Topic: Business & Commercial

Raising American Jerks

Corporate America, it seems, is increasingly intent upon using its influence to increase the jerk population among young American males. At first blush, this would seem odd, as there is substantial evidence that the Young American Male Jerk (YAMJ) as a species, nourished by rap music, trashy teen sex comedies, despicable role models and too much disposable cash and leisure time has never been more abundant. Just look at the number of men over the age of 8 who wear their baseball caps backwards. But remember, the more jerks there are out there, the more money there is that can be made by appealing to jerks, supporting their “values,” and making products whose advertising says, “Hey, being a jerk is awesome!”

Thus we have the venerable Levi corporation, in its most recent TV ad for jeans (I forgot the number of the particular model, but then, I really tried to), using the following cute scenario:

To the strains of Willie Nelson’s “You Were Always on My Mind” (itself sort of a jerk anthem, as Willie excuses his mistreatment of the love of his life by pointing out that he was always thinking about her while he was being a jerk, as if this was a substantial honor) a young man knocks on the apartment door of his obviously aggrieved girl friend, and offers her a bouquet of flowers as an apparent gesture of apology and affection. She accepts the flowers and lets him in, and as she goes to put the flowers in a vase, he runs to her bedroom and leans out the window to retrieve his beloved jeans from the adjoining tree where they had apparently been tossed during his passion or her pique. He quickly pulls them on and leaves, strutting down the street with an expression of satisfaction as she throws the vase and flowers out the window.


Message: it’s cool to manipulate people, issue fake apologies, show no concern for a woman’s feelings and use chicanery and trickery to get what you want, and the jerks who act like this wear our really cool jeans. I know, I knowÂ…lighten up. It’s only a joke.

And in an earlier age, when perhaps not quite so many young men would actually see nothing wrong with this drama, the humor might prevail. This country’s young men, however, become more narcissistic, shallow and self-absorbed with each generation, and it is time that Madison Avenue employs its creative talents in ways that do not enhance the trend; after all, there must be ways to sell jeans without endorsing virulent jerk-ism.

So from our tiny and sparsely visited corner of the cyber universe comes this exhortation: Corporate America, stop glorifying jerks! As for the rest of us, we can help by not buying products made by corporations that do.

From now on, the official jeans of the Ethics Scoreboard will be made by Lee.

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