by Kara Nelson
Since TiVo came into my life, I have been pleasantly oblivious to most of the TV commercials that used to waste my time with whatever they were trying to sell and whatever clever way they were trying to sell it. And I must say, I am now quite happy to use the remote control to speed right through these ads and get back to the show. But sometimes, I get distracted and forget to press the fast-forward button. Recently, during two such lapses of TiVo awareness, I was subjected to two ads that got my attention, and my goat.
Weak descendants of the long-running What would you do for a Klondike Bar? ads where people would do ridiculous things or complete seemingly impossible tasks in order to earn one of the foil-wrapped, chocolate-covered ice cream treats, the latest versions of these commercials show husbands being rewarded for things like putting a glass in the dishwasher, for not ogling a woman who passes by the table where he and his wife are sitting and this is my favorite for asking a follow-up question in a conversation with his wife as shes unloading groceries and he sits at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. Hey, Dan, how about you wipe that self-congratulating smile off your ugly face, put down the newspaper for a minute and get up off your ass to help your wife with the groceries? How about that? Maybe next year you can learn to be helpful and engage in conversation at the same time. Imagine that! But dont push yourself. After all, youre only a man.
Pete Herman brought his glass into the kitchen . . . and put it in the dishwasher. Give that guy a Klondike Bar."
Dave Howell kept his eyes on his wife! Give that guy a Klondike bar!"
Dan listened to his wifes story. Give that guy a Klondike bar!
Is the Klondike corporation suggesting that these tasks are somehow ridiculous or impossible things for wives to expect of their husbands?
Perhaps, like me, you found something about these ads to be unsettling, and their attempt at humor to be somehow sad and skewed. (A quick Google search on the topic turned up quite a few blog entries about these ads.) If you are a woman, you might be miffed to see a commercial that suggests that a wife must celebrate and reward her husband for the grand feat of carrying on a conversation with her or cleaning up after himself (even if that reward is something as measly as a Klondike Bar). If you are a man if you are a self-respecting, intelligent man with reasonable expectations for yourself as a husband you might be offended by an ad campaign that reduces men to the role of trained monkeys who have learned to pretend to be interested in their partners. It seems to suggest that the existence of the thoughtful, evolved male is just a sham. No, fellas, you dont get a cookie or a banana for being part of evolution.
How about a guy who is actually interested in what his partner has to say, who isnt just trying to get points, but enjoys his wifes company and shares her interests? To me, that sounds like a happy guy. Maybe I live in a dream world, but Id rather live there than in a place where it is automatically assumed that men are lazy, lecherous, half-ass poseurs. Id like to think that a happy marriage between two intelligent, respectful individuals is not just a mirage on the horizon of a societys long-lost hopes.
Okay, I know what youre thinking. But, no Im not some tunnel-vision feminist or a devoutly strict fundamentalist. However, I do not think a man should be rewarded for not ogling an attractive woman who is not is wife. (Wow! What a guy!) Nor do I think he should be punished if he glances up as a young woman walks by. What I do think is that these ads perpetuate the warped idea that a man deserves some sort of reward for doing things that should be expected of anyone who claims to be a decent human being and a committed spouse.
I know, I know. Im sure some of you will say that Im taking it too seriously, that its just a dumb commercial and not a serious commentary on marital relationships. I agree. It is a dumb commercial. Believe me, I realize, and now celebrate, the insignificance of Klondike. Personally, I much prefer a classic Eskimo Pie, which, like a good man if you believe these Klondike ads is getting harder and harder to find.
But that doesnt mean we have to settle for a melty, messy foil full of chocolate goo or for a relationship defined by low expectations where the monkey does a trick for a treat and the trainer tries to pretend hes not a monkey.