Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Silence of The Wife

Let’s see if my readers are catching on. What’s wrong with this commercial?

If you guessed the over-protective father/daughter purity factor, you get a B+ for noticing the painfully obvious. But that’s not what’s really wrong. If you guessed the somewhat snide comment from the boy sitting at the coffee table regarding his father staring at that woman from his soccer game, the father’s face, and the mother’s silence, you get an A+!

Allow me to break this down further for you. The Man walks in to his loving, “normal” family exclaiming that he got this new awesome phone plan. The Wife remarks how she can call a “Vivian” (assumingly her best friend or sister), Middle Child says something random and quirky, and The Innocent Son then comments how the father can call the woman his father is always staring at from his soccer game. The Man looks visibly disturbed. He looks disturbed by the fact that his Innocent Son has blown up his spot—his little secret of the pleasure he gets from staring at some random woman, perhaps one of the soccer moms, at his son’s game which his attention is suppose to be on instead. Ok, now FREEZE at 0:11! Rewind like, one second where The Innocent Son is calling out his The Man. The Wife is drawing and never stops. She doesn’t even flinch or put down her pencil. She doesn’t look up, she doesn’t say a word, she doesn’t seem the least bit disturbed and actually, her most of her, including her head/face, is completely out of the screen shot so you can’t even see if she glances up menacingly at The Man at The Innocent Son’s comment! Why the silence?! Perhaps she is use to hearing this sort of thing. Perhaps she is so use to the male gaze herself that this sort of comment doesn’t even register. Surely none of the women on T-Mobile’s marketing team noticed that this was horribly offensive and WRONG. Why is it that The Innocent Son, who is actively involved in his soccer game, is so hyper-aware that his father, The Man, is staring at another woman, so much so that he feels the need to mention it in a silent room in front of his mother, The Wife, yet there is absolutely no reaction from said Wife?! It should be noted that The Innocent Son usurps The Man’s power for a brief moment, throwing off the “normalcy” of the household. I’m almost rooting for this kid because he seems to be utilizing his innocence to his benefit while calling out his dad. I don’t think this Innocent Son is so young that he has said something out of pure innocence. Also, notice he is sitting quietly while The Wife draws him. He clearly has a good relationship with his mother. He’s trying to bring something to light—The Man’s use of spectacle.

The Innocent, youngest, Son is often thought to be the one who, despite his youth, rebelliousness and his father’s lack of faith in him, is often the plucky hero. You can read the literature yourself in brief here. But so as not to focus on The Innocent Son too much, I’ll come back from my digression.

Getting back to the commercial, just when something could possibly go down, had it not been for the silencing of The Wife, in walks Quasi-Confident Teenage Daughter for The Man to deflect his loss of power onto. She states her plans to call a “bad boy” (we can assume, since he has a mustache and rides a motorcycle—classic bad). The Man quickly responds, shutting her down in an over protective way. Again, no input from The Wife, who now is an afterthought.

T-Mobile is no stranger to creepy father figures in their commercials. What some may see as funny, I see as reinforcing the stereotype. Also, mothers are often silent in these commercials, or non-existent. Certainly, not every family has a mother, but when they do include her, she’s often shrugging or non-reactive. Silent. Non-confrontational. Good. I’ll be picking apart other T-Mobile commercials that follow this logic in the following posts!

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