Mad Women

I’m the kind of person who won’t watch commercial television unless I can fast forward through the ads. And, most of the time that’s exactly what I do.  But, once in a while, it’s unavoidable, and I am forced to watch a few.

Flo. She's got moxie.

Flo’s got moxie.

Granted, they’re not all bad. Some are refreshingly funny or slick and hip. Those are the best. Some create interesting characters, like Flo. She’s the insurance lady who works in a store where everything seems to be strangely stark white.  With her intense makeup and brilliant smile, there’s something real and down to earth about her. I think she and I could be good friends, assuming she gets time off from selling insurance.

The Brad Pitt commercials I don’t get. Bizarre and over my head, if you want to know the truth. Besides, I prefer clean-shaven Brad to scruffy Brad.

Target has cool ads. So does Old Navy.  Their ads often have a brightly-colored, retro look. Meanwhile, I dislike the Walmart ads on principal.

I think any of the commercials for prescription drugs are way too long. Probably because they have to list every single side effect. I’ll never forget how, when my son was still a kid, he watched an ad for acid reflux so many times, he swore he had it, too.

And, don’t get me started on the ad for toenail fungus. Eww!

This woman is so busy at work, she has to take her lunch at her desk. Yet she finds time to use the Progresso soup can to call grandma who she's sure made the soup.

This woman is so busy at work, she has to take her lunch at her desk. Yet she finds time to use the Progresso soup can to call grandma, who she’s sure made the soup.

But the worst commercials of all are the ones that make women look plain dumb.  I’m talking to you, Progresso!

First, let me say, I have nothing against Progresso soup. That said, the last time I fell head over heels in love with any soup was well, let me see if I can remember…oh yeah.


So why does Progresso show women (and, on occasion, men) fawning over their soup, and loving it so much, that they pick up the empty Progresso soup can, to call the “Progresso” chef (as if it’s made by professional chefs and not in a factory).  Clearly, they must know a soup can is not a phone, yet as soon as the can is in hand, they say, “Ring, ring!

And magically, the chef answers, generally a male. The woman tells the chef that the soup is so good, it must have been prepared by grandma. She waxes poetic about the soup while the chef has a look on his face, as if to say, “This is what I have to put up with all day.”  Apparently, these women love their Progresso soup so much, that in one of the commercials, you see a woman wearing empty soup cans on her head, using them as curlers.

Now, I’m no feminist but, can it get any sillier than this?

The way I see it, these commercials are a throwback to the Mad Men era of advertising.  When women were portrayed as empty-headed housewives while a male voice-over, which always sounded wiser and more assured, taught them how to mop a floor, buy the correct toilet paper, and fix a meal for a “Hungry Man.”  Clearly, Madison Avenue must have believed we were incapable without their help. And, from the looks of the Progresso commercials, they still do.  Sigh.

And, while I’m at it, I find it a tad annoying, that in that car commercial where the grown son comes home for the holidays, in his spiffy new car, the parents, instead of greeting their prodigal son with open arms, sneak out the back door to take his car for a test drive. I don’t mind them taking the car, though I do wonder what kind of parents are these to leave their son, who, presumably, they haven’t seen in ages. Why don’t they first give him a warm welcome and a hug and then maybe the three of them can take the car for a spin?

And, why, oh why, is it the dad that gets behind the wheel while mom takes the passenger seat? Maybe I’m being nitpicky, but doesn’t she deserve to test drive the car once in a while? I’m just saying.

So how about you? Any commercials you particularly like or dislike?

Good Times with Country Boys

Is it me or does anyone else feel like getting up and line dancing every time they see the GE Ecomagination commercial on TV?  You know which one I’m talking about. In the ad, people from around the world form one very long line, from the GE factory to the corporate offices, to an airfield where a jet plane is clearly marked with the GE logo, across a city street, through the GE research labs, and finally into the farmlands. And they’re all line dancing, in perfect formation, to the tune of Alan Jackson’s hit, “Good Time.”

Everyone's dancing in the GE Ecomagination Line Dance Commercial.

Well the tune is so darn catchy, and the people in the commercial seem to be having such a good time not working, that it makes me want to put on my cowboy hat, kick up my boots, and join them.  Only I don’t know how to line dance, and I don’t think dancing salsa or putting on my tap shoes and tapping, would have the same effect.  Besides, I don’t own a cowboy hat or Western boots.

Just the same, that 30-second video brings out the country in me. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, there’s not much country in this Latina from Queens.  But just so you know, I had my brush with country once upon a time.  And I still like to listen to country music radio when the mood fits, or when I’m remembering a couple of country boys named Scott and Roy.

The year was 1978. At the time, I was living in Greenbelt, Maryland, with my roommate, Mandy, and we were both attending a nearby university.  I’d been looking for a part-time job to no avail, and then one day Mandy, who’s also from New York, came home and told me she had talked the owner of a brand new Arco mini-mart into hiring us both on the spot.

The mini-mart, just down the street from our apartment complex, was to have its grand opening in a day or so.  Apparently, Mandy had seen the “Now Hiring” sign in the window and had gone right in and got us the jobs.  Just like that. We were to be cashiers, something I’d never done before and somehow it didn’t seem to matter that the new boss and I had not yet met.

Mandy and I ended up working separate shifts, so we never really saw each other at work. Through our jobs, we got to know the locals—and the mostly male regulars who came in every morning for their cup of coffee and pack of cigarettes, before heading to construction jobs or some other work that required them being outdoors and working with their hands.

Two, in particular, Scott and Roy, started hanging around the store whenever Mandy or I were working, just to chat and shoot the breeze.  With their sunburnt faces and ruddy features, they had a distinctive Southern charm. These good ol’ boys seemed to get a kick out of our New York accents and the fact that we’d never been to a country western bar.

So it wasn’t long before they started inviting us to these bars to give us a bit of that down-home experience.  We soon were knee deep in the heart of country—and a long way from midtown Manhattan—dancing the Two-step and listening to the likes of Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson.  This was Americana at its best, where Civil War re-enactments took place seemingly everyday and hushpuppies were served with just about every meal.  But while Roy and Scott lived in this world 24/7, Mandy and I were just passing through.  School would eventually end and we’d go back to our more urban lifestyles.

Sure enough, our adventures in country lasted close to a year. In May, after finals, Mandy graduated and moved back to New York. I stayed on another year but quit my job at the mini-mart for a different one I had found–on my own–at the local mall. We never did see Roy and Scott again. But I still see Mandy from time to time, whenever I get back to the city.

Yet, sometimes I find myself wondering, whatever happened to those country boys?  Maybe they’re part of that long line of line dancers in the GE commercial, still enjoying their country western ways.  I’d like to think that. If not, wherever they are, I sure do want to thank them for their Southern hospitality and for introducing a couple of Yankee gals to the best of country. Their country.