Monday, September 21, 2015

Petite Randy Moss stirs up memories of heightism in popular culture

I watch plenty of sports on television. Anyone who watches sports for any length of time is probably familiar with the DirectTV commercials that pitch subscription packages. I've seen plenty of them. My favorite of the commercials is Creepy Rob Lowe hanging out at the local rec center, sitting on the pool deck, watching swimmers with a pair of binoculars. 

The premise of the DirectTV Commercials is that DirectTV equates to success, and cable equals inferiority.  The star of the commercial is typically a well known actor or athlete, such as Rob Lowe, who subscribes to DirectTV.  An alternative reality character, such as Creepy Rob Lowe, serves as a foil to the star.  The foil, who subscribes to cable instead of DirectTV, is linked to any number of negative attributes.

Recently, former NFL Wide Receiver Randy Moss joined the DirectTV Commercial line-up. His alternative reality character is "Petite Randy Moss."   

In college, I did an independent study that examined the way writers used height descriptors in books and the way height was portrayed in books, movies, and advertisements. The name of the paper was, "The Role of Height in Literature and Popular Culture."  If I were to do that paper today, the new Randy Moss Direct TV Ad would be a great example of popular culture sending the message that short is inferior to tall. The commercial clearly tells the viewer that if a person is unable to reach a taller shelf at the grocery store, it's not because the item is out of reach, it's not because it's probably impossible to design a grocery store that is accessible to everyone, it's because there is something wrong with you for being short.  

As I thought about the commercial, I remembered a Simpson's Episode called Eeny Teeny Maya Moe. Better than anyone else that I am aware of, the Simpson's did a great job of making dwarfism funny. They did so, not by making fun of the dwarf character, but by showing the absurd situations that sometimes confront dwarfs. That's what DirectTV could have done. Instead of Petite Randy Moss complaining about cereal on the high shelf and jumping up to reach it, Petite Randy Moss should have just stared at the tall shelf in disgust.  But that would have conflicted with the point of the commercial, which is to show that small equals bad and small equals comical.  

The new DirectTV commercial doesn't really bother me very much. More so than anything else, it intrigued me to learn that DirectTV would base a commercial around the idea that short is funny and short is inferior. After all, Peter Dinklage just won his second Emmy.  Short is the new cool.  Short is the new sexy.

I wasn't the only one intrigued, or bothered for that matter. According to this article from AdWeek, though professional reviewers liked the ad, some viewers did not. One viewer wrote, "...short people are put on this planet to get shit on. Hello DirectTV! Some of us are getting tired of this bigoted crap known as heightism."  

The author of the article (5' 3") wrote, ". . . I'd dismiss a fair share of its (the Petite Randy Moss Commercial) detractors as internet trolls, I'm surprised that a major corporation would even bother to go to the trouble of producing it in 2015."  I'd give the detractors more credit. I think some of them might genuinely be offended, and are not necessarily trolls stirring up trouble. But I agree that it's surprising to see such an advertisement within the culture we live in now.  But on the bright side, at least Petite Randy Moss wasn't M**** Randy Moss. Progress? 

No comments:

Post a Comment