The synthetic boy

Dick Meyer’s regular column, “Against the Grain,” at the CBS News website is gaining must-read status with me. Consider today’s piece on Madison Avenue’s portrayal of boys as “moronic oafs.”
Madison Avenue’s depiction of boys and young men strikes me as a synthesis of two contradictory stereotypes. The first is the boy (and, indeed, the white male) as bungling, oblivious fool. This is the staple of situation comedies (or was the last time I had any awareness of that genre). It is the non-threatening, diminished boy-male that alienated females wish to see.
The second stereotype is the boy as badass. This is the staple of rap music. It is the boy that many boys wish to see and, to some extent, wish to be.
By merging the two into what Meyer describes as the boy as “slacker/swiller/sloth/slimeball/slobberer,” Madison Avenue gives both sets of consumers (and maybe some fathers of teenage boys) a sufficiently agreeable vision, however disagreeable and even toxic that vision ultimately may prove to be.


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