One has to love commercials. Okay, not really, but still, one has to note commercials when they’re on the television, unless you’ve DVRed whatever show you’re watching. And occasionally, one comes across a commercial that makes one think.
Of course, I usually am not thinking about the actual product the commercial is selling in its own hyperbolic way, but about the messages the commercials send, and whether they have any relation to the real world. The answer, usually, is no.
Take this Wonder Bread commercial, please1:
Now, we can get into a whole discussion of the different levels of “wondering” the mom in this commercial is doing — her wonderings about her daughter have to do with how she feels about boys, while her wonderings about her sons are all about hairstyles and whether her youngest son really thinks he can fly. And I’m sure someone can spin a good column about that, and I hope they do.
(We could also ask why, in 2010, it’s always a mom wondering about their kids in Every. Damn. Commercial. But of course, this is a food commercial, and if commercials have taught me one thing, it’s that I, as a dad, am incapable of making toast without decimating a small town.)
But I want to focus on the first thing said in the commercial, the first thing the mom wonders: “Does she [the daughter] still think boys are icky?”
Because here in the year 2010, the accurate answer is probably that she never did.
As you probably know, I have a daughter in 2nd grade. Later today, she’s going to a birthday party for a classmate at an indoor swimming pool. My daughter loves swimming, so she’s thrilled about the location, and she’s excited to go to the party and see classmates and friends from school.
The party, incidentally, is for a boy in her class.
This is not unusual. While my daughter has certainly gone to sex-segregated birthday parties, and will again, I’m sure, she has also gone to plenty of parties where boys and girls attended on relatively equal footing. Moreover, when my daughter talks about people in her class that she likes, she mentions girls more than boys — but she mentions boys pretty regularly. She plays with them at recess, she plays with them outside of school time. She spends more time with female friends than male friends — but spends quite a bit of time with both.
Now, I know I’m a nutty feminist, and her mom is too, but this isn’t something we’ve particularly fostered. If anything, it’s surprised me — I was quite prepared for my daughter’s friends to be pretty exclusively female, because that’s how it was back in my day.
But a couple generations of feminism seem to have begun to have an effect on the kids — and it turns out when a bunch of parents raise their sons and daughters to believe that the differences between men and women are overstated, that it’s okay for boys to like “girly” things and girls to like “boy” things, that ultimately boys and girls are equals — well, it turns out the children learn those lessons, and apply them in real life by treating a nice kid as a nice kid, whether that kid’s a boy or a girl.
I wonder, when my daughter is a mother, if she’ll ever think for a second that her daughter could find boys to be “icky,” or her son could find girls to be “gross.” As for me, I know my daughter well enough to know that she doesn’t find boys repulsive at all. She never has. And I suspect that she and the others members of her generation will grow up a lot more balanced for that lack of disgust.
1Relevant Transcript for the Viewing Impaired: “You wonder, ‘does she still think boys are icky?’ (Shot of tween boy boarding school bus, tween girl checks him out then gabs to a friend while boy looks vaguely uncomfortable.) You wonder, ‘what’s up with his hair?’ (Shot of tween boy fiddling with odd hairstyles.) You wonder, ‘does he really think he can fly?’ (Shot of young boy with Superman-style cape jumping on twin beds.)” After that, the ad sells you white bread as if it isn’t horribly unhealthy. The end.