The Rise, er, Descent of the Beta Male

  • by Gitabushi

I don’t like to brag, but I pay attention to a bunch of different things.

Okay, scratch that. I *do* like to brag.  But I also pay attention to a bunch of different things.

One of the things I’ve noticed recently is the prevalence of beta males in television commercials.

It’s a trend that’s been developing for a while, but I think it has reached some sort of critical mass.

Consider the Verizon guy.  He’s supposed to be kind of a lovable goof, and he is.  But his mannerisms and incompetencies seem to play to beta male sensibilities: he doesn’t understand sports, can’t kick a ball, and has no understanding of horses whatsoever.

But I noticed it because due to a move to a new house, the sound of my wife watching TV is very clear where I sit in front of my computer.  And I was struck by how many of the male voices are high and weak.  Not too long ago, male voices were strong, gruff, and manly.  Especially for trucks.  But Chevrolet’s spokesperson is a short, skinny guy with a voice that is not only high, but lacks any power whatsoever.

The commercial that pushed the button to generate this rant, however, was the most recent Discover Card commercial.

This one:

If you aren’t familiar with Discover Card’s most recent campaign, it features actors in dual roles, playing both the customer and the customer service rep answering the phone. The notion is that Discover Card takes care of you like you would take care of yourself.

Aside: what’s interesting is that the actor in each commercial dresses and acts differently, so while it is the same person, they seem a little different. More on this in a moment. The first commercial apparently featured twins. Since then, however, they use the same actor in dual roles.

What intrigues me is that in the handful of commercials I’ve watched, the customer service representative is always calm, cool, and collected, and the customer calling in is confused and anxious.  I think this is part of the trend I’ve seen to normalize incompetence and/or dysfunction. However, in this case, it is even more striking, because you see how much of a difference mannerisms can make.  The man is clearly handsome, and can come across as capable and competent (in his service representative role). And then he embodies what very nearly seems to be an incel (involuntary celibate) male in his other role.

Advertising agencies aren’t stupid.  This apparently plays well for some customers.  I can only assume this means there is a demand for beta males somewhere. Or men who want to feel like being a beta male is normal and okay. Or women who want to feel better about the beta male they are lashed to.

Looking for this ad, I found out: it gets worse:

Here’s the longer version:

And here’s the Prequel:

The guy is a good actor.  Whichever persona is more of an act, it is convincing and diametrically opposed to the other persona.  If both are a fake, it is even more impressive.

Aside: I’m a great believer in a version of faking it til you make it: do things that deserve confidence, then act confident due to your tangible accomplishments, and people will respond to your confidence, which will solidify your self-confidence.  It starts with accomplishing stuff, but resolves the Imposter Syndrome most people have. Let’s stop normalizing social dysfunction, shall we?

There is also a jewelry commercial that contributed to this critical mass:

When I saw it, I wasn’t thinking about the phenomena of beta males in commercials, but I was struck by how non-manly the guy was.  In the past, jewelry commercials featured the Rich, Virile Older Man (the archetype you now see in ED medication commercials), for fairly obvious reasons:

Now, though: is there any way a guy as lacking in manliness as the one in the Kay commercial could keep a woman interested?  Even the way he grabs her hand seems beta male to me.

I want to go beat someone up right now, just to try to reverse the testosterone decline in the US these commercials are either echoing or causing.

Let me know what commercials you’ve seen that seem to support the beta male-ification of our society.  And if you haven’t noticed it, start watching for it, and report back whether you think I’m right or way off base.


7 thoughts on “The Rise, er, Descent of the Beta Male

  1. I don’t watch tv, but I’ve seen this in the grocery stores with the guy who are young and new hires. It isn’t just that they are getting younger (as opposed to me getting older, heaven forbid) but they are becoming more feminine. I don’t expect my grocery bagger to be a 300lb hulk covered in tattoos and sporting gym muscles, but the whole attitude reminds me of interacting with teen girls.

    Sadly, it isn’t just you :-(

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post. I agree with the sentiment that men are weakening, but not necessarily with the examples strictly how you interpret them. First to respond to Bookstooge’s comment and the overall theme of the post, I think our food supply plays a role in it. We’ve been pumping babies with unfermented soy products since the early 80s: see especially baby formula and the like. Soy is a powerful phytoestrogen that mimics estrogen in the body and influences testosterone levels in men. I don’t touch unferm soy because it screwed up MY hormones, and I’m a woman.

    Additionally, at the same time, our diet has become increasingly sweetened with sugar. Insulin temporarily reduces testosterone (and impacts a lot of the endocrine system in general), but I would bet that if a young man is drinking several sodas a day (I know a few), the testosterone never has a chance to recover significantly (and I see the results).

    All that to say, I don’t think guys feminized overnight. I’ve observed that the vast majority of beta males were born in the 80s and onward. There’s a whole slew of other factors too but I don’t think diet is considered enough.

    Whew. That’s out of the way.

    Question: how does your observation jive with a specific audience that is 99% female: romance novels? Some romance novel authors are men writing under feminine pseudonyms. I’ve never read one, but the covers depict virile, strong men who take control. The complete opposite of the general cultural trend noted here.

    Onto your videos, I don’t think the guy in the last video was particularly feminine. It might be because I’m 31 and so I’m “used to it” but that’s not even the worst I’ve seen (and I haven’t watched TV in a few years now). And the man in the 1996 commercial, to me, is no less masculine. I don’t remember specific examples, but your earlier examples were better. Just saying ;)

    I think the dual characters of the credit card commercial belies an more fundamental attitude: the “man” in the situation (the customer service guy) is confident and deeper voiced. The “woman” in the commercial is nervous and speaks in a higher voice, and is put at ease by the “man.” On the one hand, the commercial might be speaking to the frightened man children of my generation that their fears are unfounded (rather than conquering them), or it might be speaking to women with the catchy visual of the same guy playing two parts (something that has fascinated audiences for years and years). It might be both.

    Nonetheless, it does tend to normalize the growing everyday fears people have. But to look at it charitably, no one likes calling customer service because they can be rude and try to sell stuff. The prequel you posted kinda negates a charitable view, but everything up to that point is saying “customer service is nothing to worry about.” I feel we shouldn’t be soothing fears but equipping people with the tools and skills to push their fears aside, from within, but that’s another discussion.

    The same thing has happened to Japan, as well. The singers from the 80s and 90s were masculine and confident. So many of the singers now are slight, nervous, and feminine.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Got it.

        I admit, there’s nothing really womanly about the guy in the recent Kay commercial. But I just look at him and think “Girly-man”. Partly just being skinny in a flabby way, partly from the facial hair, which seems to be a modern beta-male fashion.
        Which is unfair, cuz there are plenty of manly men with facial hair, too.

        Dunno. Just got a negative reaction from it.


      2. That’s also totally fair. Advertising is all about gut reactions and intuitions and if you’re picking up on something negative, there’s likely something there to give you that reaction.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh and I’ll also say I’m noticing an inability to handle stress in another arena: youtube music mixes of “relaxing” and “stress-reducing” music. I love the music, not for that reason, but I swear every video I see features those keywords in the title. Now, those are more responsive descriptions, in that they are meeting a need for stress relief instead of saying “Hey, you need this!” The comments from the listeners as well indicate that there is a large population of people who are crippled with stress and need “stress reducing music” to cope with it. I don’t know what’s going on in their lives but it’s not healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

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