Unexpected Displeasures

Tall Girl Short BoyYou can’t have missed the Buick Verano Unexpected Pleasures ad campaign. The idea, I guess, is there is some kind of unexpected pleasure to driving a small luxury car, because it is a shocking revelation that a GPS and seat warmer could be put in a small car. Or something. I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m not a car guy. (Try to contain your shock.)

The most popular of these ads is the one where Peter Frampton shows up to play Vale’s Roadhouse (?) when the house band’s guitarist comes down with a case of the sniffles. Okay: Frampton is a competent guitar player. Such a thing would be moderately cool. The cue chalking lady disturbs me though; she’s just a bit too excited, but hey, whatever floats your boat. But what the ad campaign thinks is a pleasure, is not always so debatable.

Dance Class

In what is by far the weirdest commercial I’ve seen in recent months, Buick claims that a pleasure is for a boy to be assigned a dance partner who is a foot taller than he is. As usual, when I’m interested in something, I have to put it up on the internet. Apparently, I have odd tastes. But not as odd as the author of this commercial:

I am a short guy: 5’7″ if you count the cowlick. Dancing with a girl that is much taller than you is not pleasurable on many levels. In this case, the boy would be thinking: the girl is going to be embarrassed and she should be because I am rat boy; I am going to look like an idiot dancing with giraffe girl here; it’s going to be like a mouse dancing with an elephant. (I have now exhausted my knowledge of animals.)

The Napoleon Complex is not something that affects small men; it is something that affects our culture. The idea is that if a small man is aggressive, there is something special wrong with him; a large man who is aggressive is either a hero or an asshole, depending upon who you ask — there is nothing wrong with him, though; he’s just being a real man. It is indicative of a society in which men are supposed to be tall and women short. And no one is more aware of this expectation than short boys and tall girls.

At a school dance, it is always the short boys and tall girls who are left to stand around. (This is a lie; I’m speculating; I’ve never been to a school dance in my life.) Certainly these outcasts could form an alliance, but they don’t for reasons that will become clear within a few hundred years when society destroys itself. But even if these groups bound together — even if the short boy and the tall girl decided they loved each other — they wouldn’t like being randomly thrown together; there would be no up side to the major downs.

Perhaps the author of this commercial was trying to be politically correct. It works the other way around: tall boy and short girl, even though the dancing is not less ridiculous. Why shouldn’t it work the other way around? Because gender expectations are very strong — especially for kids. In dance class, the short boys worry about being placed with the tall girls, and the tall girls worry about being placed with the short boys. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t fight dumb gender expectations. But the first part of doing so is to admit that they exist. And pretending that the little boy in the commercial is happy is much the same as assuming we live in a colorblind society.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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