There’s a controversial new ad that’s gone viral this week, and a vocal group of men are up in arms about it, calling it “sexist.”
Yep, that’s right. This time it’s men who are being belittled to make people buy something: Samsung’s Evolution Kit, which transforms any Samsung television into a smart TV (though the specific product is really beside the point here).
The commercial was introduced last week on YouTube, where it had neared 10 million hits by Thursday afternoon. In it, a woman strolls into the living room to find her husband/boyfriend lying on the couch and watching TV. He’s a slovenly Neanderthal who’s burping, chewing food with his mouth open, grunting, and watching a moronic cartoon. Said wife sighs in disappointment, plugs the new Evolution Kit into the back of the TV, and then fantasizes about what a similar kit could do for her man—which is to turn him into a multitasking (though lobotomized) savior who bakes, cares for baby, paints the kitchen, waters plants, cleans, serves champagne, and plays the flute. But after the fantasy, we're brought back to the real husband sitting and farting on the couch.
Sound funny? Yeah, it is—even if it does rely on every tired male-female trope in the stereotype dictionary. Maybe it’s just always a relief to see men, rather than women (and their butts), as the butt of an advertising joke.
But plenty of guys are angry and offended, and have been sounding off online to let everyone know.
“Probably one of the most vile adverts I've ever seen. This isn't the normal IV drip of laughing at men; this is simply mainlining outright contempt,” wrote one critic in a Reddit “Men’s Rights” page thread on the ad. Another chimed in, “Pure filth. I've seen my fair share of 'men are morons' advertisements, but this one isn't even remotely subtle. The fact that the evolved husband is a brain dead slave to a woman just tops it off.” One man wondered if Samsung was “trying to alienate their primary consumer base,” while others called it “disgusting,” and “sexist,” and promised to boycott the company’s products altogether.
Fed-up men also took to Twitter, and made up much of the 1,500-plus commenters on YouTube. One wondered which “misanthropic, rabid feminist” came up with the concept, while another said he was, “tired of the double standard and depicting men as idiots in advertising.”
Samsung, for its part, is just sitting back and watching it all play out; a spokesperson for the company told Yahoo! Shine in an email, “Samsung has nothing to share at this time.”
Adweek’s David Gianatasio noted in a column Wednesday that the outcry should only help the company. “Sure, Samsung squeezed out some questionable material,” he wrote, clearly relishing his play on words. “But the clip is nearing 10 million YouTube views in just a week, and generating gobs of attention for the product, so I'd hardly call it a total stinker.”
Still, critics aren’t only offended about how the ad portrays not only men, but also women—as fools with low self-esteem who stick with such men.
“Yeah, it sucks that men are presented as useless lumps of farting meat who can't do anything in their families. They're not,” wrote a commenter on Jezebel. “It also sucks that women are routinely presented as f***ing putting up with it as if it's a given that a man would be a manchild whom you'd have to clean up after and do everything for. It's almost like an excuse for men to be useless.”
Gail Dines, an expert on sexist images in the media and a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston, agrees. “It’s not funny because it normalizes masculine behavior and makes a joke of it,” she told Yahoo! Shine in a phone interview. “It’s the reality of many women’s lives, who get dinner ready, take care of the children, help with homework and do the housework, while the husbands are, in fact, sloth-like.”
Further, she argues, men, who are in power in our society, cannot legitimately cry sexism. “You can say [this ad is] prejudiced, in bad taste, insulting, not funny,” she said. “But it can’t be sexist. Just like a black person can’t be racist. Sexism is a word with a very specific meaning, which is a certain group having more access than another group to the things that make life worth living, such as high wages and good housing.”