From Peter Griffin to Tim Taylor to Homer Simpson and all the way back to Archie Bunker, American TV has long since decided “father” does not “know best.” Look at most sitcoms, live action or animated, and you will see the dynamic of the wise, long-suffering mother – who occasionally freaks out – the bumbling do-nothing-right dad and the ingenious if obnoxious kids. It’s a pretty common trope, though there are some programs that try to push back.
Then there are the commercials. Nobody in the commercials seem to be able to perform even the simplest household tasks. Can’t butter the toast, can’t clean the floor, can’t open the jar or dry the car or remember to pick the kids up from soccer practice.
Britain, it seems, has combined the two ideas: dads are subhuman morons who can’t seem to negotiate dishes or other simple household chores previous generations may have considered “women’s work.” Well, the UK advertising authorities are quite done with that, thank you much. Recent regulations have come down planning to ban any TV advertising that appears to reinforce “harmful gender stereotypes.” The idea, according to the group, is to reduce “inequality.”
Guy Parker, CEO of the Advertising Standards Authority had this to say about the new rules, which they hope to have in place by next year: “Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people…”
This is not the first time the ASA has taken advertisers to task. In previous edicts, the Authority has banned any adverts that “objectify or sexualize people” or any depicting “unhealthily thin young women…”
According to the ASA, the purpose of the new regulations is to defy stereotypes that may make it more difficult for or discourage the aspirations of viewers, whether they be children or adults. Already in the crosshairs are a Gap ad that labeled a little girl a “social butterfly” while describing a little boy as a “little scholar.” Then there was the baby formula commercial that showed girls growing up to be ballerinas and boys growing up to be engineers.
The common denominator, it seems, is that anything that the ASA deems to have a message they don’t particularly appreciate will be banned.
The big question now, though, is which direction with the pendulum swing after the ban. It’s advertising, where staid and conservative doesn’t work across every brand. Sometimes you need to grab attention and rock the boat. But will they? Any, if so … how? In the pursuit of “equality,” will Britain follow America’s example and tend toward making just about anyone on a commercial just slightly dumber than a rock?