and not anymore.  Now ads target a specific demographic, and tailor an aspirational message/image for that demo on which is piggybacked whatever product paid for the take out. THE PRODUCT IS IRRELEVANT.  Write it down on a sticky note next to A-B-C, it will help.

If the ad works you will consequently want the product no matter what it is, baaaaa, this is what I mean when I say ads teach you not what to want but how to want.  You could use this exact same Guinness ad to sell something as unmasculine as guar gum flavored ice cream and it would work just as well, and I know this because

While you wonder who copied what and why they bothered let me observe a key difference between this Indian ad and the American: in the Indian ad, everyone is handicapped, and the one biped joins in.  His innate importance is signaled by his Iverson jersey, keep in mind this is 2006.  That's your metaphor for an aspirational, westernized, privileged but still socially conscious young man in India surrounded by... the rest of India.   


My interest here is not the tricks the ad uses to get you to like Guinness, but what the fact of the existence of such an ad says about American men today.  It's bad.  It's really, really bad.

Let's go back to the assumptions the ad makes about its target demo.  What is the target demo?  Think about this.   Not who drinks Guinness already, this is not a "brand reinforcement" ad.  Who are the people the ad is trying to attract?   The ad doesn't comment on Guinness drinkers, it is making assumptions about people who like the ad.  Who is the ad trying to attract?

"Is it paraplegics?"  That's a weird guess.  "Is it basketball players?"  I'm going to assume that's code, no.  "Is it 30 something guys who play basketball and then go to bars to meet women?"  No, that's Heineken's gimmick.    Aspirational-- look at the ad: who is not those men, but considers them masculine, sees something more masculine than themselves? 

It's beta males. The best of men, except for actual men.  What is a beta male?   He is the kind of man who anxiously looks for something to identify him as a man, while doing nothing to become a man.  For him, there's Guinness.

"Hold on.  You're saying that Guinness assumes if I like this ad I'm like, a... loser?"  Yes.  Or a girl.  Tagline:




I'm sorry, is this an ad for beer or golden retrievers?  Why not "good nutrition" or "isn't always yapping about her frenemies"? Just because the guy saying them sounds like a man doesn't mean these words are branding for men. Usually "male" values are the things you have to teach or encourage people to do, like bravery, or sacrifice, or stoicism, where the default, the easier thing, is to not do those things.   Dedication and friendship don't code for men, they are too basic for men, they code simply for person, although women get associated with them because... not much more is expected of women.  For whatever reason society has made the observation that women seem to be worse at friendship then men, and that reason is called TV, way to set the bar really really low, Shonda.  "You're... my... person."  Ugh, Jesus, someone Silkwood me.  It's not that these values are inferior, it's that you can't imagine someone else needs to praise them-- or that any person alive or dead would feel good about themselves for having them-- or would seek to be described this way.  "I'm a good friend."  Of course you are, there's no sacrifice involved, plus it gives you someone to talk at.  This Guinness ad is for the demographic that aspires to positive experiences and pretend challenges buried in rhetorical cover so to avoid the guilt about its meaninglessness.  "The cedar roasted asparagus has good chew. I don't know how to enjoy it, so I'll Instagram it."

Wheelchair b-ball is nice but it has nothing to do with being a man or masculinity, or females and femininity, or anything, and the point here is that the public's desire to link it to masculinity is a sign of three very bad things: a) a pervasive sense of insecurity and inadequacy in many men which has a precise psychoanalytic characterization that I will not elaborate on here and which the ad reassures you is soooo not true, you loyal friend, you-- you're a real man; b) another example of the media teaching people how to want, how to think, in this case about themselves; c) the general public's exhaustion with masculine men who don't deliver on their masculinity,  i.e. and e.g. getting the check.

"I think your interpretation of the ad is wrong."  Maybe this is the Dexedrine talking, but I think you liked the ad.  Do a system check: did you like the ad?  "Well, I kinda liked the song."  Yeah.  That's why it was also in Grey's Anatomy


You may have heard that it's hard to be a modern woman because of "the impossible expectations media sets", but you should try it from the penis side.   Not measuring up in America generates a distinct response in men, let's see if I can elicit it in you.  No?  Wanna bet?

Here's an ad that is female analogue of the Guinness ad, i.e. it played on the same show and time.  Let's run the experiment. 

Storyboard:  Raining.  Pretty brunette in Iris & Ink trench and skirt sufficiently above the knee comes out of a Lean In and, oopsy, she has no umbrella. Oh my God, that's so hysterical.  So she runs to a passing salaryman and huddles underneath his.   He's surprised, obviously, the last half-Asian to come up on a white guy in the rain was The Ring and we all know how that ended.  (Code for "Asian" by walking by a Chinese restaurant.)  She gazes into his eyes.  "We're headed the same way, right?"  she NLPs.  "Yeah!" he responds, but five steps later you can see his pacemaker go off as she blue balls him for another umbrella that crosses their path, this time a basketball player's.  (Everybody still with me? Let's keep going.)  A few steps later, she froggers off towards the next passing guy, and when she settles in their eye contact lingers for longer than this married guy has had in a decade.   "After you," she says in some kind of way that means some kind of thing.   Three more steps, and she dumps him and his thrifty tote bag for a luxury SUV.   She closes the door, a sigh of relief.  She made it.

So?  How do you feel?  Here's the tag line: "it's all in how you get there."  Well, how did she get there?

Here's one interpretation: she's a cunt, by which I mean a woman.   The commercial represents a reality about women, hopping from guy to guy, taking, taking,  taking.  And that sigh at the end was what she really thinks of men.  =choads.

You'll observe that this harpy never said thank you, she never even said excuse me.  She just assumed it was ok, she was entitled, the world belongs to women, and when she got as far as his five and a half inches could take her, she was off to the next guy, black guys and homewrecking.  Even better, she is proud of how she pulled it off, because getting to her car isn't the only goal, learning how to manipulate emasculated men is just as important, note she never used a woman.  The tag line reminds women that they shouldn't feel to guilty about it, men are dispensable.   As an aside, buy a Cadillac.

That's one interpretation, but the striking thing about the ad is how she explicitly did not slut her way from man to man.  All she did was ask to use their umbrella-- and got it. That's the Female Power.  What's enraging isn't that women are sluts, but that they are not sluts-- that they are able to manipulate men, get what they want, without paying for it.  That message to female viewers is what gets men angry.

The problem with this analysis is that it assumes the message is for women only, as if women are the ones who buy themselves Cadillacs, and as if men would not be exposed to this commercial except by a wife who drags her husband over to it, "oooh, look at this great ad!  I want a car!"  But this ad was on at 4pm on ESPN, same time as the Guinness ad, for the specific male demographic that... is home watching ESPN at 4pm, e.g. guys home at 2.  What's the aspirational message to those men?   She's exactly the kind of woman they wish was in love with them.  "I want the kind of woman with max female power, that can get anything she wants, and that everyone wants, but no one can get-- and she picked me."  See also female superheroes.

Ok, but why does she need to manipulate men?  What does the ad assume that women assume about men?

There's a gigantic error in the ad, yet to most people the ad is totally believable, like this is a  hidden camera vid, this error is invisible to them; and if this error was corrected this ad would have never been possible.  Do you see it?  Why didn't one of these "men"  just walk her to her car?   Three guys, not one thought of this?  She's under your umbrella and your natural instinct was not to protect, to help?  So wrapped up in what it all means and power imbalances that you couldn't just... behave?  Ok, forget about chivalry-- out of sheer selfishness, a hail mary longshot?  Sure, no expectations, but what the hell, let's see where it goes, maybe she'll ask you out for a Guinness?  Were you so insulted by her "entitlement" that you couldn't just try?  Or so flustered because a woman that you have stripped of her ordinary humanity and forced her to be a symbol of value chose to be near you, your brain couldn't  figure out what to do next?  In which case her decision to leave you for another umbrella was astutely correct, odd how she and the commercial knew that.  All men are good for is an umbrella because she cannot rely on men to act like... men.

The point is not simply that those men should have walked her to her car, the point is that the ad knew with 100% certainty that it would not occur to any man watching to do this; that it would not occur to any woman watching that it's weird no man thought to do this.  Meanwhile, what did occur to men was that she's a jerk.

Look at it from your daughter's perspective: should she date the guy who walks her to her car, or the guy who doesn't walk her to her car?  "You can't judge based on that!"  What else can I judge on?  Didn't you judge her based on her wanting to stay dry?

"Hold on.  You're saying that Cadillac assumes if I hate this ad I'm like, a... loser?"  Etc, and so forth.  Love and hate are opposites for lovers, not ads, for ads the goal is to stimulate want through any emotion convenient.

Tagline: Ladies, it's all in how you get there, because you're on your own.

This is what the ad is telling women, and you, its foundational assumption: the public's exhaustion with men who don't deliver on their masculinity, their general loss of ambition, drive, respectfulness... and purpose; coupled with men's haunting suspicion that their true worth-- "in other people's minds"-- is signaled by women's opinions of them, after all, money, jobs-- all that is fake.  Hence the need for something to redefine masculinity, to make it real.

"Well, feminism has emasculated men."  Really?  A girl did that to you?


The Guinness ad proposes that what makes men men is that they don't act like stereotypical men, if and only if they look like stereotypical men, otherwise they're not men.  That sentence is 100% correct, but it could only have been written by a madman.  Reshoot that commercial  using the cast of The Big Bang Theory and the entire aspirational message is obliterated.  The mere fact that they took stereotypical-looking men to use as contrasts to "stereotypical men" means they themselves assume that "stereotypical men" are indeed the real men, everyone else is waiting to be labeled, by some other omnipotent entity, that they are close.  And if this is confusing, just change "men" to "women."

It's confusing because the Guinness ad is a mess of signals and symbols that you usually only see purposely mixed together for parody, like a Hooters waitress who also turns out to be really smart.

Ok, she's only smart at mixology and football, but to a guy watching ESPN at 4 in the afternoon, not coincidentally the same place/time the Guinness ad and Rainy Run were running, this signals as genius.  The question is, why would the demo watching this want her to be smart ALSO?  Look at her, what more do you want?  Which is the same question as, why would the demo watching this want the Guinness guys to be "a new kind of masculinity"?   What is the precise origin of the want?

Look at the guy in the chair, gentlemen of 4pm football, that guy is aspirational you.  I'm told  Vitamin E is some kind of battalion leader, but the only reason she is talking to him is because she is smart, i.e. the fantasy for the viewer is that to talk to a girl like her he doesn't have to be interesting, engaging, witty or cool, let alone young or attractive; she's "smart" and likes "smart guys" so she's happy to stick around and talk to "smart" guys about the things that interest them.   Again, "smart" here carries the loosest possible definition so it can apply to 4pm Disney affiliates, but the point is no different than if she was solving for x.  You don't have to woo her on her terms (whatever they may be), she's ready to meet you on yours.

At this point you will no doubt think that the fantasy here is to be able to score a Hooters waitress or a 36-24-30 but this is neither true for you nor for the ad.  The point for the ad isn't her as physically attractive but her as a type-- a Hooters Waitress-- if she was thirty pounds heavier but still had the same attention to her appearance (makeup, etc), and adopted the style and mannerisms of hot girls then she would still cause that kind of approach anxiety, she would still be such a symbol, I'm pretty sure this is the entire gimmick of the Kardashians.  I know this is going to sound like madness, but 8/10 that approach anxiety is defensive, you think you want something you really do not want, that person is not for you, I don't mean not good for you, I mean you do not really want this; but anyway the point here is that the ad mixes up the symbols as humor, to fool you into thinking that what's humorous is that this type could play against type; but the horrifying, Ju-On reality is that the symbol ceases to be a symbol for you the moment she violates her own symbolism-- the moment you get to know her-- and then the want DISAPPEARS.  Just like fear.  If that ghost in the window so much as coughs like reality you will scale the wall and beat it the fuck out.

And I know all this is true because the ads told me so, in order.   You're going to be infuriated at this blonde Hooters Waitress for only being attracted to chiseled abs and a commanding phallus, but even if she miraculously chose to come under your umbrella, you'd see suddenly  she was only a brunette, huh, and you still wouldn't do anything about it.  And off she goes, a missed opportunity.  And before that ignites your amygdala into a blinding self-hatred, you will remember that it's all the cunt's fault, and besides, never mind all these girls, the fact that you're a good friend to your less fortunate friend is what makes you a man; but since you are not actually a good friend, indeed, you don't even have any friends, well, this ad will signal to yourself that you are.  Message received.

As an aside, drink Guinness.