Daze of My Life/“I Spy with My Little Eye”

by Kenneth B. Lourie

There’s an advertisement for Cingular Wireless promoting its unlimited minutes and expanded network of free mobile-to-mobile calling that I’ve heard on the radio recently, and repeatedly, which is beginning to bother me, as a man.
It’s extremely demeaning (or could that be demanning?) The commercial to which I refer is the one where a father is driving somewhere with his family - wife, daughter and son - and he wants to play car charades because presumably the family doesn’t have enough minutes of free calling with its current cellular service provider - not Cingular Wireless - and must therefore pass the time being bored and stupid, specifically the father, who, as his dialogue would lead you to believe, is a complete doofus. (“Actually I was thinking Homer’s ‘Iliad.’”)
Now since I don’t consider myself a complete doofus, or even a partial one, I don’t take it personally, but I do object to it inasmuch as it reflects on me genderly. Does the father have to be so totally clueless and unaware that the family is nearly in a car accident - “TRUCK!” - because he’s so determined to play his time-passing game - “Frere Jacques, parmesan” - that he doesn’t seem to realize or remember that he’s driving an automobile?
And that’s because he, and his family, has the wrong cellular service provider. Isn’t that the inference of the commercial, or am I a stranger in town? Moreover, is someone who doesn’t have Cingular Wireless cellular the kind of out-of-touch dope who (A) doesn’t pay attention when he’s driving an automobile, (B) plays car charades and, (C) puts his family at risk because of (A) and (B)? And if so, is that the kind of idiotic behavior with which I want to be in anyway associated? Of course not, and by that association or direct marketing intention, is that the kind of cellular service provider that one wants to have that causes him to - due to limited minutes or restrictive calling network - act like an irresponsible, insane-sounding, bozo (with all due respect to clowns everywhere)?
And the father is the dummy du jour, who exhibits many of the ill-advised, inattentive traits that no sane person would want to possess, under any circumstances, especially circumstances where you put your family in danger. What kind of moron is he? “Why,” as Curly Howard of the Three Stooges said, “are there more than one kind?” And that’s what I object to - moronic behavior by a man to promote a product.
Isn’t there a better way to highlight a positive than to lowlight a negative - I don’t think I’m being oversensitive here. I think I’m being just-right-sensitive to the insensitivity of the producers who are responsible for this Cingular Wireless radio commercial. I don’t like it when my fellow males, or myself, are used as pawns in a game of I’m-better-than-you-are. Why not simply promote your product on its merits? Humiliating a gender in the process may be easy, but I’m here to tell you, as a man, in this context it’s not very effective.
Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.