As part of their media campaign for the 2013 Venza, Toyota is airing a series of new ads which feature characters driving the vehicle and extolling different virtues of their new ride.  I saw a few of these commercials during the Olympics and this one in particular caught my attention – by which, I mean it made my brain itchy with vexitude:

Ha ha ha!  He is SO whipped! High-five, Lady In The Commercial!  You have done your womanly duty and trained your husband like a pet! He pretends to like what you like. For a moment there it looked as though he was expressing a personal preference but you quickly squashed his independent opinion with a whole lotta stank face. You go, girl! Power imbalances are the new black!

Except, you know, NOT!

Nothing about this ad strikes me as cute. It’s some weaksauce humour that relies on what is perhaps my least favourite comedic trope: The Whatever-You-Want-Dear Marriage . While this particular commercial is far from the most extreme version I’ve seen, it demonstrates everything that peeves me about this gag in an efficient twelve seconds.

If I took this same ad, reversed the gender roles and added a few bars of melancholy piano music, I could use it as a PSA for emotional abuse.  I know we’re not meant to assume that the wife in this ad is a violent person. But can I infer that she’s rampaging control-freak?  Because only a rampaging control freak would be all ‘HOW DARE YOU NOT LIKE FOLD DOWN SEATS AS MUCH AS ME!*’

Being a douche to your spouse. Nope, not seeing the funny in that. Nor do I see what’s funny about the husband’s sheepish and somewhat befuddled redaction. I mostly feel bad for him. I think the producers of the commercial intend for our reaction to be a sympathic, light-hearted “Whoa, dude! You messed up.” But when “messing up” in a relationship is “I like different things than my partner,” that strikes me as problematic, not hilarious.

“But Nadine,” some might tell me, ” that’s just how marriage is.”

I also don’t accept that these dynamics are the inevitable consequence of long-term coupledom. Yes time changes people and the feelings they have for one another. Partners can grow apart or circumstances change what was once a happy relationship into something that doesn’t work so well anymore. What I don’t accept is the idea that over time all relationships invariably devolve into oppression and being mean to each other, so we might as well throw our hands up and laugh because, hey – that’s just what a marriage is.

I’ve been with my partner for sixteen years. Like any other long-term couple The Man of Mans and I have conflict and moments when we just bug the hell out of each other. But for the most part I really like him. I want to be kind to my spouse, not quash his opinions – even though I have strong suspicions that he really doesn’t like our car’s fold down seats as much as I do.

This  isn’t to say that I’m great at marriage or that all relationships should be like mine.  But when people tell me that marriage “just becomes” tedious and restrictive, I object. I really, really hope there isn’t an inevitable point in our future when The MoMs doesn’t feel free to express an preference that differs from mine. I don’t want badger my partner into a submissive yes man who obediently parrots my every opinion. I don’t ever want my relationship to be what I see in that commercial. Because that shit? Ain’t funny.

 

*Unless ‘Fold Down Seats’ is some kind of secret code and I missed the point of the ad entirely . If so, I take back everything I’ve just written.

 

 

Comments

  1. Rick K says:

    Hear, hear. Also commercials portraying dad as a numbnuts parent incapable of a diaper change make me angry.

  2. Kevin W says:

    It’s funny, I first saw an entirely different situation there. When I first saw the ad it looked to me more like she was giving him the “your talking to a chick and she doesn’t understand about horsepowers so just say something that she understands” look. Offensive on a different level.

  3. deekayelgee says:

    Yep! So many levels of yep. When I got together with Jono we made a pact not to do the “wife and husband” comedy routine that usually happens at dinner parties, where you speak about your partner like they aren’t there, and say things like, “If only he would take the garbage out” nudge nudge wink wink, and compare our relationship to others. If I have an issue, I bring it to him. Sure sometimes I am a control freak. Sometimes I’m a nag. It goes both ways. We both have things that drive us batty, and we get “grrrr” up in each other’s faces. In the end though, we take a breath, and try to be respectful of each other’s opinions. This is a very good blog post for right now though, cuz things are tough, and we need to remind each other that we’re playing on the same team.

  4. Jen says:

    100% agree! That kind of marriage stereotype makes me nuts. I don’t even understand what’s appealing about it. Do people want a spouse/partner who only agrees with them? (I guess some must.) Isn’t it better if you end up in a situation where you’re both happy about something, even if for different reasons?

    If that were my husband and I, we would’ve high fived because the car has features we both like. Which would’ve made the commercial so much better.

  5. syrens says:

    Y’know, honestly, I think it’s okay for someone to not like “fold down seats ” as much as their partner does. Good, giving and game notwithstanding, everyone has things on their not-so-keen list.

    Re: What you were actually writing about:
    I feel like we (“society”, however you want to define that, the culture that results in ads like this) have spent a huge chunk of time being a sex-segregated culture and… we haven’t let go of the “we’re not supposed to hang out (read: be friends) with each other” thing that comes with that, even though we’re now supposed to hang out with each other.
    I recently spent a few hours vegging out in front of a TV – something that doesn’t happen a lot these days – and it was… bizarre how much of television is sending messages like: “women are shallow and bossy, but (as long as they’re hot[1]) you[2] should want to have sex with them” and “men are stupid and childish but you[3] are supposed to want to marry[4] one anyway”.
    It’s really, REALLY messed up!

    [1] As defined by a really narrow cultural beauty standard, not anyone’s personal tastes
    [2] presumed cis-male
    [3] presumed cis-female
    [4] ’cause that’s all women are supposed to want, amirite? Alternatively: “or capitulate to the sexual advances of”… because we’re supposed to want marriage (and babies) but not actually have sexual appetites of our own…

  6. Nick says:

    Yes! I loathe the pussy-whipped Dad trope too. A close second for me is the “My family members are lazy and inconsiderate, but oh well” Mom. Often seen in Febreeze commercials, as she empties an entire bottle of air freshener onto a pile of dirty laundry left in the middle of the kitchen floor. Ha ha, oh God love ’em! Hey here’s a thought – how bout you ask your kids to DO THEIR OWN CHORES? I mean I know these ads trade on a Mom’s feelings of long-suffering servitude but I can’t stand the depiction of the Mom being cheerfully resigned to it.