Children of the Backlash

I watched some Bravo teevee again yesterday and saw what I believe to be either an Electrolux commercial or the trailer for a horror movie—possibly entitled Children of the Backlash—starring Kelly Ripa:

A transcript is unnecessary; most of the voice-over is Ripa rhapsodizing about the virtues of her Electrolux steam washer and dryer. However, please note that the music is the theme song to the 1964 sitcom Bewitched. And at the end, when Ripa tosses her cookies (heh) to the kids, she praises them: "nice catch!" Then she exhorts us all to be "even more amazing!"

The sight of Ripa happily twirling around doing laundry at turbo-robot speeds while her kids are too glued to the teevee even to dress themselves might have beaded up and slid off my occipital lobe had it not been for a conversation I recently overheard on the bus.

Two 20-year-old male Major Research University students sitting in front of me were talking about how they wanted to have a party. One of them lamented that he had to clean his place up first. He expressed great chagrin, saying that he and his buddy never imagined when they got two female housemates that there would be more mess, not less: “We thought they would, like, cook and clean for us! But they actually make mess!” This young man was genuinely baffled that his housemates hadn’t sprung fully formed from their fathers’ brows programmed to clean up the shit of the nearest random guy. Furthermore, the thought that women actually mess stuff up too was beyond him.

I have no idea if the women were actually just as messy as the men, or if the men just perceived them to be. Since these guys were expecting self-cleaning servant droids instead of real humans, I guess the bar was set pretty high. What is clear is that the young men (and possibly the women too) expected to be done for at home, and felt aggrieved that they had to clean up their own crap. I wonder if these students grew up with mothers who were so pressured to be "even more amazing" that they counted their ability to serve their children as a point of pride and a measure of worth.

It would be comforting to think that Ripa's Electrolux ad is sending up the old ‘50s- early ‘60s image of the happy housewife made ever more productive by the modern appliances her husband buys. But there’s no twist here, no subversion of the stereotype. Unless you count the fact that Ripa is a well-known full-time “career woman” (one of her other Electrolux ads shows her dashing from work to a home full of guests and glazed, passive children). The only new addition to the old 1960 model is that Ripa is both the happy housewife and the breadwinner.

This is some cultural Benjamin Buttons Shit. And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, folks.

The scariest thing about Children of the Backlash? It's a documentary!

Bonus fun: Ripa does the old "impress-the-guys-by-serving-cupcakes-from-your-Electrolux-oven!" bit, complete with a twist of "why do I always get the short 'ugly' guys?". Big laffs.

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