Kmart- The Blue Light Is Not That Special

I was flipping channels the other day, and happened to spot a new Kmart commercial that managed to be both blandly unremarkable (I feel like I’ve seen it more than once, but I’m not sure) and unexpectedly offensive and annoying. Quite an achievement, that.

The ad in question is for a high definition television set, and features their new mascot, a talking blue light bulb, trying to convince a woman that she should buy one. No, wait: it’s actually trying to talk her into buying the television for her husband. Because obviously women don’t watch television, or care about the clarity of the picture. (I probably don’t need to point out that the light bulb, who knows so much about it, is anthropomorphized as male, right?)

The people behind this ad have actually managed to hit on most of my personal shopping pet peeves in this one teeny commercial- it’s really quite impressive. First there’s the previously mentioned fact that she should be buying the set for her husband rather than because she’s interested in it. Then the light bulb suggests that if she does buy this television, perhaps her husband will buy her ‘something shiny from over there’ while pointing to the jewelry department behind her and hitting two clichΓ©s in one shot: that all women want jewelry, especially as gifts from men, and that the best reason to buy something for someone is because of the credit you’ll get out of it. They even used a crystal clear view of a baseball game as one of the perks of the television, because even commercials that appear to focus on women at the beginning must ultimately appeal to men. (The idea that women might watch sports wasn’t acknowledged.)

If they had used just one of these things, I wouldn’t have minded so much. Suggesting that she wasn’t personally interested in the television but she knew that her husband would love it would have been acceptable. Far more preferable would have been her wanting the television period- it’s not exactly rocket science to figure out that women do watch television; they even have a several channels marketed specifically at us. (The quality of those stations is another matter altogether. The point is they exist.) Suggesting that women watch sports would have been downright original, and helpful: the better you can see the game, the more accurately you can call the ref a moron. As it is, I’m left calling Kmart one.


  1. says

    The commercial I really hated was that HDTV ad where Jessica Simpson acted dumb and listed the specs of HDTV– “Ah don’t know what that means but ah want it!” in a fake Southern accent. I don’t know where advertisers get this idea that women don’t watch TV, or that it is the despair of a woman’s existence to a) make her husband happy with TV, or b) tear her husband away from the TV. It’s this old sitcom stereotype that never went away.

    Not only that, but if a woman sat in front of the TV for hours on end, it would almost certainly be portrayed as “bad,” like there was something wrong with her. And her kids would have no food and the husband would think something was horribly wrong. But the crazy thing is they show guys doing this all the time and no one seems to be the least bit concerned over the state of the marriage… because they’re guys. And that’s what they do.

  2. says

    Geez. My eyes haven’t been burned by that one just yet. The sad thing is that if they had, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed.

    One bunch of commercials I did notice was the JC Penney ones, where a father walks in on his son doing something absolutely horrendous like sticking action figures in the refrigerator ice-maker. Not lifting a finger to stop the kid, or clean up the ice, or anything, the father leans against the wall and says, “Where is your mother?” We then find out the mother is out shopping.

    The idea that all a woman does is take care of her children, and that that’s all she should do (the ad finishes by telling the dad not to worry, it’s just a one-day sale!), and that the only reason she would shirk her responsibilities like this is to go shopping, had me muttering at the TV every time one of these things came on.

    Responses to this commercial have been interesting. Many people have raised the points I just did (maybe even you guys–sorry if this is something you’ve already discussed), while one guy mentioned how insulting it was to fathers, which I honestly hadn’t thought of. But he was right–it is insulting to suggest that men have so little to do with their children that they are totally undone if their wife is gone for a day. One of his commenters felt that this portrayal of men was the result of “N.O.W. and the femalist movement,” which I’m not so sure about, myself. Another blogger felt that it was “not HIS fault that he doesn’t know sh*t about childcare, the blame should be directed towards their wives for making them that dumb.” I felt like saying, “Noooooo, it’s the writers’ fault!

    And then there’s this little gem:

    My sister and I were watching TV when it came on. Our jaws hit the floor.

  3. says

    Hey, I want a better TV so I can see baseball games more clearly so I can call the ump a moron more accurately! And my boyfriend never even sets foot in my appartment, due to the cat. I must be some kind of freak. (But then, I don’t wear jewelry or want shiny things, so I guess that was already clear…)

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    Thal, I haven’t seen that one but I’ve seen a lot like it. It also seems to me that TV women are always shopping frivolously, when in fact most of the women I know spend a lot more time doing the absolutely necessary errand shopping for the entire family than they ever spend shopping for themselves. Commercials like the one you describe belittle women for shopping with no recognition of how much shopping is really a chore the rest of the household refuses to do!

    One of his commenters felt that this portrayal of men was the result of “N.O.W. and the femalist movement,” which I’m not so sure about, myself.

    Oh, please. The stereotypes of incompetent, violent, faithless, stupid, insensitive men were put forth by the patriarchy long before feminism had any momentum. Their purpose is to lower women’s expectations of men (after all, we’re still supposed to acceded the superiority of these bums, right?) Feminism has, if anything, helped men see that their self-esteem and public perception is being attacked in an attempt to condition women, and this is unacceptable.

    The patriarchy has no qualms about hurting men to hurt women, which is why alternative philosophies like feminism have something to offer us all.

    And I have a high def TV. Special effects just don’t look the same without it. πŸ˜€

  5. sbg says

    Yeesh. The talking lightbulb was bad enough when I saw the runway show commercial. I’m glad I’ve never seen this one.

    Way to stereotype, Kameapart!

  6. Metta says

    I ran across this post while looking up which company was responsible for the ad; maybe the best revenge is that initially, I couldn’t remember.

    By the way, not only do they show a baseball game, it’s specifically mentioned as something he’d want to watch. Something to the effect of “Would he like a picture so clear he can see the seams on a 100-mile-per-hour fast ball?”

    Probably. But not as much as I would. :)

  7. MaggieCat says

    Considering that several years ago I actually broke a couple of knick knacks because I was jumping up and down in my living room as Donald Driver caught a particularly awesome pass, I’d have to agree. (It was actually a blessing though- I hate knick knacks. πŸ˜‰ ) Hell, I’ve never even dated a guy who particularly cared about sports so they couldn’t be more off-base if they’re trying to sell anything to me.

    I hate the stereotype that women don’t watch sports almost as much as I hate the one that only “unfeminine” women (for lack of a better term) care about sports. I see nothing wrong with doing my nails while I watch the game, but fitting some of the girly clichΓ©s and still caring seems to make you a special kind of freak in some peoples opinions. (Admittedly, football is the only one I really follow. Basketball bores me, and baseball is something I find more interesting in theory than in reality.)

    I ran across this post while looking up which company was responsible for the ad; maybe the best revenge is that initially, I couldn’t remember.

    Heh, it takes a certain amount of talent to put together a commercial that’s both insulting and unmemorable.

  8. Metta says

    Heh, it takes a certain amount of talent to put together a commercial that’s both insulting and unmemorable.

    They’re very talented people :) Actually, I thought at first it was Best Buy, because I remembered blue being important. Then I realized they don’t sell jewelry, so that couldn’t be it.

    Admittedly, football is the only one I really follow. Basketball bores me, and baseball is something I find more interesting in theory than in reality.

    I didn’t become a real sit-and-watch fan of baseball until I was into my 30s. For me, football and hockey are too busy and too violent. Basketball makes me think about taking a nap. I’m really less a baseball fan than I am a fan of two teams – the Twins and whoever’s playing the Chisox. πŸ˜‰ But something about a game that can pause and enjoy a moment like this appeals to me immensely:

    But most of all I like to watch Pat Neshek pitch. Watching batters walk away slamming or throwing their bats, or looking like they were just sat down in three by a Martian is a great pleasure of mine.

    For those not familiar with the weirdest delivery in the game. (I hope it works the way it’s supposed to :) )

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    Personally, I’m not into sports, but I never understood the Great Gender Divide that was supposed to go on there. When you get down to it, it’s just a type of fandom. Same as rooting for a political party, going to conventions about your favorite shows, etc. People of both genders get into all this stuff. And don’t.

    But I think men want to believe they’re different from women, so they need separate fandoms and separate ways of expressing fannish glee. Sports is supposed to be their little treehouse with a “No Girls Allowed” sign. πŸ˜‰

  10. Patrick says

    Sometimes, I like to explain to other men that I do not know the rules to football, or basketball, or baseball.

    It usually takes about five seconds for their brains to start leaking out of their ears. They just can’t comprehend it.

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    It usually takes about five seconds for their brains to start leaking out of their ears. They just can’t comprehend it.

    That’s just alarming. I mean, how much brainwashing must you have for you to have the same reaction to a man not knowing sports as you would to a horse walking up to a bar and ordering a Sam Adams?

  12. Jane says

    Wow? I don’t know, I think the new commercials are fun and simple. I think it was smart to bring back the “Bluelight.” It definately brought back great memories from my childhood. It sounds like most of these “man bashing” comments are directed towards Kmart, when in fact maybe you should direct this anger towards the guy that dissed you. Or maybe a therapist? All I know is, one of my favorites was the lady talking about the TV. She was a little thrown, which I thought was funny and well done. And you know what else? A lot of women like jewelry and don’t love sports. I like a good TV, but it could be any kind of TV and it just wouldn’t matter to me. But it would matter to my boyfriend. We always laugh about how men and women are so different. But see, I am okay with that. These ad people are not just pulling this stuff out of their asses. There are many different types of people. Some love sports and some don’t, it’s just that simple.
  13. Metta says

    I was tempted to play with the troll, but it’s not my gig here. :)

    But I’ll make you a deal, Jane (the first Jane, that is!). I’ll go to a therapist for this “dissing” rage you’ve conjured up out of thin air if you’ll go to either (a) a course in reading comprehension, or (b) a therapist for your compulsion to put words in others’ mouths that they never said or even alluded to.

  14. Metta says

    My insights for today:

    1. Jane is too much of a coward to just come right out and *use* the words she really means. Just call us all “castrating bulldykes” and get it over with, sweetie.

    2. Jane apparently believes stereotyping equals an open mind.

    3. Jane wasn’t talking to me after all, as I’m married, and clearly a much happier person than she is (And I didn’t even have to buy a TV to get my ring – how about that!).

    Thank you, Jane, for the lessons you brought into my world. Have a nice day elsewhere.

  15. Jennifer Kesler says

    I deleted her last comment, and possibly shouldn’t have: for the curious, to sum it up, she told us to “have fun with your man-bashing site” and stay “pissed and single”.

    I’m so happy being single I have no intention of ever marrying, so I guess Jane wasn’t talking to me, either. As for “bashing”, some of us know how to criticize without bashing people. Jane demonstrated that he or she is not one of those people.

  16. Metta says

    Jane demonstrated that he or she is not one of those people.

    Y’know, I wondered a little about that myself. The obsession with relationship/marital status is usually the realm of the male troll, yes?

  17. Jennifer Kesler says

    I really don’t know, but it’s a definite possibility. First, Maggie’s post didn’t come close to criticizing men, let alone bashing them: it’s about an ad that supports the idea that there are inherent preferences and interests you have according to which set of gonads you wound up with (gender essentialism).

    I tend to think a woman who disagreed would have just said so – fine and dandy, that’s a legit opinion. I find it oddly oversensitive for a woman to leap to the conclusion we hate men on that basis. πŸ˜‰

    But this commenter is bashing us for not subscribing to gender essentialism, and I have most often received that lecture from males who are peculiarly threatened by the idea that maybe women and men are not inherently different beyond the physical.

    Which is not to say some women aren’t threatened by that idea; also not to say believing in essentialism makes you a jackass (again, it’s a legit opinion). But in my experience, people who are dedicated enough to essentialism to go on websites and bash people for disagreeing with the idea are usually male, white and heterosexual. Maybe because essentialism represents a system that has worked well for them, and they’re scared of an alternative system that would demand they earn previously unearned privileges.

  18. Metta says

    What always amazes and mystifies me about that stance – and what makes it so damned hard to try and discuss anything rationally with someone who holds it – is that I have yet to encounter a single one who would say that two people picked at random are exactly alike – and yet they will insist that all men are “like this” (as opposed to all women, who are “like that”). I think that at the very core of their beliefs isn’t sexism, but a genuine hatred and fear of individuality. They simply don’t like what they can’t put in a neatly-labeled box.

    It’s also my experience that the very concept of bisexuality causes those people’s brains to implode *laugh*

  19. Jennifer Kesler says

    I don’t find the stance itself that troubling. We’re all programmed from the first time we see toy commercials to think boys and girls are inherently different. Most people are not married to the idea, and when you point out exceptions, they’re okay with that.

    When they hold that stance and are angry with anyone who disagrees, that’s just kind of weird.

  20. Metta says

    And thus are trolls born *laugh*

    Seriously, though, it does trouble me, just as do sexism, racism, xenophobia, religious, ethnic, and even regional bias – any thought complex that denies people the right to be who they are based on one aspect of themselves bothers me. Or to be more accurate (and closer to what you’re saying, I think), I don’t really fret if people think those ways. I worry if they act on it, on the large or small scale. It’s not as if anyone can be talked out of those ideas, anyway – not truly. It takes experience to work that trick.

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