Let’s start by addressing the aura of frantic masculinity that pervaded so many ads this year, as if a caveman himself had stumbled onto the field, ripped his bearskin loincloth off, and tried to wrestle Rob Gronkowski. For several weeks now, Chevy has aired a spot in which a man driving his eco-friendly car is followed everywhere he goes (office, elevator, car again) by the plaintive notes of “Rainy Days and Mondays.” This unwittingly sad man is juxtaposed with a smug, presumably childless (since he seems to care not a jot for the state of the environment) man driving a Chevy Colorado (to his office, no less), whose ever-present song is AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” This ad, with its unintentional wisdom (not least the revelation that the douchiest-looking guys really do have theme music playing in their heads), was followed during the Super Bowl by a spot that revealed that, yes, women do find men with bigger vehicles more attractive, neatly encapsulating the theme for the night of latent frustration and primal fear.
There were many, many car advertisements, almost all aimed at men of a certain age whose wives won’t let them ride a motorbike, and almost all with their own unwitting insight into the the nuances of the American psyche. Fiat, the saucy Italian soccer player to Chevy’s sturdy, possibly concussed American quarterback, debuted a new ad in which an attractive woman of a certain age beckoned her husband into the boudoir (there’s no other word to use but “boudoir” when animal print is involved). Her husband grinned, and groped frantically around his bathroom for the last remaining blue pill, only to accidentally throw it out the window, where it rolled and jumped around the streets of small-town Italy before landing in the gas tank of a teeny tiny Fiat. The car started bulging uncomfortably in odd places, doubled in size, and then stood proudly to attention while it drew the admiring glances of nearby women. Perhaps, prior to this ad, there were those who doubted the Freudian attachment between men and cars, but there could certainly be no disputing it afterwards. Bigger is better, as if the 300-lb men running into each other at full speed all night in order to protect an over-inflated ball hadn’t made this message obvious enough.
But alas! There comes a time in a man’s life when his truck needs to be fitted with a carseat, or traded in for something more sensible, like a minivan, or at least a vehicle with better gas mileage. For these men, sadly waving goodbye to their errant but much-loved youth, there was Pierce Brosnan, driving a Kia to a ski lodge, and desperately wishing things would blow up so he could have some more excitement in his life. And just in case the message wasn’t quite clear enough that existence is fleeting, Dodge collected a group of people who were quite literally 100 years old to lecture younger humans about the importance of living in the moment.
However, for these men, these responsible but not-exactly-thrilled-about-it scions of the mighty oak that is America, there also were plenty of paeans to the noble state of fatherhood. Like Nissan and Toyota and Dove’s odes to the dependable and irreplaceable dad, which clutched at the heartstrings as desperately as a drowning man clings to a life preserver. Thank you, dads. Thank you for … driving us around? For moisturizing adequately? Whatever it is, you are important, America is grateful, and by no means is this a clever sop to make you feel better about giving up the truck chicks used to dig so much.