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Knowing How To Be A Real Man

April 29, 2010
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It took many hours of clipping, splitting, and repositioning, and even more hours watching educational films, and their inherent unintentional comedy, but here it is – my social commentary on what we think it takes to be a real man, and how we were thought to think that way. In the process of putting this video together, it dawned on me as to how the messages of misogyny, homophobia and sexism were embedded in the Super Bowl commercials. At first, I assumed the spots were continuing old stereotypes. But after paying close attention to the content of the educational films, I realized the ads were hyperbolic and ironic messages echoing from America’s “golden age.” ¬†In some cases, the traditional role of a man is set to the extreme to give adequate attention to what men “really” go through. In others, gender roles are flipped which then causes anger and strife. Using a series of vignettes, I tried to depict the hyperbole and irony within the ¬†expectations and roles of men in certain situations.

Here’s a brief breakdown on the semiotic properties found within each vignette.

Knowing how to fit in.

The story begins with Ralph talking to his father about being unable to fit in his new school. To add an element of tension within the audience the footage is distorted, and then the voiceover explains to us that Ralph suffers from the “sickness” of homosexuality. Ralph’s father, either unaware of his son’s illness or actively ignoring it, decides to give him some cryptic advice. The audience is then allowed to see the father’s actions are less than “manly,” but get the job done.

Knowing how to pick a date.

With the knowledge that homosexuality is a sickness, we are told that picking a date is about choosing someone who’s company we would enjoy. Ironically we are told this while seeing two men practically kiss. The voiceover then explains that looks is a good way to pick a date. Images of women depicted in recent Super Bowl commercials is interrupted by what we are told is a pretty girl from the 1960s. The differences are obvious, but the message remains the same; looks are important. The voiceover then explains that even good looking girls can be uppity, and could cause a man to have a bad time. This is juxtaposed with a scene from a modern date, where the man has fallen victim to the temptress who doesn’t know what men need to have a good time.

Knowing how to be agreeable.

Young men were being taught to be agreeable for their own benefit and for those around them. But what happens when being agreeable goes too far? In this vignette, the tension builds as scenes switch back and forth from women being agreeable to the wishes of their men and men being agreeable to the wishes of their women. The scenes depict happiness when women are subservient, and anger when men are placed in that role. The vignette culminates in a montage of juxtaposed images of men in traditional roles, and how those roles are depicted in modern time. Set to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” the message is intended to remind the audience that while certain themes are prevalent in today’s media, it isn’t a recent epidemic. They have been ingrained in the American male for quite some time, and it may take some time before those ideals are altered or expunged.

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