A Culture of Clichés

June 1, 2012 4:42 pm

Unfortunate though it may be, it is a fact universally acknowledged that in the modern day, consumer based society; our reflection can be seen clearest through advertising. Though I feel that I would be unable to outdo any previous criticisms lamenting on the toxicity of this institution, run by power hungry tyrants with a severe case of “small man syndrome” (look at the wife), it is not fair to paint us all as naïve enough to succumb to the same manipulation that would have us believe that the right deodorant will solve our love life (apparently by turning all onlookers blind?). No, what vexes me is that these adverts portray an image of women that may have originally been deemed simply as amusing, but now, in a more sinister way are seen as true. This theory can be extended to the love sick/anorexic/alcoholic/broken home originating characters that we now see so frequently on mindlessly predictable television series, and yet disturbingly this seems to be having the adverse effect of propagating the idea that these features are something to emulate, since it would seem we are all so desperate to relate the fictitious drama to ourselves.

The recent irn-bru advert shows a steriotypically hysterical woman

The recent ‘irn-bru’ commercial is a disturbing example of this; it clearly portrays the cliché of a hysterical woman who her laid back martyr of a boyfriend must cope with (aided by the omnipotent ‘irn-bru’), as she fills their newly shared space with all manner of garish pink and fluffy items and most bizarrely, her mother. This vicious depiction of the genders contains a duality of falsehood; on the one hand of females as high pitched maniacs, with an overzealous obsession of drapery and fairy lights, who desire nothing more than to jeopardize their sex life by making their mother an addition to their new home; and of males as the calm species, who so desirous to maintain their relationship with a woman (regardless of her questionable sanity) will tolerate this behaviour, the reason  irn-bru gives as to why though remains ambiguous, presumably as this will lead to a continuation of their physical relationship – in this instance all men are shallow – or due to the fact that he is an utterly selfless human being, with no other apparent options.

Or even better, the stunningly improbable Always Ultra campaign, which not only implies that most of us have been complaining unfairly before, crouched shuddering in the corner of our bedrooms, praying that we were in possession of sanitary towels with super natural abilities and only then could we have a “happy period” but also that such a thing is possible. Are they deluded? Of course not every woman suffers in mortal agony during that blessed week of nature, however for those of us that do; this is beyond patronising and in fact only serves to heighten my “hormonal anger” outside that time frame – a side effect that presumably they did not desire. Staring at it in silent confusion, my face unsure of whether to register amusement or disgust, I realise that the point of this advert is as much to make the whole saga of “time of the month” stomachable for men, without having our own female watershed, as it is to reassure of the wholly impossible idea that empowerment and contentment in floaty dresses with perfect hair amidst this week toture, is only a product purchase away.

The Virgin Airlines advert does little to portray women as anything more than 'trolley dollies'

Or perhaps the consistently horrifying Virgin Airlines mini-sagas of heterosexual fantasy at its apex, where old powerful men can surround themselves with attractive air hostesses, who due to the important nature of their job, shouldn’t STILL be pictured as solely concerned with lipstick shade and hemlines. The enticing music that resonates with the idea of luxury and prestige that Virgin makes such an effort to exude, only serve to make it seem like the opening scene to a well-funded porno. These stereotypes of submissive women who seem to quite literally continue to breathe oxygen, so that they can flatter any bald man with a Coutts account who comes on board are responsible for perpetuating the continuing myths about how men and women conceive of one another.  This may seem like an overreaction to a rather innocuous advert, yet it is emblematic of a continuing disparity of the way in which men and women are viewed, and allows these views to become an accepted take on society which creates barriers and infantilizes those who are trying to change the status quo.

In fact; neither gender are fairly represented in any of these clips. Whilst some women may view their counterpart as being rather “heroic” in their masculine portrayal, I am left personally disenchanted by the cowardice displayed during the ‘irn-bru’ monstrosity and the chauvinistic delight of Richard Branson’s ilk, both of which are generalised stereotypes that are harmful to the advancement of an equal society founded on mutual respect. Yet the problem remains in the belief that most women are “hysterical” and though there is no numeric evidence to prove this, the cliché persists due to the preconceptions surrounding our behaviour.  Furthermore this idea can now be utilised in such campaigns that so arrogantly demand our acceptance of the humour, lest we seem devoid of emotional depth by not understanding that it was “only meant as a joke”, which they defend by saying that in real terms, its meaning is lacking and that it is not in the slightest an insight into their views on women and society. Yet in the modern culture that we currently inhabit jokes are (one of) the literal symbols of society’s commonly held views and can be tremendously harmful weapons. At the turn of the 20th century it was not uncivilised to cast aspersions on those of black/Irish origin in a humorous way because the derogatory nature of the joke was considered to be true. Although racism does to an extent still persist, the notion that this view could be painted in an advert is effectively illegal, yet our current selves, who in theory have the benefit of greater universal education and philosophy on the practice of equality, still determine that women can be portrayed as the emotional wrecks that we were believed to be a hundred years ago when the vote was denied to us for this very reason.

This is not to say that some women may be highly emotional and men laid back, yet first-hand experience in the metrosexual age proves that the converse is equally true, as are a myriad of other options. Creating clichés is an inherent part of human nature, as in the “Wikipedia” rapid pace of life that we need, it takes the most laborious part of appreciating the individuality of a person out of the equation. Superficial profiling can be decidedly dangerous and has led to the sort of irrational fear that sees “yummy mummys” evacuate from the tube if sharing the carriage with an Asian man wearing a rucksack. Or why men of black origin are ten times more likely to be stopped and searched yet only one in a hundred times will there be discoveries that warrant such an appalling misuse of the stereotype. Humour cannot be exercised as a justification indefinitely and instead should be deployed towards the removal of archaic barriers and a more unified society, rather than as an immature ploy for selling revolting canned drinks to the perpetually numbed.

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