Has all the furor over the “Grace from Boston” Peloton commercial distracted the misogyny police from noticing other toxic patriarchy ads? Dr. Pepper features a (presumptive) husband, a young gorgeous mom (presumably), both with faces painted red and white, representing some college known only as State, and their young son, who is holding a ball and a foam finger. The kid says, “go State”, while the woman smiles indulgently and the man exults, “he’s a State fan, he’s definitely my son!” No doubt resenting his dad’s (we presume) equating paternity with football loyalty, the kid reverses field and declares “State stinks…overrated.”, throwing a ball at dad’s face. The man sputters helplessly while the woman rolls her eyes as she sips Dr. Pepper, her expression one of feigned innocence. What’s happening here? Her expression says it all. Her husband is about to berate her for secretly teaching their son to hate State, just as he blames her for everything that’s wrong in their marriage, as well as State being behind in the game. She imbibes the drink with a desperate haste, fearing it might be her last for awhile; she will soon be cringing at his upraised fist, while trying to protect her son from hubby’s fury. You can bet her State sweater hides massive bruises and her face paint will soon be running from tears. So far, people still drink Dr. Pepper…….but don’t buy the stock.
Then there’s the GMC commercial, where a man and woman (the husband-wife presumption continues) stand in deep snow. He whistles, and a cuter than cute St. Bernard puppy suddenly appears, frolicking towards them. She cradles the puppy lovingly, then with a sly smile, she whistles even louder, and what should appear heading their way but a GMC truck. At first, it appears that he will sweep her off her feet with love, but to her (presumed) disappointment, the commercial ends with him hugging the truck. Once again, women show up more generous but less appreciated than men. I worry that his ego will not be able to withstand the pathetic contrast between her getting him a $34,000 truck, and he getting her a $500 purebred puppy (and what if she finds out it was a pound puppy?), and he will later lash out at her for some minor infraction of his arbitrary and oppressive rules.
However, the ultimate in misogynistic subtexts is Mayhem–actor (yes) Dean Winters–licking Tina Fey’s face while she’s driving. Mayhem is the ultra-popular mascot of….Allstate Insurance Co. Everyone knows that, as one of the GEICO opines. Mayhem humorously just wrecks things, misdirects people parking their cars to cause dents, tailgates when he’s driving to cause accidents, floods the house by leaving the water running in the bathroom and rides the Roomba self propelled vacuum, while pretending to be a cat. But pretending to be a dog, and madly slurping at a woman’s face as she tries to concentrate on driving, while his hands no doubt probe her where they shouldn’t, is not even subtle. Misogyny is not a subtext here, it’s a full throttle, out of control vehicle.
Sometimes misogyny is disguised by making an assertive woman the star of the commercial, but you really can’t fool this misogyny detective. Apple is advertising their iPhone 11 with a cameo from notably irascible celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey. It takes place in a Costco or Sam’s Club type warehouse, where Ramsey is preparing little appetizers for the customers. A young white woman who is together with a young black man approach Ramsey, the woman adjusting her cellphone camera to take his picture, while she breathlessly exclaims, “Gordon Ramsey!” While Ramsey is forcefully pontificating, no doubt to impress her while entertaining thoughts of seduction, she is seen in side view, her facial expressions changing as he bangs on the table to make a point. Sexist pig that I am, I notice how cute she looks every time she jumps a little with each bang. Her boyfriend (I presume) has eyes only for the appetizers, but as he reaches out his hand to grab one, Ramsey slaps it away, with the abrupt admonition, “use a cocktail stick.” Her formerly cute visage immediately twists into a grimace, not at Ramsey’s rudeness or his assault on her friend’s hand, but at her friend’s lack of etiquette. She angrily stamps her foot, while chiding him quite superfluously, “use a cocktail stick.” Is she angry at being embarrassed by the guy she came with in front of a celebrity? Is she racist? Is she unpleasantly surprised by his lack of manners? The misogyny here is her mercurial shift from good- natured photographer to angry overseer, adopting an expression and peremptory tone worthy of Django Unchained. Misogyny and racism in a single commercial! Apple, I thought you were woke!