The Male Folk Hero

by Janis Cortese

Watch some TV sometime. More accurately -- watch the commercials. Hell, I'll list a few, and we'll see if we can't pick out the common thread running through them.

  1. Some overweight male sports fan who is already courting a myocardial infarction assures his status as Regular Guy Folk Hero by seeing if he can cram an entire footlong hot dog into his mouth in three seconds. (Extra bonus points for anyone who spots the suppressed homoeroticism in this little antacid spot.)
  2. An entire male line of angioplasty candidates waggle their beer guts into the camera at a football game and talk about how celestially satisfying it is to suck down stadium food as fast as they can move it past their jowls. Whee, what great guys. Can you imagine a woman with a stomach that size even willing to walk out of the house much less wag it at a camera?
  3. Two pudgy male execublobs are standing outside an am/pm shoving a few mangled syllables past the nachos and dogs in their bulging mouths to the point where they are flat-out unintelligible.
  4. An entire family buckles down before feeding their teenaged son some macaroni and cheese because we all know that those (male) teenagers can really pack the groceries away, don't we! (I guess his teenaged sister wasn't shown at the table since she was probably in the bathroom vomiting it all up again.)
  5. Any of a variety of overweight males are sitting outside a Carl's Jr. eating like hogs while everything drips out past their fingers and mouths, and they are practically slapped on the back for it by the announcer as being Real Men.
  6. Some paunchy sweaty blob is sitting outside a fast food joint cramming his gut while his girlfriend (who looks like she hasn't had a square meal since snack time in kindergarten) pouts and preens and acts annoyed. Shit, maybe she was just jealous.

Jealous of what? Jealous, perhaps, of the way that men are congratulated as folk heros of Americana for simply shoving as much food into their pie-holes as they can possibly fit there? Jealous of the way that these commercials are often shown in the same break as the commercials for Jenny Craig -- you know, where the disgusting, piggy, horrifically suicidal *F*A*T* woman is shown finding new purpose in life now that she eats cardboard-and-skim-milk shakes three meals a day and had her stomach stapled shut? While Mr. Football Fan jiggles a blobby gut twelve times as big in the viewer's face wearing a big old "ain't I just fabulous?" grin?

Or jealous of the way that dumpy men have always been shown with women who look like they just stepped out from under the scalpel (Seinfeld, anyone?) whereas women over 40 just magically vanish from tee-vee land once they get a crow's-toenail much less a whole foot? Screw "As Good As It Gets," I want to see a dessicated psychotic old crazy lady in bed with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Jealous of the way that this pressure gives men a smorgasbord of appetizing women to entertain them by shimmying and jiggling on every damned channel, whereas we get about one zillionth the selection?

Maybe just possibly.

I'll let you know when I see a commercial for ANY food item -- a juice drink, a hot dog, a plate of nachos, a Hungry MAN dinner -- that shows an overweight woman or a teenaged girl shoving it in as fast as her esophagus can channel it into her GI tract and smiling the whole way, while the announcer says, "Look at her go! What a woman!" Or maybe some soccer mom smiling amusedly and saying, "You know what it's like when you have teenagers; they eat you out of house and home," while her teenaged daughter and her female friends are chugging down the microwaved pizza rolls after a flag football game.

Hungry MAN dinner?! Give me a break. You want hungry, talk to his wife or daughter. They know what it means to go hungry.

Copyright © 2000 by Janis Cortese

02/10/07 at 5:14