Does Madison Avenue seek to stunt the emotional growth of men?

January 19, 2008 | By | 5 Replies More

That is the conclusion of this article by Lakshmi Chaudhry, published by In These Times:

But where “lad lit” authors disguise the dumbing-down of adult masculinity with witty prose, advertising executives are less subtle. Commercials for cell phones, fast food, beer and deodorants offer up an infantilized version of masculinity that has become ubiquitous since the rise of “lad” culture in the ’90s. These grown men act like boys—and are richly rewarded for it.

In his upcoming book, Guyland, Sociologist Michael Kimmel argues that it is not good business for men to grow up:

To be grown up is to be settled, comfortable, stable, responsible, and secure,” Kimmel says. “Those are bad conditions for advertising, which depends on our sense of insecurity, anxiety, and incompleteness.” . . . A stoic John Wayne has been replaced by the “metrosexual,” a man who is all about self-indulgence and defined almost entirely by his wallet. At the beauty salon, designer boutique or exclusive health club, a metrosexual spends, therefore he is.


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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    For a related post, see here.   And consider this post, arguing that we push hard to sexualize little girls before they're ready.   We treat girls and boys in opposite ways in this respect.

  2. What do they actually mean with "lad lit"? The first question that popped up in my mind was, do these guys really read? There are two movies I remember, "High fidelity" and "All about a boy", which if I remember right were both based on novels by the same author. Is that "lad lit"?

  3. There is also a consistent and blatant emasculation of white males in commercials that would be unforgiveable if any ethnic minority or women were the target.

    Fathers especially, are made to be the bufoon, disrespected by wife and children alike. Take note of how many commercials feature children rolling their eyes and sighing “Oh daaaaaad!” while the father looks on sheepishly. Dad can’t add, doesn’t know how to work a cell phone, is constantly putting his foot in his mouth and is generally clueless, all to the frustration and/or bemusement of the rest of his family. Mom has all the answers. There is one breakfast cereal commercial that I find especially grating in which the husband offhandedly mentions that the breakfast his wife is eating is low in fat. He is then made to squirm and backpedal under her withering gaze until he finally agrees to stop speaking entirely.

    I am aware these ads are meant to be humorous and often contain a grain of truth, but it’s just far too often for my taste that dad is the butt of the joke. There is no other group that could be treated this consistently poorly without an outcry.

  4. Vicki Baker says:

    Projektleiterin, both of those books are by Nick Hornby, and they are probably what's meant by "lad lit," though it seems like in both cases the theme was the lad finally growing up in some way.

    I agree that Madison Ave. works by keeping people insecure, but I have doubts about the metrosexual well-groomed man as a new phenomenon. In the '30's and 40's men used lots of hair products, and a man could pick out a well-cut suit and tilt his fedora just so without his masculinity being questioned. They even wore silk stockings with garters, for gosh sakes, albeit below the knee.

  5. Oh boy, as a single past her twenties I'm starting to worry now. And the comments from the guys don't make it much better either. I find most of their comments to be very immature or bitter, which means, the choice is automatically quite reduced.

    Men are like eggs. They must hatch or go bad. I came to this conclusion after seeing in the new year with a gang of university friends and hearing one of them, a single guy of 35 called Jamie, declare with complete sincerity that his resolution for 2008 was not to get a girlfriend.

    I groaned. His vow struck me as odd, not just because Jamie is a remarkably warm, kind and entertaining individual rather than some ropey Lothario, but because I knew him ten years ago when he was mustard keen to marry his then girlfriend. And when I thought harder about it, I realised that over the past decade Jamie has effectively been degenerating from the man he was at 25 years old to the boy he is today.

    The person who fell in love and believed that when you found a great girl you counted your blessings and married her has morphed into someone in search of nothing more than a bit of fun, who views any relationship that he can’t get out of at the ping of a text message with genuine unease.

    My theory is that once they invent a pill against menopause, the world will go down the gutter. I think women are just a bit more sensible, because they have this biological clock ticking.

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