Thomas Pluck looks at how the state of our liqueur advertising mirrors the state of our manhood.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the show Mad Men, it has given us a spate of Madison Avenue campaigns that want to convince us that we can’t be men without drinking their hard liquor. For example, Michael Imperioli hawking 1800 tequila. I like Michael Imperioli as an actor, but they have him playing Christopher Moltisanti from the Sopranos for these commercials. And “Christophuh” was the worst kind of psychopath, the wishy-washy, whiny kind. It’s like buying pasta sauce from Fredo in the Godfather. If you’re gonna fall for this kind of ad, at least buy what Paulie Walnuts is selling, am I right? Maybe he should play Spider from Goodfellas instead, and Joe Pesci can wander in and shoot him in the foot. “Tequila so good, you’ll crawl for it!”
Part of me is chafing at these ad campaigns for old booze because they attempt to make men of my age feel somewhat lacking in manhood, at least compared to our fathers. Not to disparage a generation, but ever since Hemingway, we’ve decided that Manhood means shooting wild animals, climbing mountains, and drinking copious amounts of hard liquor (which is especially amusing, since Hemingway popularized the “girly” daiquiri). The Canadian Club ads state “Damn right your Dad drank it,” playing into the bullshit that it is somehow difficult or less enjoyable to be a man these days.
You know what? The easiest thing in the world is to be a white middle to upper class man. Let John Scalzi put it more eloquently than I can: If life’s a game, it’s the easiest difficulty setting. We all got troubles. But you know what? Your DAD wouldn’t whine about them, and wax poetic about the ’60s, when we had free rein to be assholes. You want to be a man? You don’t need to run a triathlon, or flip giant truck tires, or climb a mountain that 3,100 other people have climbed.
Try this: Stand up to bullies. Respect others. Be like August Landmesser. He’s the man made famous for not saluting at a Nazi rally in 1938 Germany. Even though they’d already punished him in a work camp for 2 years, after he married a Jewish woman.
If August Landmesser hawked schnapps, I’d buy a bottle. And no, you don’t need to stand up to the Nazi regime to be a stand-up human being. How about the man who saw his neighbor whipping his son for not being good at playing catch, and not only recorded it to show authorities, but yelled and got him to stop, and told him to come over and whip him if he was such a tough guy. And the abuser wasn’t just a neighbor, but a powerful state board member.
Unfortunately, you can’t buy principles like that in a bottle of booze. You have to practice them, each and every day.