I must confess — I saw the Dodge Charger Super Bowl ad and thought it was very funny. The problem I had with it, though, was how it was pitched as “Man’s Last Stand.” As the commercial went on, I thought it was a very funny take on being a grownup. All the little things we must do every day, things that we don’t really enjoy, but must be done, are what define us as responsible adults. The original commercial goes like this:
I will get up and walk the dog at 6:30 am. I will eat some fruit as part of my breakfast. I will shave. I will clean the sink after I shave. I will be at work by 8 am. I will sit through two hour meetings. I will say yes when you want me to say yes. I will be quiet when you don’t want to hear me say no. I will take your call. I will listen to your opinion of my friends. I will listen to your friends’ opinion of my friends. I will be civil to your mother. I will put the seat down. I will separate the recycling. I will carry your lip balm. I will watch your vampire TV shows with you. I will take my socks off before getting into bed. I will put my underwear in the basket. And because I do this, I will drive the car I want to drive. Charger: Man’s Last Stand.
On the surface, it makes a good point. We all have to do things we don’t really want to do, like put up with difficult relatives and go to horrible meetings. But why is it so pointedly aimed at women, especially when a lot of that stuff consists of things a mature man should be doing anyway. And why is a Charger only a car for a man? And more to the point, how many women get to drive a cool car in exchange for all the annoying and depressing things they have to put up with? In my experience, it’s been the husband who gets the “fun car” as a reward for his hard work, and the wife gets the family wagon.
Amanda Hess introduced the women’s rebuttal to this commercial with her usual panache: “What if Dodge focused its ad on all the demands placed on the modern woman, in the hopes that a healthy reminder of that other gender-based oppression might inspire women to go out and buy a big fucking car? What would the demoralized Dodge woman say?” The rebuttal ad drives home the point that men alone shouldn’t whinge about the mighty burden of adult life. Being a grown-up sucks for everybody, perhaps more so for women since there certainly isn’t anyone defending “Woman’s Last Stand.” Except for this:
I will get up and pack your lunch at 6:30 am. I will eat half a grapefruit for breakfast. I will get the kids ready for school. I will ignore your smelly loser friend who is crashing on our couch. I will make seventy-five cents for every dollar you make doing the same job. I will assert myself and get called a bitch. I will catch you staring at my breasts but pretend not to notice. I will put my career on hold to raise your children. I will diet, Botox, and wax. Everything. I will assure you that size doesn’t matter. I will be a lady in the street but a freak in the bed. I will turn a blind eye to your ever-encroaching baldness. I will humour your Fantasy Baseball obsession. I will pretend not to notice when you cry at the end of Rudy. I will watch TV shows where fat, stupid, unattractive men have beautiful wives. I will allow you to cheat on me with other women. I will see Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Twice. I will elect male politicians who will make decisions about my body. I will listen to Rush and tell you, yes, if there were a gold medal for air-drumming, you would win it. I will get angry, and you will ask if it’s that time of the month. I will watch Superbowl commercials that depict men as emasculated and oppressed, and I will feel so fucking sorry for you.
I realise on one hand that it’s just a Super Bowl commercial, but at the same time, it’s a Super Bowl commercial, and advertising has a massive influence on the way people think and the things that are accepted in our culture. Wouldn’t it have been nicer to see the commercial be titled “Your Last Stand”? The commercial could have featured exactly the same language, shown the faces of men and women, and ended with a rallying cry for all of us responsible grown-up types to reward ourselves and have a bit of fun once in a while. Like so many incidents of sexism, I don’t disagree with the central message one bit; I just have a problem with the way it was presented.