As regular readers know, one of our current projects is a study of masculinity in relation to religion and to media.  The mediation of manliness is thus always of interest.  Thus, I could not help but notice an interesting theme-and perhaps trend-in this year’s Super Bowl Advertising.

I hadn’t thought about this as  trend until I read Joanne Ostrow’s receap of the topic on today’s Denver Post.  And, might I add that she continues to be one of the best TV reporters there is.  We’re lucky to have her nearby.  Anyway, Joanne noted what she thought was an emerging shift in SuperBowl ad treatment of the modern man.  Joe sixpack, she noted, is being replaced by…by what?

Joanne didn’t specify, other than to note at least one postmodern-man ad from Dove soap, that moved in the metrosexual direction.

What I thought was most notable was something else.  A whole series of ads that verged on hostility at the boundary of gender relations.  Dodge was the most striking, but the same thing turned up in a mobile TV ad and the one urging men to put their pants back on.  There were further skirmishes in several of the  Bud Light ads (though how Bud can possibly imagine that real men would like-and like being seen drinking-that swill is still beyond me).

I’d have to say that this is a trend that should make us slightly uncomfortable.  It confirms something we’re finding in our research.  Second-wave feminists predicted and social observers have been assuming that somehow new gender relations are evolving into new settlements of domestic relations.  This seems not to be the case.  What we (in our research) call “elemental masculinity” remains and remains a force in mens’ identities.  These ads capture a set of relations that are still not comfortably worked out.  At least that is what we are seeing.

That the Ad industry has caught on to this is notable and may point to a need for us to re-think how this is all supposed to work.

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