Verizon Commercial

I really don’t need to spend a lot of time pulling this Verizon commercial to pieces, but sometimes a target makes itself nice and big, and then just to make it irresistible they throw a giant pile of hypocrisy on top.

The ad is short and simple, with Dad coming in to tell his children about the fabulous new phone service plan he’s signed them all up for.

Dad: Now you can IM and send text, pix, and flix messages to anyone. On any network, as much as you want.

Kid: But we do that already.

Dad: Yeah, but now we can afford for Mom to quit her second job.

At which point Mom walks out through the kitchen and out of the house dressed as a giant taco, picking up a pile of restaurant flyers on her way out. Her husband says ‘hola’ just as she walks out the door, her two teenage children don’t really acknowledge her presence at all. She’s going out to a minimum-wage second job to pay for their cell phones and they don’t even say good-bye. Dad is the hero of course, for finding a better deal that will enable her to quit that job, rather than- oh, I don’t know, not expecting one member of the family to work multiple jobs to pay for a luxury for her ungrateful family?

The hypocrisy comes in here: back in 2004, Verizon received complaints from fatherhood rights activists about an ad for their DSL service which featured a father being mocked for his lack of internet-savvy by his wife and daughter. That ad was pulled from the air.

An interesting quote from that article:

After watching the ad, Sacks began urging listeners of “His Side” to protest to Verizon — contending that the company would not have commissioned a comparable ad with the parents’ genders reversed.

Beg. To. Differ.

Comments

  1. says

    Actually, that was one of the tamer phone commercials I’ve seen lately. I don’t know if these are all Verizon, but the ones I’m thinking of usually portray families as pretty nasty. Considering they also show fathers being mean to their kids (telling them they can text and call their friends as much as they want if they shovel the driveway, and then standing in the front window drinking coffee and watching the kids struggle in a blizzard when actually it’s THE PLAN that would let them do this) and women being petty with their husbands (switching the name tags on their kids’ Christmas presents so the COOL CELL PHONES seem to have come from her and the lame sweaters from him), it seems less like specific misogyny than just the kind of backstabbing you’d expect. In families that need cellphones, there’s apparently plenty to go around.

    That’s my take on it, anyway.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    Yeah, but it’s interesting a pro-dad organization took issue with a commercial in which Dad was being made fun of, but not the ones you describe in which he’s being mean? Maybe that’s because it’s not really considered mean to trick your kids into doing chores. At least not where I grew up. *shrug*

    I do see a discrepancy between portraying dads as arguably mean but not dumb, and portraying moms as lacking authority, agency and respect, but not arguably mean. Call it what you like – misogyny or something else – but it is gendered.

    The cell phone commercials I DO like are the ones for Cingular (like this one) in which the tone of voice between parent and child sounds like they’re fighting, but they’re actually saying totally agreeable, cooperative stuff because the cell phone plan allows the parents to have a reasonable bill and the kids to get the features they want. Great pitch, very memorable (hey, if I remembered the company without looking it up, that’s one effective commercial), very funny and totally positive.

  3. sbg says

    That commercial has always bugged me, too, albeit from a “the damned kids look old enough for jobs, so why the hell should mom have to slave away for their expensive toys?” standpoint. It bothers me to no end when it’s assumed in any way that kids shouldn’t have to work – I saw a sitcom once where people actually gasped and reacted as though a father was insane for making his teenaged child go out into the workforce. Uhm, if people never have to work for anything, how are they ever going to know the VALUE of anything? Maybe it’s because I started working full time summer jobs at 14, and it was at that age, too, when it was clear if I wanted something I would have to pay for it. I STILL remember with fondness my very first clothing purchase. I worked for it, I selected it and I paid for it and it was awesome.

    Whoops.

    /non-feminism related rant over

    Anyway, now I just hate the commercial even more.

  4. Ceanji says

    That is messed up that the mother has to get a second job. It would be messed up for the father to get a second job as well. Does anybody remember when if you were gonna be late you would find a pay-phone? Perhaps call collect. If the kids want
    “the latest cellphone” they an go get the latest job. As far as picking on men. God knows how many times I would love to see a man in a laundry detergent commercial because god knows as a man I hate it when I watch a sit-com and it’s daddy knows fiddly squat. He can’t clean or cook or watch the kids but man can dad make a pizza and blow up the microwave.

    But the simple answer is the commercial is why would any parent even agree to work a second job for cellphone bills?

  5. MaggieCat says

    I do see a discrepancy between portraying dads as arguably mean but not dumb, and portraying moms as lacking authority, agency and respect, but not arguably mean. Call it what you like – misogyny or something else – but it is gendered.

    I think the comparison is slightly closer than that. The major issue that the complaints had with the other commercial was that the wife was saying that her husband was hindering rather than helping their daughter with her homework and suggesting he go do something else in front of the child. I think teaching your children that it’s okay to basically treat the other parent as a slave is just as disrespectful.

    Uhm, if people never have to work for anything, how are they ever going to know the VALUE of anything? Maybe it’s because I started working full time summer jobs at 14, and it was at that age, too, when it was clear if I wanted something I would have to pay for it.

    In the interest of full disclosure, even when I wasn’t bouncing in and out of the hospital as a teenager I wasn’t allowed to get a job, even during the summer when I begged. But that’s because my dad had to work full time (night shift) while he was in high school and always regretted missing out on normal kid stuff and overcompensated. I was, however, expected to save my allowance for any non-necessities that I wanted.

    I’d hate this commercial just as much if the genders of the parents were reversed, but in this case it also serves to reinforce the belief that the media often presents where the mother is treated as a servant who is expected to spend her entire life supplying everything for everybody, without even getting the basic courtesy that most people would extend to a hired maid. Nope, she’s just mom, it’s her (inevitably thankless) job.

  6. Ceanji says

    The same was in my household. I wasn’t allowed to get a job while in high school as well. It sucked liked a teenage vampire on prom night. What parent really get thanked for their “job”?

    What thanks does dad get? I won’t even bring up Father’s Day. The day which is synonymous with clearance sale.

  7. scarlett says

    The only member in my family who got away with getting mum and dad to pay for luxuries like phone credit is my youngest sister who, is all fairness, was diagnosed with crippling bipolar a few years ago and finds it had to hold down a job.

    I first started working at HJs/Burker King when I was 16 and fulltime when I was 18. I remember telling a friend that my folks expected us all to pay a nominal board when he were working fulltime and she was horrified. I didn’t, and still don’t, see why; why should adult kids on a fulltime wage enjoy a roof over their heads, amenities and a parent to do the cooking and cleaning and NOT cintribute something???

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    In the interest of full disclosure, even when I wasn’t bouncing in and out of the hospital as a teenager I wasn’t allowed to get a job, even during the summer when I begged. But that’s because my dad had to work full time (night shift) while he was in high school and always regretted missing out on normal kid stuff and overcompensated. I was, however, expected to save my allowance for any non-necessities that I wanted.

    I was also not allowed to work. Only, I was told that making A’s in AP classes was my “job”, and for that I got a very reasonable allowance, and I never ever asked my parents to buy me anything. I had to come up with my own money from that allowance. It taught me budgeting along with the concept of being paid for doing something.

    What thanks does dad get? I won’t even bring up Father’s Day. The day which is synonymous with clearance sale.

    Huh? I seem to recall most of my friends being appreciative of how hard their dads worked to bring home money. The problem was most of them also had mothers who worked both a job and did all the housework, and they were not taught to appreciate their mother’s contributions. They should have appreciated both.

    If “kids today” aren’t grateful for the money their parents earn to provide for them, that’s because they’re being taught values even less frequently than generations past.

  9. says

    “why should adult kids on a fulltime wage enjoy a roof over their heads, amenities and a parent to do the cooking and cleaning and NOT cintribute something???”

    Well, in my house it’s bc it means I can save up/pay down bills and move out that much sooner. “full-time job” does not always equal “can pay for an apartment and car and student loans and credit card bill from graduate school”

    But, then, my parents don’t do my cooking and cleaning. Well, not the cooking anyway. (And definitely not my laundry – I’m just a slob so I don’t always remember to put my shoes away, that sort of thing.)

    As far as while one is in school, I wonder if it’s a class thing. My parents (who are both teachers) always told me school was my work. Summertime jobs and jobs while in college were fine, but, pre-college, the school-year was reserved for hours of AP homework. My siblings and I had jobs in college, but only one of us had to work full-time at anything while also taking classes, and it definitely hurt her grades. When they could afford to help us do so, my parents preferred we keep school-time paid employment to the minimum we could afford, even during college.

    edit – The no-work isn’t strictly true though, because my parents rarely gave us an allowance. So we could do simple stuff, like babysit or deliver newspapers, but the former took about 20 min a day (and was dropped by high school – interfered with sports) and the latter was sporadic, so it didn’t mess with schoolwork, which was the rule.

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    As far as while one is in school, I wonder if it’s a class thing. My parents (who are both teachers) always told me school was my work.

    Not so much class as whether the parents are coming from a system that worked for them, or against them.

    My mom wanted me to have an education because she’d had to work hard on the family farm her whole childhood, throughout the schoolyear. There was no concern for her education – she was just supposed to get married and be taken care of. Which worked out beyond disastrously for both her and me.

    She wanted me to have choices, and she thought the education she’d been denied was key.

    Other kids in the area – whose families had been comfortably middle class for generations – had to work because it was what their parents had to do when they were kids. It had worked for them, so they didn’t consider changing.

    So there are a lot of perspectives that lead to these parenting choices. What they all have in common, though, is the idea that if the kid wants something, it should save up money that it earns (whether from the parents or an employer) and Mom shouldn’t go perform as a taco so the kiddies can have niftier phones.

  11. sbg says

    Heh. Sorry to open that can of worms. I should mention that there really was NO way my parents could pay for all that us kids wanted. Needed? Even that was a struggle. On a good week, my allowance was $1.25 in change, so that was out as a spending money option.

    My parents didn’t force anyone to get jobs, but it was clear nonetheless that the decision and responsibility to do so was on us, if we wanted even a fraction of the cool things our friends had. Our education beyond high school was also on us, and none of us got cars for presents and there were days when we had to walk to school, uphill, in 3 feet of snow. ;)

    My perspective is hopelessly skewed.

  12. Jennifer Kesler says

    That sounds a lot like my mom’s childhood, SBG.

    I think there are a lot of ways to teach kids you’re supposed to get money for doing stuff, not just for showing up. I’ve even known very wealthy people who lived relatively modestly and made their kids do chores for the allowance, so that when they came of age to get their trust funds, they wouldn’t blow through it all in the first year.

    I have a bad feeling there ARE parents taking second jobs or working extra overtime so their kids can keep up with the Jones’ kids. I thought this attitude was bad in the 80′s – now we’ve got kids who came of age in that decade raising their own little consumer monsters. It’s frightening.

  13. says

    “Heh. Sorry to open that can of worms.”

    No, no, no. I think it’s a really interesting discussion. And I hope my comments about class didn’t rub anyone the wrong way. I think that, like race, it’s one of those things that just doesn’t get talked about. And I think BetaCandy’s theory is more accurrate.

    I know what you mean about the parents not having enough for allowance. While part of their decisions were the result of poor budgeting on my parents part, and part of it was not wanting mess with our schoolwork, there was the understanding that we had enough to live comfortably, but not a lot of $ to toss around. A certain amount of spending money was available for the asking for things like movies with friends, but we weren’t given an insane amount to spend on clothes or cell phones and the like. At the very least (like my brother’s trip to space camp) we had to save up – from jobs and birthday money – a certain percentage of the cost. And the amount they were willing to pay depended on how much the approved of our choice.

  14. MaggieCat says

    Not so much class as whether the parents are coming from a system that worked for them, or against them.

    I think this is pretty accurate. I think I’ve mentioned somewhere around here that my father was the kid of a coal miner, and they didn’t have much money. Since my father was the definition of a science geek (this is a man who taught himself calculus for fun), it was difficult for him to not be able to turn his full attention to school, and being extremely introverted I think made him regret not having the chance to socialize more as a kid. My mother was also an extremely smart kid who grew up in a very rural town, and I think was always a bit jealous that her younger sister got to go to college when she didn’t. Looking at it like that, I understand why they made the choice to barely scrape by in a snobby suburb rather than live more comfortably in a different town to keep me in one of the best school districts in the state. Even if it did put me at a class disadvantage when everyone I knew was going to Europe or Hawaii for vacations.

    So growing up, I got to see both sides of it. Sometimes my parents simply couldn’t afford to give me what other kids had, but they always supported what I did and where there whether I thought I needed them or not. And I got to see other kids’ families where the parents really were going to extremes like the one in this commercial to try and keep up with what other parents could provide- and it floored me even then.

    So it can be a bit of a touchy subject for me, and since my father was on disability that put the majority of the financial burden on my mother so seeing a woman who’s trying to care for her family being treated like crap for it and simply *expected* to take on extra work for something so frivolous pisses me off. Thus ends our trip through MaggieCat’s psyche. :-)

  15. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’m in a rush here, but wanted to say your class remark didn’t rub me the wrong way – class is still a factor in all this, as it is in most things (unfortunately). When parents are deciding whether their own upbringing was successful and should be repeated or was a failure and they should do the opposite, a lot of that evaluation comes down to which class their upbringing landed them in, and whether they’re comfortable there.

  16. Gategrrl says

    At eleven years old, my daughter fanticizes about the day she can finally work for money. She’s extremely money-conscious, even now – partly my fault, I grew up anxious about money, and still am.

    When I grew up, neither of my parents told me I couldn’t take up a job, so I started working at age 15 washing dogs. (yup, my first job) I couldn’t get a job during the school year during college, however, because of no transportation, and I didn’t qualify for work-study. I did work during the summers. Just as well, because, like the other poster, it was difficult working and taking classes. I don’t know how folks do it FT for both (or part time).

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