Thursday, February 09, 2006 | In many ways, sex is wasted on the young and not only the young, but the young and dim-witted.
Well, at least they appear dim-witted. One Super Bowl commercial featured a big-haired sexy waitress, a geek teenager, and a pizza whose cheese-filled ends you could pull off and pop directly into your mouth. Yes, it was a totally stupid concept, and that is central to the issue here.
Most television commercials are aimed at males 18 to 34 years old. Whether they employ sex or not, they leave the impression that the males and females in the commercials are barely smart enough to hear thunder and see lightning. I refer you to the kid, for whom ordering take-out is just too much, so he consults his “Dashboard Jack” who says, “Tacos.” “How many?” the kid says. “Thirty,” says Dashboard Jack.
We might grieve for humanity until we remember that this kid is an actor, and a good enough actor to land a spot in a national Jack-in-the-Box commercial. I would guess he actually has pretty good intellectual chops, a decent incentive level and could play Hamlet if you asked.
He might also feel a twinge of conscience at partaking in a pitch which talks down to a broad demographic in order to connect with the small percentage of legitimate dimwits who are always a feature in any demographic group. But most of those kids are smart. They understand that (most) dimwit television commercials are satire; satire done with a paint roller, perhaps, but satire nonetheless.
And they like sex.
Of the roughly 250 million Americans over age 15, probably 90 percent like sex, but only 50 percent will admit it. Those figures are way above the maximums the media knows it needs to use sex to sell products. In television, for example, if a show gets a Nielsen rating of 10, and 3 percent of that audience responds to a commercial by actually buying the product, then everyone gets rich. Television is truly a vivid demonstration of the power of small numbers.
In the sex-fueled commercial, the targets still look moronic and the sex objects are portrayed as bimbos or hunks. The sex objects, like any demographic group, will include its small percentage of true nitwits, Paris Hilton for example, but most of them, interviewed in person, may be above-ordinary in intellect and incentives. It is the same for the targets. They are, after all, all trained professionals.
But what about the total viewing audience? Of an audience of 20 million (the equivalent of a prime-time Nielsen rating of 10) seeing the commercial, perhaps 5 percent, or 1 million viewers are certifiable nitwits. That means television, talking down to reach the nitwits, has bypassed the interests of 19 million people. Is that good business? Well, yes, so long as the commercial achieves a 3 percent response.
As an intelligent, mature man who likes sex, I cry out to the moguls: you can use sex to sell things to ME. All that sex, wasted on the YOUNG.
Media stories this week, both in print and television, have told about the “Valet Girls” now working outside trendy establishments in Los Angeles. Not young, athletic men in vests, but attractive young women in little black dresses that will park your car. There is cultural-based debate about the future of the idea.
A Los Angeles columnist, Joel Stein, said maybe in L.A., but not in the middle of the country, where people “aren’t interested in beautiful women.” Excuse me, as a middle-of-the-country native, as I ask Joel Stein what planet he is from. My wife, additionally, who is gorgeous, sexy and smart lived for a decade in the middle of the country and received two or three proposals of marriage daily.
In the stories, the Valet Girls, all twenty-somethings, come off as bimbos, but that is only the usual commercial stereotyping. We don’t know anything about them, until we talk to them. And, again, the effort is wasted on the young. Certainly, I would think it would be interesting to watch long legs in a black skirt open my car door, but I would ask her the same question I ask every beautiful young twenty-something that I encounter in the trades: “Are you still in school?” Eighty percent of them are. Some of them have even been my students. Another 10 percent have graduated, but are doing this trick while they look for a job commensurate with their degrees.
I want an older woman. In my mind’s eye, I am assembling an outline of an hour-long television program that would be impractical now (expense per viewer) but will become possible in the looming Web-based world, where expense per viewer may be only 10 percent of what it is now.
The program would provide depth to current events, the same way MSNBC’s “Countdown” follows up the “Evening News” and it would be informed and intellectual, but looser and more collegial than the Lehrer product. And it would have sex. I say sex, but what I really mean is sensuality, which lets the players keep the game going as long as they want to.
Such programs already employ sex to attract males. Pay attention to the beautiful women, both hosts and guests on network and cable news, and keep a count of the leg shots on the “Today” show alone.
Does Katie Couric really have more shoes than Imelda Marcos? But I’m not talking about Katie Couric or Elizabeth Vargas (ho hum) or (eek!) Rita Cosby. I want Susan Sarandon in a gray business suit, white blouse, red cloud of hair, hem two inches above the knee, black nylons and black business pumps, casually engaging guests and correspondents in the events of the day. I guarantee she could sell me a Carl’s Jr. Breakfast Burger.
Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at
Rock and roll quiz answers
Here are the answers to the rock and roll quiz two weeks ago. I didn’t hear it, but I understand the morning crew at KGB went through the quiz one morning. I hope it aroused interest among the younger demographic, whose readership the Voice of San Diego seeks. You young people, show it to your folks. They will have fun with it. And tell them to read the Voice.
As he was motoratin’ over the hill, who did he see? He saw Maybelline in a Coupe de Ville.
What is it that Long Tall Sally’s got? Everything that Uncle John need, oh, baby.
How you call your lover boy? Oh, Lover Boy. And if he doesn’t answer? Oh, Lover Boy. And if he still doesn’t answer? C’mere, Lover Boy!
What’ll be the day? That’ll be the day.
What ain’t there no cure for? The summertime blues.
How many candles make a lovely sight? Sixteen candles.
Ain’t what a shame? You broke my heart when you said let’s part.
What does she do when she does the Ooby Dooby? She wiggles to the left, she wiggles to the right, she does the Ooby Dooby with all of her might.
Who’s sorry now? Whose heart is aching for breaking each vow? He’s sorry now. Her heart is aching. She’s glad that he’s sorry now.
Who calls the English teacher Daddio? Charlie Brown.
Why did Little Susie fall asleep? The movie wasn’t so hot. It didn’t have much of a plot.
How black were the eyes of Felina? Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina
You know he can be found where? Sittin’ home all alone.
Who told Tchaikovsky the news? Beethoven.
They furnished off an apartment with a two-room Roebuck sale. With what did they cram the coolerator? TV dinners and ginger ale.
What can you do in lieu of stepping on my blue suede shoes? You can burn my house, steal my car, drink my liquor from an old fruit jar.
What can stop the Duke of Earl? Nothing can stop the Duke of Earl.
Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned.
If you want to know if he loves you so, is it in his eyes? No, it’s in his kiss.
When do your heartaches begin? When you find your sweetheart in the arms of a friend.
Well bless my soul, what’s wrong with me? I’m itchin’ like a cat on a fuzzy tree. I’m in love. I’m all shook up.
Why do I walk the line? Because you’re mine.
What did he really want to send her? An orchid of some kind. But what could he actually send her, with all that he had in his jeans at the time? A rose and a Baby Ruth.
You load 16 tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.
Where do fools rush in? Where angels fear to tread.
Whose barn? What barn? His barn. Jerry Lee Lewis’s barn.
What do chantilly lace and a pretty face do? Make the world go round.
Who is dancing to the Jailhouse Rock? Everybody in the whole cellblock
He never ever learned to read and write so well, but how does he play the guitar? Just like ringing a bell.
Oh, please, Diana, stay where? Stay by me, Diana.
Why is a party doll all he wants? To be with him when he’s feeling wild. To be ever-loving true and fair, to run her fingers through his hair.
Who used to play around with hearts that hastened to his call? Poor Little Fool.
Gotta be what kind of music, if you want to dance with me? Rock and roll music.