Sunday, April 26, 2009

The best TV ad ever?

Though women supposedly make most of the product choices in the household, and therefore advertising would seem to be aimed at them, the majority of objectified bodies in TV ads are still women. I used to assign an advertising analysis paper in my college writing classes, so I know there are lots of interesting ways, not just through the physical beauty or sexiness of the models, advertisers try to make us want their products by playing on our fears and desires. And I know that the average woman is supposedly less likely to be "excited" by the objectification the male body then vice versa (men excited by female objectification). Still, as a gay man, I'm a little mystified and disappointed that sexy men are still outnumbered by sexy women in advertising.

So maybe that's why the current Old Spice ad with the centaur in the shower makes me stop fast-forwarding through our DVR'd shows every time I see it. Damn, that is one sexy ad. A centaur (half-man, half-horse) is in the shower telling us about the new Old Spice body wash, Live Wire, which is two things, a body wash and a moisturizer, just like he's two things (a man and a horse). Actually, I'm not sure what he's saying because he's standing there naked in the shower, slowly rubbing his torso with soapy lather, so excuse me for not paying much attention to what he's saying.

The guy is handsome and manly and nicely built, but I think the catch for me is the soaping. You just don't see naked guys touching themselves on TV. I know that Old Spice always has wholesomely sexy guys in their ads, but this guy is a little less wholesome than average, which is A-OK in my book. It's also amusing (the guy plunks the Old Spice bottle down on his [horse's] ass at the end), and he has a butch voice, and there's the general wetness, and did I mention the torso-touching? Anyway, I watch the ad whenever I can, and damned if I didn't go out and buy a bottle of the stuff.

P.S.: I don't like it. A little too runny, and the scent is too cucumber-y. But I still love the ad. And if they ever put it out in a bottle shaped like that centaur, I might it again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why I use Facebook

New York magazine ran an interesting cover story recently on Facebook, but it was the letter column response to it that made me want to make some kind of public statement about my experience with Facebook. The response ran 50/50 pro/con, with the con side, espressed thusly: "Facebook pimps friendship to lonely populations of captive screen-heads ... How are we supposed to form meaningful relationships with people when we only connect online?" The pro folks called that "such an old-person take on Facebook ... Facebook is whatever you make of it."

First, I must admit to being one of the much-discussed over-40 users (hell, who am I kidding, I'm an over-50 user) who have been adopting Facebook in exponentially increasing numbers lately. I have no doubt that if I was 18, my take on all this might be different. But I got sucked into Facebook for two reasons: 1) my current job, library cataloger, is one that has taken me away from contact with the public. It's my first office cubicle job, and after many years of working in retail and teaching, I thought I'd like the relative isolation, but oddly, I've discovered I miss some of the hustle and bustle of humanity; 2) my partner and I don't have a lot of "real-life" friends whom we see regularly. We have a "Games Night" group that we get together with once a month, and a couple who, for no particular reason that I know of, we see much less of than we used to, lives diverging and all, I guess.

So one might think I'm one of those lonely screen-heads using online social networking to pretend I have a life. I don't think that's quite accurate. First of all, just because Facebook contacts are called "friends" doesn't mean that I really think of most of them as friends. Some are friends, people I know and like. Some are folks I've met online in one way or another, in e-mail groups or Usenet groups of the past. The most interesting potential here is getting back in touch with people from my past, and I have done some of that. But after the initial flurry of catching-up communication, contact dies down. Out of a dozen such people who are current Facebook friends, only 3 or 4 are still actively in contact with me; most of them seem not to be posting much of anything on Facebook at all.

The other way I've used Facebook (and Twitter, which is a whole other blog post) is to attempt to make contact with people who have similar interests (libraries, cataloging, old movies, pop music). I've realized this is an attempt to make my Facebook page something very much like one of the old Usenet groups I got so wrapped up in back in the '90s. The problem is that, unless all my contacts actually "friend" each other, they don't see each other's posts, so it's not like an online social group at all. And, of course, few of these people have taken my bait and begun any kind of active exchange. This has been a disappointment to me, but I have to face the fact that, just as gay people have little in common with each other except being gay, librarians have little in common with each other except our occupation. I do have fun during the work day (during the very few moments when I actually allow myself to be distracted by Facebook--insert knowing emoticon here) reading others' posts and chatting occaisonally, mostly with people in the very building in which I work, some of whom I consider "real-life" friends, which I guess brings me back to the beginning...

While I'm sure there are people who have Facebook "friends" rather than real-life friends, I suspect most people in my age range use it for networking, or for having fun, or for instant messaging, or for sharing photos, or just expressing themselves. The one thing I do every workday on Facebook is post a list of the songs I hear on the way into work in the morning (and when I think of it, I do the same thing when I get home in the evening). I love pop music and I love my iPod, packed with thousands of songs, and I love having it set on "alphabetical" play by title, which is in essence like having it on random shuffle. I never know what I'm going to hear next, and I am usually surprised and delighted by the outcome. Most of my Facebook friends probably think my iPod lists are crazy or stupid or annoying, but at least a few have told me they enjoy seeing them, and at any rate, I'm gonna keep doing it because expressing myself even if no one is listening is my third reason for using Facebook (and blogging).

The New York article is interesting, and I may have a part 2 to this post coming soon.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pre-Code movies

Since my other 2 blogs are devoted to mass media, I don't usually use this space to talk about that stuff, much less to advertise a product. But since apparently nothing's been going on in my life that's worth announcing, I thought I'd mention how excited I am about two new DVD sets of movies that belong to what is commonly called the "Pre-Code" days, from the late 20's to the summer of 1934 when Hollywood films were made and released without any real oversight by national censors. In 1934, the Production Code, which mandated what could and couldn't be said or done or shown in a movie, was officially enforced; before that, the Code existed as suggestions rather than a hard and fast set of laws, but local censorship boards across the country were cutting movies to ribbons, and when faced with the threat of federal censorship, the film industry decided to censor itself.

The pre-Code movies will disappoint viewers expecting cursing and nudity--though there are occasional bawdy references and scantily-clad ladies. What's really interesting about them is the morality; promiscuity, adultery, and single motherhood were not always punished by death or loneliness like they would be in Code movies. Even murderers weren't always brought to justice. Gay people, who were only presented as marginal characters and were treated with scornful humor in the early 30's, vanished from movies altogether under the Code. Female characters were much more interesting in pre-Code films, not always having to save themselves for marriage, not always having to wind up giving up all for their men.

Warners has recently released its third "Forbidden Hollywood" set, this one with the films of William Wellman, including the memorable juvenile delinquent film Wild Boys of the Road, and a gritty but breezy romantic melodrama called Other Men's Women about a romantic triangle between Mary Astor and two railroad workers. Most of the films in the Warners sets have been shown with some frequency on Turner Classic Movies, but the more interesting set is from Universal, the Pre-Code Hollywood Collection, mostly movies from the Paramount Pictures vaults most of which have not been presented anywhere outside of New York revival houses, in many years. Earlier in the week, I watched the notorious Murder at the Vanities, which has lots of nearly-naked chorus girls and one remarkable musical number in which a woman sings of the benefits of "Sweet Marijuana." I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the films in the set soon.