in which cars require sexual harassment and sensitivity training in the workplace

You know, I may love, love, love to watch sports on television, but that love is tempered by my hate, hate, hate for the commercials that air during sporting events. Particularly the ones that air during National Football League games.

You know what I’m talking about. Even if you’ve never seen an NFL game in your life, you already know what these ads are all about. Between slow-motion montages of trucks bouncing over rocky fields and gritty men pulling off dusty work gloves, we get the phallic icy blue bullet train of “frost-brewed” Coors Lite and an endless parade of chumps desperately urging us to “man up” with a bottle of Miller Lite. Occasionally, all these elements get jammed into one explicitly masculine tableau depicting a dude with salt-and-pepper hair sipping beer and tinkering with a vintage truck as a bluesy guitar playfully wails in the background and a confident voiceover reminds us that we’ve always stood by what we wanted, so why would we let a little thing like Erectile Dysfunction stand in our way?

Remember to talk to your doctor if you take nitrates for chest pain, as this may cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure.

You know who these commercials are for. They’re for capital-m Men. And do you know what men want? Men want lite beer, hot chicks, trucks, dirty work gloves, and erect penises. You heard. ERECT. PENISES. This is what, after all, makes a man a man.

Yeah, yeah. Eye rolls and lulz. I feel like we should have moved past taking any of this remotely seriously by now, but apparently, Extreme Manhood what most of the nation still prefers to see represented in popular culture. Apparently, most of the nation is not reading Bitch magazine. I cannot fathom why.

Some commercials are, of course, worse than others. But for me particularly, one of the most annoying, aggrieving commercials shown during sports events involves talking cars.

Yeah. These cars aren’t even drinking lite beer, if you can believe that. What they are doing, instead, is behaving like total dicks. In case you’d rather not click through to watch the YouTube video, here’s the transcript:

Red sedan: “Hey guys, the reviews are in on Cars dot com.”
Silver compact: “Really, what’d they say?”
Red sedan: “Well, let’s see. It says Sheila looks great… topless!”
*laughter*
Teal convertible (Sheila): “What’s so funny?” 
Red sedan: “Nothing.”
Silver compact: “Nothing.”
Red sedan: “And it says Hank’s a real gas guzzler.”
Silver compact: “You hear that, Hank?”
Blue truck (Hank): [Belches] “Whatever.”
Silver compact: “Hey, what about me?”
Red sedan: “It says your ride is very smooth.”
Silver compact: “Ahhh yeah, you hear that Sheila?”
Teal convertible (Sheila): “Never gonna happen.” 
*Cut to voiceover with Cars dot com logo, then cut to scene with a white heterosexual couple walking through a dealership showroom* 
Woman [gesturing to minivan]: “See? Just like the reviews said. Big rear end.”
Grey minivan: “Excuse me?”

Okay, let’s take inventory. For “woman cars,” we’ve got the sexy lady convertible and the bossy soccer mom van. Representing “man cars,” we’ve got the dumb football jock truck and not one but two leering, aggressive douchebag vehicles. Because apparently they couldn’t come up with any other male trope, so they had to repeat one. Oh good.

Come on, Lyn. They’re animated cars. Lighten up a little, amirite? But in the scope of male-centric advertising, this hits close to home — so much more than those ludicrous scenes where overeager bros get coached by tiny men wearing khakis and headsets on their gameday party-hosting strategy.1 Every single thing the “guys” say to the “ladies” in this commercial is sexualized. Hmm, seems familiar. Where have I seen this before? Oh, right. In real life, and so many more times than I can even count.

Every time I see this ad, I wince on behalf of that anthropomorphized teal convertible. Dealing with men like that is the narrowest space between a rock and a hard place. Laugh it off, or dish it back, and your engagement becomes a form of acceptance. Get upset and you’re too emotional, too sensitive. There is no winning. There is no respect.

And the more you see it on TV, the more the behavior is normalized.

I could be mad about this. I could grumble and moan about gender stereotyping in the media, and shake my head vigorously, and grab a pillow and throw it across the room as hard as I could for good measure, except while planting my legs for the throw I would probably accidentally stub my toe against the sofa leg and then the pillow would bounce off the wrong wall and knock over a bunch of pictures on the end table, and then I would be cussing and crying and even madder than when I began.

You know. Because I’m too emotional.

So instead I’m just going to say: Screw you, Cars dot com.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go “woman up” with a glass of whiskey.

1 Non-US and non-sports-watching readers: it may sound like this commercial only exists in hallucinogen-fevered dreams, but it’s amusingly real.

13 Responses to “in which cars require sexual harassment and sensitivity training in the workplace”

  1. YES. I am so mad at this ad every time I see it. It’s so GROSS. And I know that most people I complain to will just roll their eyes… so I really appreciate this post. Thanks for making me feel more sane. Now when I see it, I’ll know there’s at least one person out there angry along with me.

    • This commercial makes me mad too, but Lyn does a much better job explaining why then I could (my way usually involves fists shaking and sputtering).

  2. Add me to the list of cranky people. There are hours upon hours of sports-related tv on in my household during the fall and the commercials are enough to drive me insane.

  3. Once again, I am glad that I ditched cable back in ’08, and only watch sports by subscription on the internet when it’s World Cup or the Olympics.

    Also, as a mom of a 4-year-old boy, can I just say that the talking cars thing — well, it’s been done (to death) and at least Pixar knows how to write a car joke.

  4. I read the title of this post and knew EXACTLY which ad you meant, because I’ve seen it a zillion times and it makes me want to scream every time, for all of the reasons you mentioned. Gag.

  5. Oh fuck, that’s annoying. I’m lucky I’ve missed that one so far (we record nearly everything except the news on CBC, whose only advertisers are the makers of arthritic products and life insurance). Because when we do watch things live, like hockey, we are known to get a little too worked up about the commercials. I’m pretty sure this one would send me into a tirade.

  6. Don’t worry, we have equivalent.

    You’re right to be mad. Getting mad is part of trying to make it better.

    At least I hope it is.

  7. I LOVE YOU. I get SO mad at this commercial. And at the stupid genderedness of most commercials. And I was FINALLY able to explain why: because if it were just this one stupid thing I’d think of it as one stupid thing. But it’s a pattern of stupid things and no smart to balance them out, so you can look at it like me nitpicking, or you can see that I’m pointing out a freaking pattern, and start to address the PATTERN. Dicks.

  8. I haven’t seen this one, but gross! And I completely agree that this is a pattern. It’s a shame, there is so much creativity in advertising and yet they consistently fall back on such boring, infuriating, idiotic gender stereotypes. What a waste.

  9. Craig and I are sports nuts, and 75% of what we watch in our household is “guy-related television.” You would think that I would become anesthetized to this type of thing, but I’m not. These ads piss me off every single time. I say something about it, every single time. I can’t do anything to stop these stupid ads, but it does feel better that when every guy (and woman) I know sees them on the TV in their own home, I imagine the first thought that comes to their mind is “Here’s that shitty ad that makes Kerry scream all the time. What a stupid fucking company. In the event that I ever find myself at a roundtable approving advertisement for a beer or car company, I will certainly veto something like this.”

    I do what I can :)

  10. Thank you for articulating so well what I’ve been unable to say. It’s just gross.

  11. LOVE. THIS.

    Careful of the nitrates.

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  1. A Submitting Author’s Guide to Copyediting | Fangs and Clause - December 7, 2011

    […] In short, dear Author, don’t worry. It will be less painful than a dentist appointment and less offensive than the commercials during a football game. […]

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