Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Big Girls Don't Cry Wolf

I was uncomfortable. I was outraged. I was…jealous.

Some undeserving clown was kissing Bar Rafaeli, and it wasn’t me. I should be that undeserving clown!

A lot of people have had a lot to say about the Go Daddy ad that aired during the Super Bowl, which featured an international supermodel (Miss Rafaeli) doing tongue-jujitsu with a nerdy, overweight guy (Jesse Heiman). Very little of what was said was positive. Scratch that; none of it was positive.

And while—at first—those disapproving voices seemed only to be agreeing with me, I began to see things differently once my own selfish ire wore off. If my initial disdain for a meaningless television commercial was born from my desire to be the one lip-lockin’ with Bar, what was fueling the wave of criticisms from everyone else? Over the years, Go Daddy’s sexually-charged stunts have slowly desensitized us to each new ad they’ve released. Why should this one suddenly awaken new disgust? Were Entertainment Weekly writers, newspaper columnists, and talk show hosts only chiming in because they were jealous, too? Perhaps, in some cases. But more and more, it now feels like something far worse: bigotry.

Let’s imagine, for just a second, that the man swirling tongues with Bar in that ad had been Channing Tatum. Just what would the public response have been? I, and other gents such as myself, would likely still be outraged for a good minute or two, simply because it wasn’t us. Tatum’s wife, Jenna Dewan, might also be a little peeved (also due to jealousy). But would the mass public’s sentiment have been as harsh? Would "backlash" have been an accurate term to describe the entertainment media’s reaction to watching two hot, consenting adults get mouth-friendly to promote a web domain service that no one knows is a web domain service? Highly unlikely. That’s not to say no media mouthpiece would speak against the ad. But you’re fooling yourself if you think he or she would spend more than 140 Twitter characters on the subject.

Quite simply, the objection towards this Go Daddy ad exists solely because the male lead is unattractive. He was chubby. He was nerdy. He was ginger! *shivers* How dare they force such lechery upon our chaste eyes!

Now, for the sake of argument, let’s look at this story from another angle: How would all of this have been treated if the model had been male, and the nerd had been female? If…some guy [admittedly, the only male model’s name that I know of is Derek Zoolander], some Adonis whose jaw line was chiseled from a marble slab and whose abs could stop a bullet, was passionately kissing an overweight and unappealing woman in glasses, would we hear those same judgmental voices crying out in the name of decency? Hell, not only would those people be silent, at this very moment they’re probably a click away from attacking me for suggesting a hypothetical woman is “overweight and unappealing”.

And there you have it, the double-standard. Attractive man + attractive woman? Stamp of approval. Attractive man + unattractive, chubby woman? The next Rebel Wilson. Unattractive, chubby man + attractive woman? Not on MY television!

Why is it okay for everyone to be repulsed when a male romantic lead bears the deficit in physical beauty? The audacity that it takes to perpetuate this fraud of social mores is staggering. And yet it seems to have slipped past almost all of us without so much as a second thought on our parts. When a woman doesn’t fit the Hollywood norm, she’s an inspiration; when a man doesn’t, he’s a punchline.

Now, to be fair, for years Hollywood has enforced much stricter physical requirements on women than on men. While everyone from Jackie Gleason to Steve Buscemi have played leading men who’ve gotten the girl, it’s only been more recently that the door has cracked open for “regular gals”. [Sidenote: This is a term that’s ridiculously misused; Melissa McCarthy and Adele are both extremely talented women, but they’re not “regular” when it comes to body types. Let’s just be honest, here. I am far from the Channing Tatum end of the spectrum. But I’m also not delusional enough to think that being out-of-shape makes me as big as Billy Gardell. And I wouldn’t refer to Gardell as a “regular guy” just because we both need to cut back on carbs.] Lena Dunham is proving, one uncomfortable-for-everyone-but-her nude scene at a time, that women don’t have to be off-duty swimsuit models to be stars. We’re in the dawn of a girl-power era, and the result is “unlikely” leading ladies such as Wilson and McCarthy. But, if it’s wrong for society to be offended when one of these ladies kisses her hot male costar, why isn’t this true when genders are reversed and it’s Go Daddy’s nerd lothario? For all of the pro-curves, equality-for-big-gals cheerleading that occurs today in pop culture and social media, where’s all of the support when the person in question is male?

The move towards less-unrealistic standards for leading ladies is certainly refreshing. But centuries of misogyny won’t be erased by a sudden overcompensation in the opposite—yet equally unfair—direction.

*puts on pair of glasses* Now, Bar: About a follow-up ad…

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