Do the Wave!

I was mildly amused by Ed Driscoll’s article on truly bizarre commercials.  For those not inclined to click through to PJM, the commercials in question are these:

(And is that a creepy name or what?)

I’m happy to say that I missed both of these due to my habit of not watching TV save on rare and odd occasions (like when I’m doing ironing.  Incidentally, I need recommendations for good tv series or documentaries on the Terror.  At least if you guys want me to write Through Fire [second book of the Earth Revolution.] I don’t need it for research. The shelves devoted to the French Revolution are second only in length to the shelves devoted to Shakespeare, but when a book is in the last stages of being born – or when my subconscious is in the process of laying an egg – I sometimes need visual stimulus for a touch-feel sense.)

Commercials fascinate me ever since I came to the states as an exchange student at seventeen, and realized in shock and fascination that the TV commercials were VERY careful to have at least two races together.  No group of friends was ever mono-racial.  This was completely different from what I saw around me in Stow Ohio, and after a while it occurred to me that commercials were like the fairytales the culture told itself.  For some reason, somewhere, someone believed it would appeal to most people if it wrapped it in this cultural illusion that didn’t exist anywhere in reality.

In the same way, right now, the hyper competent female and truly stupid bumbling male is a fairytale that companies think will sell things – partly because it’s part of a lie that everyone, including their husbands, is telling American women.  No?  Okay.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard in a public situation, a highly accomplished man say something about his wife that runs like this “She’s way smarter/more accomplished/more capable than I am.”?  Number of times you’ve seen the reverse?  Why not?  Because nine times out of ten these women are very average women married to high power men and the man is trying to be chivalrous.  (Right here I want to point out I’m aware my husband is smarter than I.  That’s why I married him.  Okay, one of the reasons.  Of course, I didn’t take in account the difficulties of raising his sons.  Never mind.)

In that way, commercials are sort of a fun house mirror, exaggerating and reflecting back at us the weirdest and most distorted parts of our culture or of the stories we tell ourselves about our culture.

Ed Driscoll doesn’t really push the point that this is a slippery slope, though he does mention it.  This is good, because I don’t think it is.  I don’t think any woman in her right mind, or even not in her right mind is dying to kiss a sea lion, and as for autocannibalism, well…  It takes special for that.

I sort of chuckled over the article and went on – and woke in the morning with a different view on it.

To wit, what came to mind was that it’s not a slippery slope, but it sort of is, and we’re sort of at the end of it.  Not a slippery slope of making us accept bestiality or self-eating, but a slippery slope of entertainment and the tales we tell ourselves about our culture, both through entertainment and through commercials being completely divorced from reality.

And then I realized this is the anti-human-wave.  It’s not even the (old) New Wave either.  They had the redeeming factor that they were telling people things no one wanted to hear.  (They missed the commercial disaster this foretold once the novelty wore off, but never mind.)  They were, for a brief moment at least, until the culture caved, telling truth to power.

The current Anti-Human wave in power isn’t even doing that.  They are the power.  And part of the problem is that like any ideological dictatorship or Marxist theocracy, they’re not content with taking over the material part of things.  (That’s because Marxism promises paradise on Earth once man himself is transformed.) Instead, they want to control what words can be said and what thoughts can be thought.

This causes problems, because they won’t allow through the gate anything that is “double plus ungood” according to them.  So there will be no commercials that reflect at least fifty percent of the couples we see in real life (and often more since it’s still a good strategy to attract a mate for a woman to act dumber than a hen) where the woman is a total dolt and the man is competent.  We’ll never see a tv series in which a young black man is a victim of the culture he was raised in, and a victim of people never being able to tell him the truth about his accomplishments, and therefore he gets in a position where he fails hard.  (And btw, those young men are victims of racism.  Both the racist culture that convinces them that to be “authentic” they need to be anti-social, and the white racism that treats them as a mother treats a two year old child, praising his drawing as though it were Da Vinci and Michaelangelo rolled into one.  I never did this to my kids and I don’t do it to anyone else, either.  I believe melanin has zero to do with intelligence and I disapprove of cultural trends that set some groups up to fail.)  We’ll never see Arab terrorists in TV or movie or book.  You’ll see white supremacists, and splinter groups of nationalist movements that never existed.  You’ll never see Marxist terrorists either – most of the people in power feel kinship with communism and think this time we can do it right – instead you’ll see – again – Nazis, which in this version are NEVER socialists.

There is a problem with that.

I’ve said before I’m not an artist.  To be honest I don’t know if I am or not.  I don’t even seem to plan/approach my writing like anyone else I know.  The books tend to more or less overmaster me and force me to write them.  I use craft to make them saleable.  The craft is what I control so I call myself a craftswoman.

But I am at least at the edges of artistic creation.  So let me tell you the problem from this side, when the gatekeepers (and no, I’m not ignoring they are on the way out – but trust me, we’re on the very beginning of THAT revolution.)

The problem is that when you establish no-go areas in your own mind, areas you see around you every day (no?  Are the lines in security in response to Basque nationalist terrorists?) your mind has to find other ways to express itself.

One of the things that seems to happen is that art becomes mannered, repetitive, and the expression of a world that doesn’t exist.  See the French plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries.  Not allowed to talk about anything real, they had these mannered, formulaic plays in which messengers brought you word of anything too shocking to be seen on stage.  (I was highly amused by finding as a runner for truly being Shakespeare Antonio Jose da Silva, the Jew, who was supposed to have faked his death and gone on to become William Shakespeare.  Let alone this would require a time machine, we studied da Silva’s plays in school.  They were very good of their kind, but definitely in the French school.)

We have that to an extent.  I mean, when is the last time you opened a fantasy book from a big publisher and found something truly shocking or new, or even a violation of a minor politically correct piety that is not and has never been true?  Perhaps I don’t read enough, but part of the reason I don’t, is the tendency of modern fantasy to put me to sleep, so that I ended up restricted to Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones.

Then there is the reverse side of this because our culture has enshrined the idea that “speaking truth to power” is a duty of the artist…  Except the artist can’t, because well, most people QUITE FRANKLY are not the stuff gadflies and revolutionaries are made of.  (And thank heavens for that.  My son did a whole skit on the subject of a pre-historic tribe composed of people like me, and how short a survival time it would have.  “We need to go hunt mammoth, we are starving.  You, come hunt mammoth.”  “No.  Don’t feel like it.  Will learn to weave baskets.”  Or “You can’t eat purple berry, it kills you.”  “Oh, yeah, you and whose army?  I’ll eat purple berry if I want toggggggggggahhhhhhhh.”)

So we have, of course, the endless tourettes like violation of taboos that haven’t been that for at least sixty years: in your face sex and violence, which are supposed to shock… the proper people of the fifties.

When that fails, we get the other side of it – the violation of taboos that aren’t taboos because no one in their right mind would do this.  Hence, girls making out with sea lions.  (I mean, classical myth records bulls and – weirdly – swans, but sea lions?  Have you ever smelled the things?  EW.)  And ice-cream men eating themselves.

And if you’re saying “But that doesn’t happen in entertainment” I direct you to the movie Crash – the first one, in which people get turned on by being in car crashes and having hideous injuries.  It was supposed to symbolize something or other, but mostly it was the glorification of a sexual fetish no one had.  (Though they might now, I mean, you know, once you mention it.)

Because that’s shocking (mostly because people will sit there saying “how can you think that’s hot?  She looks like an industrial clothes rack) and speaking truth to power (we’re free to be as kinky as we wanna be, so there.)

Also, there was this mystery series I fell prey to (it happens every ten years or so) medium.  I liked medium because the way she assembled clues is often how I put books together.  Not really, but sort of.  And because, of course, she did something other people would think crazy.  And then – I think it was the fifty season – it went nuts.  The “normal” reasons for murder were no longer enough.  You had odd fetishes and “he just went insane” and went insane in a bizarrely convoluted manner that led to killing children and packaging them like dolls.  That’s the episode where I stopped watching.  My husband watched on a little longer and said it became like a cross between its old self and Criminal Minds.  I guess the ratings were falling and because the series could not – gatekeepers – reflect reality, it went further and further away from reality in a shocking and bizarre way.

Part of me is vaguely amused by those commercials and wonders how far things will go before the corrective of indie comes in.  Also, how fast indie will act.

I think the establishment is engaged in preference falsification and we’re do for a preference cascade.  Things like Fifty Shades of Grey – don’t scream – are signs of it, as is, to an extent, Twilight.  Both hark to older romances/erotica in which women were allowed to be submissive.  Most women, by nature, seem to want to be overmastered (I say seem because I never felt the need myself – but then I’m odd.)  However, entertainment has refused for years to give them what they want.  As traditionally published romances employed more and more feminized heroes, there was nothing for these women (though many were devotees of old stuff.)  Hence, these break through best sellers with FFOG now outselling Harry Potter.  (Haven’t read it, don’t intend to.  The only stronger turn off for me than BD or SM is submissive females.  Don’t misunderstand me, I like strong male love interests.  As strong as the woman.  I just believe in marriages of equals – See Kit and Athena.)

So, even though indie is in its infancy, we should be engaging in another Human Wave activity: writing books that are not afraid to kick sacred cows – real ones – on their fat sides.  I think there’s a public waiting for them.

Now stop staring at the woman making out with a sea lion to advertise skittles and go read and write.  We’re going to turn the world upside down.

Long May It Wave.

195 responses to “Do the Wave!

  1. That was a walrus, not a sea lion.
    “I’ve been eating these purple berries for six or seven weeks now. Haven’t got sick once. Prob’ly keep us both alive.” “Wooden Ships,” recorded by both Jefferson Airplane and Crosby Stills and Nash. Was that some hidden joke, after the songs ends all the post-nuke hippies die from eating the purple berries>

  2. Ugh. Kids in classrooms talking about parents. My Son&Heir (age 6) was asked what his Daddy did for a living. (I was a consultant.)

    “Well, about once a week, he gets on a plane, flies to another city, meets with some people, goes ‘Yadda yadda yadda’ for a few hours. Then he flies back home, and those people pay him a lot of money.”

    I incorporated it into my credentials presentation.

    • Marshall told people “My mom writes books with words in them.”

      • At least those answers are acceptable, in polite company. Kids are the most unPC people. I knew a SF noncom who’s kid said, “My daddy kills ragheads.”

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I’m sure THAT caused a couple of phone calls. The worst I can imagine either of my boys might have said was, “My dad talks to stupid people on the phone,” based on hearing me talk about my Helpdesk job.

        • Oh dear … actually that’s just about cringe-inducing as what my younger sisters was supposed to have said (in kindergarten class) when the teacher went around asking the little kidlets what their fathers did. (This was … umm … a while ago, of course.)
          She smiled very brightly and announced, “My daddy works in a lavatory!”

          Dad was a research biologist …

  3. Thank you. I’ve been having a bit of an internal battle over the relationship between two characters. The guy took the lead in the romance and my MC jumped in with both feet (or all four feet. Depends on her mood. Anyway). I’d been having second thoughts, but since that is how the relationship developed, I’ll leave things as they are. It is their love life, not mine, after all.

    One reason among several that a friend of mine and I use pen names is because we both have terrorists in our stories who are motivated by The Religion That Shall Not Be Named.

    No ideas about TV and the Terror, sorry. All that comes to mind is one very, very old Dr. Who episode, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and A Tale of Two Cities.

  4. (waving across the room) Hi Kim!

    I am already trying my best to put a stake in the wimpy-metrosexual male hero meme in my own books: OK, so the male love interest in one of them wound up rather disappointing my heroine, but that was all part of the plot, allowed me to vent some of my own past resentments and trauma, and in every other way he was a stand-up character. In all the rest of my books, the lead and secondary male characters are able, competent and even heroic now and again. They take care of things that have to be done – cross the mountains leading a wagon train west, fight Comanche Indians and General Santa Anna, trail cattle north to Kansas, and a whole lotta other male-interest activities. Curiously, at least three-quarters of my fans are guys, so I must be doing something right. (I always thought I was playing it evenly right down the middle with male and female interests and concerns.)

    Yes, we can take back our culture from the pervy and outrageous. And yes, as soon as I finish transcribing some old letters, I will get back to writing the next one…

    • Yes, competent is very sexy. So is reliable.

      Though I think a lot of male “incompetence” is a deliberate attempt to get out of doing things they don’t want to do, like housework. ;-)

      • Laurie, you could be right about the bumbling as an escape mechanism.
        And competance is totally sexy … I’ve always adored men who were good at fixing things. I told my daughter if she brought home a boyfriend who was an auto mechanic, or a building contractor, (maybe with some carpentry skilz) he would so have my approval on the spot!

      • Coff. well, there was this study done that SWORE guys couldn’t see dust or disarray. I suspect my sons paid for it. Somehow.

      • ppaulshoward

        Well, “male incompetence in housework or the kitchen” could currently be an excuse for men not wanting to do it, but it was likely started by women wanting to keep their (then) “Place of Power” safe from men. [Wink]

        • Hummm… when all our whites turned pink, I started doing all the washing–at least I sorted it. Plus if I let the honorable hubby cook, we would eat waffles, popcorn, and grilled steaks. I do like more variety in my food. ;-) So not so much a place of power actually, but a place of necessity at our place. (We do get those three things, but not every day).

        • Alternatively, the way men clean and the way women clean are just different, so that a woman doesn’t credit a man as having “cleaned up” and the man, feeling unappreciated and his effort disparaged, sees no reason for expending himself.

          It is a tendency for people to see not “what was done” but rather “what was left undone” and react accordingly.

          • True – I can’t clean like I used to because it can exhaust me quickly. So I am grateful for any help.

          • There’s something in this. I’d say my husband is “neat but not clean” as a housekeeper. And it’s probably not right. I mean he is clean in terms of removing what he considers “real dirt” but it never occurs to him to scrub the counters to remove stains, because they’re just stains. Or run the vacuum because there’s a few balls of cat fuzzy in the corner of the stairs. OTOH everything will be in its place and properly folded. We have complementary skills, in fact. I’m looking forward to its being just us, sans kids…

            • See, now, I was going to reply “I can’t wait until it’s just the two of you too.” but the anti-creepy filter caught it and sent it back to the regret department. I’m only pointing this out because the consequence department’s manager is at lunch.

            • I used to like to cook, but for the last couple of years, it’s been more of a chore than I want to put up with. Part of it is having to TOTALLY change the way we eat. I usually am the one to do the laundry, although Jean is the one that does the folding and putting away. I usually do the dishes, she does the dusting and vacuuming. Things usually don’t get done until it’s a necessity, because neither of us is ever 100% “well”. We get by, Timmy gets three meals a day, we all have clean clothes, and no one is going to get ptomaine or die of tetanus. The house is NOT white-glove clean, ever (our two cats and our daughter’s two dogs make sure of that).

      • The fellow doing our cellar told my spouse that he ruined his wife’s laundry one time when he did it, so she never let him do it again. My spouse, in relating this story, had the impression that the ruining was at least half-deliberate.

        (My spouse, in contrast, does not ruin my laundry on the odd times that he will dump stuff in for me (normally we do our own laundry, because my take on (his) permanent press is that anything that wrinkles if it sits should look good with wrinkles). I suppose that’s helped by my belief that laundry is survival of the fittest; I hang my bras, but nearly everything else had better like low-temp dryers or else. And that “hand wash” means “cool, gentle cycle in the front-loader.”

        Oh, and “dry clean only” mean “leave it at the store.”)

        • um
          you have the same laundry philosophy I do, except no permanent press because ironing is a near-zen discipline for me — seriously, it’s when I plot.

          • I don’t iron. I don’t like to iron. So when I was told that I had to iron my hubby’s shirts (new requirement for work), I took them to a laundry. They do a good job (a Korean couple) and do not charge too much.

            After many years of ironing my father’s and brother’s shirts, if I don’t have to do it, I don’t.

            • I bought this industrial steam iron. I LIKE to do it. I iron all the guys’ shirts. It’s a thing. I do realize there is help for these conditions out there and also that many feminists would organize protest marches to my house if they knew.
              BAH I shall meet them with my fully loaded hi temp steam iron. Mwah ah ah ah ah

              • Nice – I have the regular iron.. UGH… You could do some damage to those feminists. ;-)

                • ummm did you know that ironing and sewing go together? I used to iron seams so that they would lay right. I made dresses (five every year for Easter), shirts, pants, skirts, etc. I was so happy when I became rich enough to buy clothes instead of make them.

              • The contractor designed this house with a built-in ironing, right outside the laundry. An ironing board that drops down from its closet to cross the hall, obstructing passage. Which makes the board a trifle short, say about two and a half, three feet. Not completely useless, but not really worth the trouble, especially as the electrician did not put an outlet in that hall. We still haven’t figured what use they thought the half-length ironing board with cold iron would be. A ward against elves, perhaps?

                • Have you not even entertained the possibility that the person who installed that also represented the Lollipop Guild?

                  • Had they installed an electric outlet I would entertain all sorts of things, from ironing socks to laundering money. But without electricalicity it is just a head hazard to low flying tykes.

                    • LOL on ironing socks. My mom, btw, never checked pockets before washing pants. So she routinely ended up hanging money next to the pants on the line (Portugal still has very few dryers and they’re different from here.) At one point my dad gave her a certificate as “World’s most prolific money launderer.” She said “At least it’s CLEAN money.” :)

                    • Ya know they ironed for hundreds of years before they had electricity. I confess to not only having never ironed anything in my life, but refusing to wear ironed clothes. I do recall however, that my great grandmother refused to use one of those newfangled electric irons until the day she died, because they just didn’t do as good a job. (This is the same woman that had an electric stove installed in her kitchen beside the wood cookstove, and still used the woodstove for things like popping popcorn, because it did a better job. She prefered the electric oven however.)

                    • Sorry – I probably should have mentioned this is an upstairs hall (a laundry on the second floor? What could go wrong with that?); as even a non-electric iron tends to require heating for effectiveness and the stove is in the first floor kitchen, I trust the problems of running up a flight of stairs become apparent.

                    • We used to have a second floor laundry in our last house. It was the only place to put it in what used to be the Victorian WC under the stairs. Wedging the machines in there was pure b*tch.

                      My grandmother, and my mom until I was about eight, ironed with coal-filled irons. Buckets of embers were taken from the wood stove, and the iron was filled with those, then carefully cleaned, then used. I remember my mom ruining her work on one of my dad’s shirts (which, in those days, she starched) by not wiping the iron as thoroughly as she should have.
                      I also remember them ironing in summer, having to keep the stove on (they usually cooked on little petrol fired camping stoves outside, in summer so the Franklin stove didn’t have to be lit) for the coal — and ironing with sweat running down their faces. I’ll take electric irons any day, thank you.

                    • I’ve seen a house with a WC under the stairs. Some college friends rented the house for the summer. The toilet was at the base of the ramp formed by the stairs, creating a problem for any males averse to acting the Sitzpinkler … as well as a problem for the ladies who live with them. As I recall the slope was such that a man sic [Sic] foot tall could stand no closer than about three feet from the bowl. I was under the influence at the time of the particular visit and recall confronting the problem head-on as I approached the situation. I adapted and left no undue mess, and ever after made sure to dump ballast before visiting that particular port again.

                    • *snort* It’s a good thing I didn’t have anything in my mouth when I read, “approached the problem head on.” I recently got gored by a mounted hog, a friend of mine (his wife and him are both in the 5’3″-5’5″ range) have a Russian boar mounted on the wall at the top of the basement stairs. They can walk under it quite easily, the tusks are right at my hairline however.

                      This is the same friend who built a roof over their back porch and deck. The bottom edge of the roof is even with the edge of the deck where the steps come up and approximately 5’11″ above the deck, since I am 6’0″ attention must be payed when climbing the steps.

                    • My mom is in denial of the fact that ALL her grandsons are over six feet. My kids call the chandelier at the top of her stairs “Grandson braining device.” :-P

                • Well! Those elves are tricksy, you know?

          • Last iron we had that I used, I broke (on real accident; I was trying to do some craft thing for the kid, and it fell off the ironing board onto the cement floor). I haven’t unpacked the replacement yet.

            • Dorothy Grant

              I have two hobby irons – really handy for working on aircraft and model aircraft fabric – but no full-sized irons, after I gave my last one away when moving. This makes using iron-on patches and trying to neaten clothes before meetings or interviews… and exercise in patience.

              Other than my bras, everything else is either machine washable according to the tag… or it’s machine washable, because it survived, eh?

  5. I used to watch Medium, Criminal Minds, and a few other shows until they got too shocking for me. I liked the first few seasons of Medium too. The other show (can’t remember the name… go into the light) was only good for a few shows and then I had the plot down. ;-)

    Ugh – those two commercials made me want to vomit. (I have had a touchy stomach the last few days.) Pushing to the edge and over the cliff is my opinion.

    I like a marriage of equals too. I never understood the “let the man win” mentality. My mother had to finally make me do it. When I met my hubby we used to compete in table tennis and board games. He would win and I would win. He knows that I have a terribly competitive streak. (maybe that Viking berserk thing again?)

    He is very intelligent in math and electronics. I am very intelligent in my own areas. Why competent or intelligent men want submissive or barely competent wives is beyond me.

    Before my chemo experience, my hubby thought that I was more intelligent than him. However he has the commonsense, which is somewhat lacking in my skill set. ;-)

    • Oh, Dan has no common sense at all about people (as opposed to finances, house repairs, etc.). He’s a mathematician. He thinks the world should be LOGICAL and gets terribly hurt when people just keep repeating nonsense at him while he’s trying to have a discussion. It melds well with my rather cynical view of human nature. It makes me go “Well, why CAN’T they do this”. We work best as a team.

      • We two… We work really good together as a team because we have somewhat the same interests and we also strengthen each other in our weak spots.

        • oops well together. I have been having headache problems the last two days. Probably the heat.

          • I thought you were being colloquial

            • It is also colloquial – but when I have a headache the grammar for some reason sputters. It was amusing that in college I could write really well until I was dealing with to be verbs. I have a problem with mismatched singular and plural…. now that is a colloquialism from where I grew up. When I start to break out in “ain’t” you’ll know that I am upset.

              • Eh. I have same problem with verbs when I have a headache. People will say “oh, you never learned concordance because you’re ESL” And the answer is, no, my head short circuits really easily when I’m in pain or lack sleep.
                As for colloquialisms and language level — the longer I’m away, the more my Portuguese reverts to the “gutter snipe” standard for my region. No clue why. I never talked like that. Mostly I imitated dad who had an erudite discourse. I guess all those fishwomen I heard as a little girl live rent free in my subconscious.

        • I agree – looking at my parents and their friends (plus my own), I think the complimentary but equal team is the way to go. A lot of very technically knowledgeable men do well with women who have a lot of common sense and people smarts, for example.

          From what I’ve seen, the match most likely to end up in divorce is the smart woman/dumb man (Hermione and Ron, anyone?). But the smart man/dumb woman doesn’t fare much better, depending on how dumb the woman is – if she’s smart in some things in a complimentary fashion, it can work. But good looks get boring after a while, and people want to be with someone they can talk to as they mature.

          • Ron was supposed to be good at chess (wizarding chess, anyway), in the first book. It’s a shame the author dropped him into Dumb Sports Jock thereafter, and never really worked the angle that he might actually be good at tactics/strategy. (Or at least, I never saw that angle worked; if people can point out stuff, I would actually be pleased. Something to take the overly-tidy pairing off bad taste out of my mouth…)

            • I agree – besides I thought from the beginning that Harry and Hermione would have made a better pair. I was surprised to find him paired with one of Ron’s sisters. One happy family? maybe?

              • I was kind of rooting for Hermione + Someone Entirely Different, so she wouldn’t have to be Someone’s Girlfriend, but could be, y’know, Hermione. *sigh*

                • I think that’s part of the reason that Rowling didn’t put her with Harry. I don’t know. I think she would have kept his head trimmed to size.

                  • Yeah, I was for Harry and Hermione. That was the main relationship I saw demonstrated, that was where all the chemistry was. They were the team, even finishing each other’s sentences.

                    Instead, he marries the Pretty Popular Girl (talk about stereotypes). Not the best message to send to girls – gee, it doesn’t matter how smart and brave and clever you are, the hero will still pick the secondary undeveloped pretty girl character and you get stuck with the dumb comic relief guy, who Luna turned down as being unkind.

                    JKR has admitted to not being very good at romance.

                    • My opinion too – only you wrote it better. The mismatch was obvious once I was out of the Potter spell.

                    • I think I was for Harry/Luna, myself. *sigh* Weird Girls don’t get enough luv.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      I guess she just wanted to tie up the relationships of the core characters, but I was really hoping for Hermione/Neville, especially after he badassed up in book 6.

                      I tossed a theory to my younger son, and he’s now talking about writing a fanfic story based on my suggestion that Luna and her father were a “next step” in witchcraft and wizardry. Basically the idea that they really weren’t crazy, and that they were part of a subgroup who could see even more unusual creatures than wizards could, perhaps having new powers as well.

                    • Sorry, I like Ginny. Ginny has moxie. As observed by her twin brother’s, you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of her bat bogey hex. She displays good character. She made friends with and publicly stood up for Luna. And it was nice to see her move from the star stuck kid to an important member of the D.A. with Neville once H/R/H dropped out of school, albeit that last was largely off screen. I was disappointed that she was not allowed a greater part in the final battle.

                      And it is easy to miss the fact that in the end Hermione was not just the smart and talented, she also turned out to be really good looking.

                • Once Dobby died, I knew my hopes for Hermione were dashed.

              • Wayne Blackburn

                Rowling said early on that Harry and Hermione were NOT going to pair up. I can’t remember, but I suspect that she considered it too cliche.

                As far as Ron goes, he was possibly the bravest one of them all, with the exception of Snape. Despite being deathly afraid of spiders (Harry certainly wasn’t), he followed Harry into the Forest, where ALL of the spiders were heading. Then, when it went south, again despite his fear of spiders, he didn’t freeze up so badly that Harry had to carry him out. He was also an awesome imitator, being able to repeat what Harry said in Parseltongue to re-open the Chamber of Secrets and fetch the Basilisk fangs.

                Ron just suffered a massive lack of confidence due to both being expected to live up to the examples of his older brothers, plus the tormenting he got from the twins.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      My wife loves all the cop and CSI shows. I finally had to limit my watching of them with her, because for one thing, the perpetuation of stereotypes was to rampant, and for another, it seemed like half of them would pick up the same theme in the same week. Plus, after a few seasons, they always seem to get too extreme in order to try to keep the excitement that they originally did (leading to being too shocking, like you said).

      • Dorothy Grant

        I used to watch the shows with a friend, but as you said. Then he got netflix, and now we’re working our way through “Deadliest Catch”. As it’s about the only thing on TV other than NASCAR that shows honorable, actual men being competent, skilled, and true to themselves – and being rewarded for their hard work – we haven’t looked back.

        (Even better, being netflix, we get to skip the commercials. Which saves time, true, but vastly improves the mood when we don’t have to watch interesting people interspersed with stupidity.)

  6. i had missed the skittles commercial…i wish i had still missed it. it also gave a bogus excuse to cheat with your friend’s boyfriend. the ice cream commercial was just creepy…along with the name. we don’t have that brand in our area. i am sincerely grateful for that.

  7. A commercial depicting a man as even marginally competent is remarkable. Sure, women do most buying in our culture, but did women not buy stuff back in the Fifties and Sixties, when commercials relied upon the “authoritative masculine voice” to move product? Advertising is remarkable for the number of intensely creative people eager to march in step and follow the leader.

    One of the remarkable things about “smart” people is how rarely they are able to transcend the zeitgeist — probably because they are the zeitgeist, that is their definition of “smart.” But eventually the times turn and the “smart” people find themselves in the position of Ceauşescu’s palace guard. The opening up of communications channels to the hoi polloi is a direct threat to the very concept of authority, which is very threatening to those whom nature has conditioned to be subservient.

    Oh, about women liking submissiveness? Men do, too — they just aren’t as free to express it. But this world has far more people who are happy to be second dog than top dog, more followers than leaders. Following is much safer and much easier — all you have to worry about is what you can do to please the boss.

    That is why so many authors liked the old system: access was simple. Please an agent, please an editor, please a publisher, make lots of money. Pleasing the Public is hard; they are diverse and fickle and demanding and do not appreciate true genius or art.

    • “pleasing the public is hard”
      Oh yea – I am finding that out. ;-) I keep telling myself that the people just haven’t found me yet. lol

  8. The smart, capable woman married to the idiot, oafish, immature man in contemporary commercials is a hot-button issue for me to the nth degree. Must…control…fist…of…death…

    • Could I borrow your “fist of death?”

      • Eh. He borrowed it. From Dilbert!

        • ;-) – I need to read more Dilbert.

          • Dilbert is a documentary, IMO. And Alice is my role model in life. ^_^

            • Alice was my given name (before I changed it) — my entire family thinks she IS me.

              • Dilbert moment: Overheard at hotel breakfast bar in Springfield Missouri: “I used to love Dilbert until I realized I am the pointy headed boss. (Thought on hearing this: ‘Oh no you’re not. The pointy headed boss would never realized it.)

                • I don’t know how many times (3 kids) I’ve seen “Despicable Me”, but I finally realized that Mr. Perkins from the Bank Of Evil is the pointy-haired boss.

                  • I guess I’ll have to get around to watching Despicable Me. The Spouse and I recently finally got around to seeing Megamind. There is some enjoyable stuff for kids out there.

                    • Megamind is extremely well-written family fare. It’s a good movie on its own merits, but if you collected comics when you were a kid, like I did, there are a TON of Easter Eggs for you.

                    • “Collected comics when you were a kid”? Kid, I bought FF#4, Amazing Spiderman #2 and Hulk #1 off the news stand and never stopped buying until … ummm, we moved about 16 years ago and somehow a box got mislaid … last I read Superman had just been killed and Batman’s back was broken. I have about five years boxed after that, but I finally gave up on buying more around Y2K. Don’t recall many Megamind Easter Eggs, not like The Incredibles had, certainly. Heck, not even like the Captain America movie had.

                      Social Security? I have my extended childhood to cash out.

                    • The Incredibles Was definitely a better superhero satire.

                    • The Incredibles is so much more than a simple superhero satire.

      • must…get…control…of…it…first…too…busy…smashing…puny…human…ad…execs…

    • A GREAT part of the reason I don’t watch TV is those commercials and the fact that disapproves of my putting shoes through the screen.

      • It’s a good thing I don’t have a pistol. But, really I am getting tired of the political ads. Since we have been targeted as a swing State, we get no rest… I keep the TV off during the day, but the hubby is a news junky.

      • DVR everything you want to watch. Most players have a jump feature that lets you skip blocks of several minutes. You might not save much time for scanning back and forth to find the program return, but you will avoid much annoyance.

        Alternatively, as an erstwhile social scientist primarily interested in communications, I find it therapeutic to view commercials for purpose of analysis of what messages are embedded in the sub-context, how the visuals are structured to manipulate us and what meta messages are being conveyed. The Victoria’s Secret commercials are especially rich lodes of such manipulations and are justifiably watched a frame at a time to better understand the deep structure of their construct.

        • The Victoria’s Secret commercials are especially rich lodes of such manipulations and are justifiably watched a frame at a time to better understand the deep structure of their construct.”

          Don’t you mean construction of their structure?

          • “Don’t you mean construction of their structure?”

            Whatever. I marvel how they camouflage the fact those girls have no curves that aren’t due to surgery.

    • It’s not just the commercials – the immature Peter Pan never-grow-up male is everywhere, in movies, in books – Bleah!

      • Unfortunately, and it may be unrelated, I’m not sure, but we’ve got far too many Peter Pans in reality, let alone the world of televised commercials. I believe this to be, again unfortunately, a question of rational actors making informed decision in their environment. That doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it explains it nicely.

        • When is the last time you read a book from a large house with a genuinely aggressive male? Aggressive, not bad. Aggression can be deployed in the service of good. But what I found is that people perceive male aggression as bad. I have two sons. I know where males go to find heroes that reflect them: video games.

          • Granted. I’m a gamer myself and enjoy the medium more than any other short of books. Movies and TV don’t hold a candle. But (and you’re butt can get very large if you’re not careful as a gamer), it’s crucial to maintain balance. I’m still trying to strike that balance with my 8-year-old. My 21-year-old’ mother let him do whatever the hell he wanted to and he’s a bit of a Peter Pan.

          • I have lived around aggressive males (Panama where they trained Seals). One of our best friends lived on base. The husband was a ranger and the wife was a housewife… however, she knew how to handle her man. I really liked the two of them.

            My hubby shows his gentle side to me, but he is aggressive … I see nothing wrong with aggressive. Many people think aggressive males are the ones who abuse their families and shoot their neighbors. Not so.

            • Treating the weak poorly is the sure mark of a coward.

            • Some people think aggressive is synonymous with abusive. They got it wrong.

              • They do, so … when I was putting together one of my own books, I based the hero on several combat veterans I knew; all of them soft-spoken, sweet-natured family guys who adored their families and whose wives were their best friends … but who had military records and decorations which attested to a completely different aspect of them. The dichotomy interested me. I think men might be slightly better at compartmentalizing their lives, keeping the different aspects of their nature separate.Or perhaps the well-adjusted men are. YMMV, of course.

                • Courtesy of Instapundit yesterday:

                  Truly Sorry? Apologies Differ by Gender
                  [SNIP]
                  One of few scientific studies on the psychology of female versus male apologies determined that men are less inclined to apologize because they have a different threshold for perceiving offensive behavior; that is, that they don’t always get what they’ve done wrong until someone slaps them upside the head for it. If true, the flipside benefit is that a man is also less likely to demand an apology from a woman, because he has the same high threshold for perceiving a misstep by her as apology-worthy.

                  Disparities between female and male brains may also impact how apologies are shaped and delivered. Men tend to have proportionally more white matter in their heads, indicating a thick web of connections that strengthen organizational skills, spatial relations, and problem solving. But women are understood to have greater connectivity between the left side of the brain, where logic and facts are mostly processed, and the right side in charge of non-linear thought like creativity and perception. The flow of signals between left and right may explain why women are generally better at connecting emotions with language.

                  http://living.msn.com/life-inspired/the-daily-dose-blog-post?post=94bf34ee-7d9b-4e16-8d3c-3e446c60790c&gt1=32165&ocid=xnetr1-2

      • In real life… I refuse to be a Wendy.

        • The average full-time gamer, defined as someone that plays consoles or PC games more than 20 hours a week, is 38 years old and male.

          This is a problem, people.

          • Not more than all the full time television viewers who watch TV more than twenty hours a week. Lessee… 21 hours a week… that’s 3 hours a night. Actually a bit low on hours, for a Seventies TV viewer who watched the tube from the evening news up until Heeeeeere’s Johnny!

  9. Excellent post, as usual. Thank you.

    I lived in Germany from age 4 until I was almost nine. I had never seen television, not even German television. (No one in my family had a TV until the mid-1960′s.) Soldiers with families simply couldn’t afford it over there. When we came back to America, the first thing I saw on television was a commercial for Coca-Cola. It was in the lobby of the car dealership in New Jersey, where we were picking up our new car. My sisters and I were all used to seeing the cinema, so it was quite different to be able to switch from one station to another (well, all four of them anyway).

    I suppose that not having TV when I was in my most formative years made a huge difference in how I thought about television. My parents were also very strict, and we were only allowed to watch on the weekends after all our chores were finished. So I have a somewhat unusual understanding of American TV sitcom etc. I simply do not care if the TV is on or not, and generally if it is, it becomes background noise while I read.

    I find almost all television inane, but commercials are particularly so. They have less than a minute to convince me that what they are selling will make me beautiful, smell good, smarter, better off, and full by eating a carrot stick. That I NEED that new car, bathroom, dress, shoes, or whatever. (Infomercials are another thing unto themselves.) Most of the time, I leave the room, or if it is recorded (thank goodness for DVR) I fast forward when a commercial comes on.

    I loathe the way men are portrayed in almost every TV show. There are four shows that my husband likes, and I do too, that don’t seem to do that. NCIS, CSI, The Mentalist, and Burn Notice all have both strong men and women working together to solve a problem. Most of them are not touchy feely and the lead men are not, (gag a maggot), metrosexual whiners. I also loathe the fact that many women are portrayed as either vapid or as total control freak hateful cows. None of that is real in my life, that’s for sure.

    I am married to an egg head computer guy, who also rides Harleys and loves to shoot guns. He is brilliant, and actually has a good dose of common sense. We’ve been married for 41 years, and there are times when I want to wring his neck for his lack of communication skills. Sometimes it isn’t what he says, but how he says it that can send me into a tizzy. I am practical, but have a huge romantic streak running through me, and the two sides often war with each other. Heart versus head, isn’t comfortable. Again, I never see a realtionship like ours on TV. Either they is gooey syrup like the Waltons, or filled with vicious meanness like Married With Children. Shudder . . .

    Thanks for the food for though, but I will pass on watching those commercial links. I would rather read a book.

  10. I have long wondered about the absence of certain eras in our film libraries. Why so much King Arthur, so little Charlemagne? Chuck was certainly the more significant personage. And why not depict The Terror? Couldn’t be because Charlemagne earned his spurs fighting back the Saracens, could it? Or that The Terror reflects the slide down the slope of totalitarianism?

    Of course, we’ve relatively little coverage of Bonapartism, so maybe it is mere anti-French bigotry — but wouldn’t you think the French would have made some films about the glories of their past? If only to express with a gallic shrug that they could do that sort of thing were it not so jejune?

    I recall the A&E adaptation of Pimpernel as being fairly good about depicting the zeitgeist, but it has been a good many years since I watched it. Like “A Tale of Two Cities” the film depictions tend to focus on the gallantry and derring-do, less on the Madame Defarge. Dickens’ book did a superb job of portraying The Terror, but that always gets lost in the edit. Would there be anything in the adaptations of Hugo or other French writers? A quick review of Wiki suggests not. Curious.

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/search/?results=french+revolution

    Might provide some leads. Or try “french revolution terror youtube” for some options.

    • The French seem to be rather touchy about the Revolution, in part because of a major historiographical battle that started in the mid-1970s when someone finally shouted “It was not the precursor of the Russian Revolution!” and set French historian at each others’ throats. I suspect the French Establishment would not like films that remind the French people that the Revolution’s first two phases were actually a nasty, vicious civil war with shades of the Albigensian Crusade mixed in.

  11. Wayne Blackburn

    It’s funny you should post this right now, just when I had another link pointing me to this commercial this morning.

  12. In the same way, right now, the hyper competent female and truly stupid bumbling male is a fairytale that companies think will sell things – partly because it’s part of a lie that everyone, including their husbands, is telling American women.

    I wrote, produced, and lent my voice to more radio commercials than I can remember, so I know a thing or two about advertising and the trend of clueless male playing oaf to the competent female makes my blood boil. The main reason that ad execs do this is twofold and starts, as most problems in our country start, with the Boomers. The ad execs are all older and most of them are cut from the cloth that assumes that women are making the purchasing decisions in the household. This was certainly true at a certain period of time. The men went to work and expected the women to run the household. That included the buying decisions on all the day to day stuff…which, let’s be honest, includes most television advertising. Car commercials are not as over-the-top anti-male because they know a couple will both be involved.

    In any case, the dynamic, like most dynamics, has shifted AWAY from the Boomers and what they perceived to be the way the world works. To wit, household chores. Not only do men in Gen X and after do their fair share of household chores, a few recent studies concluded that American men do far more housework than their international brethren. Additionally, the mundane purchasing decisions are made by the couple on a day to day basis. Grocery shopping is alternated or done together. Buying decisions as blah as menu planning for the week are handled together, or at least with input from both.

    It’s this cooperation in the younger generations that those old ad execs are missing the point on. It’s one of the reasons your average 25+ male would rather cable tv and keep his internet. It’s also one of the reasons a generally apolitical man will suddenly decide to stop buying a particular product simply based on the perception of male competence the company in question decides to use for their advertising.

    • But, Gosh, Don’t You Know that if you make the guy competent, you’ll have to make the woman stupid (which is just not on)? Why, every commercial has to have the Stupid One and the Smart One! This weird Making Decisions Together… You can’t possibly make a commercial without having someone ask the questions for the As You Know, Bob answers!

      Or something like that. I don’t watch TV at all. If it doesn’t come from a DVD, iTunes, or YouTube, I don’t see it.

      (Now, for a series I did like — from YouTube and then iTunes — the animated Avatar: The Last Airbender. One interesting part would be the evolution of the Bumbling Sidekick, Sokka, who (especially in the last season) eventually Took A Level In Badass (warning! link to TV Tropes!) and got his own moments of not-just-competence, but awesome. The sequel Legend of Korra series also gives at-minimum-moments (and often more) competence to even the guys with the humor-tag attached. Not sure if Bolin’s had moments of true Awesome yet, but I have hopes!)

      …crud, TV Tropes ate me.

      • See, this is one of those things that drives me mad about mainstream entertainment. Why can’t you pair competent man and competent woman? As creators, shouldn’t we be holding that up as an ideal? “See, consuming public, what you can do when you team up with like-minded, clever, and able folk as partners in an endeavor?”

        /aside: I think the hyper-competent woman/oafish man trope came about – and is perpetuated – specifically through sitcoms. Perhaps as a reaction to growing sophistication of narrative during the 60′s (wasn’t there: merely speculating). Humans love their drama (take reality TV, please!), and Leave It To Beaver doesn’t exactly present the most gripping of situations. In order to hook audiences, perhaps present them with scenarios with which they can (at least nominally) identify. Something like home life, or office life, for example. But where the drama? I know, let’s take the marriage and make it – subtly, like a mallet – antagonistic. /aside

        As creators of story, shouldn’t be show that we can be better than carping fishwives and bumbling patriarchs? Besides, when your protagonists are competent, their strengths shine better and their flaws hurt more. More importantly, their greater capabilities mean we get to throw greater challenges in their way. Better characters, better story, happier readers.

        • I think this was the plot to True Lies… and a lot of those husband-and-wife sleuth teams like Tommy and Tuppence, McMillian and Wife, etc. Sigh … compatable skills and teamwork; why can we see more of that kind of plot set-up?

          • thumbs up – when you write one, I’ll read it. ;-)

            • Promise? I am writing one now, along that line – a historical, of course. Two young Englishwomen come to Texas in 1875, and through lots of interesting adventures come to realize how a marriage is a true partnership. One is a young noblewoman with serious self-doubt issues who marries a cattle rancher – she is desperate to escape and he feels sorry for her (and is tired of being bugged about marrying someone) … and starting from all the wrong reasons, they work it out. The other woman is her ladies’ maid – who has her own issues. Yeah, I’m afraid it’s kind of woman-interest slanted, But the follow-on book will be a young man’s adventures in Gold Rush California.

              Come to think on it, though – my first HF (To Truckee’s Trail) did feature a well-married couple team. More than a decade married, and still crackers in love with each other. (I based that part of it on Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Another reason for liking the Victorians – very emotionally open.) That book is still my best-seller – and I think some of the other commenters here can vouch for it! Noted quote: “A good wife will reload for you … a great one will take up a knife and slit your enemies’ throats.”

  13. I well recall the good old days when Evangelicals named the spirit of the age Secular Humanism and denounced it. What we’re seeing and reacting against is Secular In-Humanism.

    It shows up in all the dystopian stories that are pushed hardest at schoolchildren.

    You’ve identified what I call the Hollywood Stupid Tax. Real humans are not naturally inclined to resonate with stupid stuff. It requires repetition and the construction of a false consciousness. (I love recycling marxist language.) As a class I call all this kultursmog “The Hollywood Stupid Tax.” I think the reason Star Trek Enterprise virtually destroyed the brand was that it was too busy paying the Hollywood Stupid Tax to not suck.

    My friends at church have pivoted from decrying Secular Humanism to Post-Modernism. (I think is a little silly, because Christianity is neither pre-modern, modern or post-modern, but a-modern.) But decrying and denouncing is not enough, something positive must be asserted instead.

    This is why I’m so anxious to see more sane writers participating in the Human Wave of Science Fiction.

  14. Back in the Seventies, when the push for companies to hire and promote female managers got truly … pushy, there was a trend for businesses to bypass highly competent female employees to promote marginally competent ones. My theory was they expected to be able to point to their failure as proof that “women can’t manage.” Instead we ended up somewhere else, eh?

    There is ample evidence that most people — male and female — prefer working for a male boss. Likely this is because female bosses are prey to two equal and opposite errors. They either attempt to out-male the men (think of those Eighties shoulder pads and man-suits) or they attempt to adapt “mothering” to the business world. Neither works, and neither properly leverages female character strengths and skills to development and management of effective teams. Women do manage effectively, and not actually all that differently than men.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      I work for a woman, who does a pretty good job most of the time. She doesn’t generally fall prey to the errors you cite, except for one area – when the other guys and I talk about some of our interactions with each other, which often tend to be rather verbally roughhousing, she worries that one of us will get upset and… I don’t know, start a fight, quit, go Postal, or something. Other than that, she’s one of the better bosses I’ve worked for.

  15. A couple other mindless and inaccurate memes propagated by the MSM: combat vets are dangerously volatile and corporations are the primary locus of evil in this world, willing to poison the public and assassinate whistle-blowers. Both are pernicious falsehoods but both are very easy for lazy story-telling.

    On the first lie, I suspect that, on a per capita basis, there are fewer ticking-bomb vets than there are “journalists” creating false stories regardless of the collateral damage (generally presenting conservatives in a bad light, oddly enough.) Heck, I bet you could find more incidence of fake racial assault than of explosive combat veterans.

    • oh yes. You are absolutely right. Then there’s the noble savage thing.

    • The “explosive combat vet” lie is particularly vile. Veterans are treated as badly today as they were post-Vietnam. The only difference is that now the veteran hate is cloaked in phony sympathy.

      Post-Vietnam: “You’re a bunch of baby-killers.” (spit)

      Now: “I feel so bad that we sent you to kill those babies. I suppose that’s why you spend your nights shaking and shooting up heroin. Here’s some Thorazine so you don’t go on a shooting spree. Oh, and hand over your guns; obviously you shouldn’t have those. Say, I met a girl who’d be great for you; she panhandles out in front of Walmart and sleeps in the garbage bin there. She’s cute if you ignore her lack of teeth and the smell.”

  16. I don’t ever comment about the “pussified man” thing. Not me, no sirree.

  17. I kept meaning to note (but was never online when it occurred, and never remembered when back at the computer – sigh) that the “self-licking ice cream cone” has frequently been used as a metaphor for the current administration’s economic policies.

  18. Late to the party, but here goes:

    There was a time before the carefully mixed social groups of today’s commercials. A time when we were all assured that ‘blonds have more fun’ and the world depicted was white, middle class and suburban. These are social constructs reflecting the targeted market(s). In the big cities where there were large black populations there were rare commercials for specialty products and businesses, such as black beauty products. These commercials were tied to specific programing, like Soul Train.

    Commercials are designed for the buyer the advertiser expects to buy. Women have been the prime buyers, making most of the day to day purchasing decisions. Since our current popular meme is the cleaverer woman the advertiser is likely to use this image to stroke their prospective marks.

    The commercials you show are admittedly bizarre. Skittles has long gone for strange images, and it is not really surprising that at some point it would cross the line. Count yourself lucky that you don’t watch much television. The Daughter refuses to watch a lot of Anime broadcasts because the advertisers there seem to think sick is what their market wants.

    The commercial that I have found most disturbing recently was one for fast food chicken strips. It shows a father sending his little boy off to play hide and seek. The father eats up all of the chicken, while telling the little boy that he is looking for him. Daddy as the nasty older brother? What kind of parenting message is that?

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Did you look at the one I linked earlier? The kid is looking for his parents, and finds them in bed (not sleeping). The spaghetti sauce, Ragu, is then promoted as the thing to make the bad day all better.

      • YES. That was sick. Besides, which kind of parents don’t put Crisco on the outside bedroom door knob? Kids MIGHT defeat the lock; Crisco wins every time though.

        • Shortly we’ll see the new Crisco commercial, at least putting it on the doorknob is better than the old I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter jokes.