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?

Fifty Fifty Challenge “Marches” On

For crying out loud! Where did the time go? One minute it’s here, right in front of me, like a red carpet rolled out for the Oscars, and I’m all gussied up getting ready to make the most of my time and ease on down the red—

And, the next minute it’s flown the coop!

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are rookie cops who go back to high school in "21 Jump Street."

I mean March has 31 days, not like it’s awkward sister, February, who most years has a meager 28 and, this year had a whopping 29. Close, but no cigar.

So you’d think, with 31 days, I can do plenty of damage on my Fifty Fifty list, right? I mean, think of all the movies I can watch! The books I can read! The sky’s the limit, no?

Alas, no. All that supposed time I had to read books and watch movies got hit by a train and left town.

In other words, I ran out of time and didn’t really make a dent in my Fifty Fifty challenge. I’m embarrassed to say that, in the month of March, I saw only four movies—that’s one a week!—and read just two books, one of which was less than 150 pages. Pathetic, I know. Tsk, tsk.

And yes, I know. I’ll never reach my goal at this rate.

So, laugh at me, if you will, but before you do, I submit for your entertainment, my paltry list:

The Movies:

21 Jump Street – I’m putting my rep on the line here and coming out and saying it: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum make an awesome team and this is one hilarious film. It’s a laugh a minute, with unexpected moments and ridiculously funny ones, too. I loved it right through the credits. I can’t wait for the sequel (and you know there’s going to be a sequel). Look for great cameo from original cast member Johnny Depp. It is a classic scene, an homage to the series, which, by the way, I never saw. In other words, two thumbs up! If nothing else, see it because it co-stars Nick Offerman who plays Ron Swanson, the baddest curmudgeon you’ll ever meet, on my favorite sitcom, Parks and Recreation!

Friends with Kids – Great cast, nice, sweet, somewhat predictable, slow in spots, great cast (oh, did I already mention that it has a great cast?). This is a film by Jennifer Westfeldt (of Kissing Jessica Stein fame, which I never saw), who convinced her boyfriend, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, to co-star in it and play a jerk, to boot. First of all, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that The Jon Hamm is her boyfriend. A moment please while I take it in…

…Okay, anyway, as I was saying, this film stars Adam Scott, from Parks and Recreation, along with Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph (have you seen Miss Maya in Up All Night? Simply fabulous!), Edward Burns, and Megan Fox.  Wait for the DVD. You’ll enjoy it more that way.

The Muppet Movie: Fun film. I saw this with my kids (who are grown, as you no doubt know) and we all enjoyed it. Jason Segel wrote the screenplay and co-stars in it with Amy Adams, Rashida Jones (who also stars in Parks and Recreation), and a slew of Muppets. Songs could be better, but everything else, indeed, was. Charming film with lots of cameo appearances, everyone from Jack Black to Neil Patrick Harris.

The Old Curiosity Shop: Charles Dickens, need I say more? You’ll weep for Nell, you’ll despise Quilp and you’ll want to give Derek Jacobi as Nell’s grandfather, a good kick in the pants. This BBC production feels a bit like the condensed version of the book, but worth seeing because it’s a terrific yarn.

The Books:

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: I love Sylvia Plath. I first read this book ages ago and the first line is still my hands-down, favorite, all time opening for a book:

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

Simple, to the point, and so evocative. Immediately draws you in.

Love Story by Erich Segal:  Another book that I read as a teen. Why did I love it so much back then? Who knows? I was a sap for romance. Why did this become a HUGE bestseller? Who knows? I wasn’t the only sap for romance, I guess.  In retrospect, as far as writing goes, I’ve read better. I can’t help but wonder, if this book were submitted to a publisher today, would it get published? Rather trite and simple, if you ask me.  This coming month, I plan to watch the movie with Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal. I’ll let you know if it’s any better.

And one more…

Corduroy by Don Freeman:

Okay, I didn’t read this book this month. But, I read it to my kids, over and over, when they were young. I’m sure you know its endearing story. Corduroy is a teddy bear who finds a home with a girl named Lisa, when she buys him with money she saved in her piggy bank.

Last week, I discovered that fellow blogger, Lisa Rosenberg, is the inspiration for the Lisa in the Corduroy stories! Her’s is an amazing tale, and I encourage you to find out more in her post, The Hunger Games, Corduroy and Me.

So, tell me, what movies or books did you enjoy last month?