Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Dark Side of Bravery

Okay the Super Bowl went down last week and with that game comes an onslaught of ads that seem to be getting more attention that the game itself these days One ad in particular that generated a lot of talk was an ad by the car manufacturer Audi. Let's take a look.

If you can't see it the ad is of a teen boy who borrows his parents' car to go to the prom on his own (after being reminded that going to the prom solo is a bad thing). After driving to the prom and parking in the principal's spot our young man goes inside and in front of everyone kisses the prom queen (or at least I think it's the prom queen as she has on a tiara).

By in front of everyone I mean everyone in attendance and the prom king, who promptly chases the young man off. The scene shifts to later on as the young man is driving home with a new black eye (presumably a present from the prom king). The screen fades to black with the phrase, "Bravery. It's what defines us."

This is certainly not a perfect ad. I've seen a few places talking about it but I noticed that a lot of the talk has been a seemingly obligatory nod to how hard he has it and then rushing right into how he violated her space. Yes by just rolling up on her and kissing her he did violate her space and that is a conversation that needs to happen. But I think think there might be another conversation that needs to happen ax well.

We need to speak to our young man (I'm gonna call him Brad from here on out, because I don't want to keep calling him "young man" and this is from the perspective of someone actually talking to him) about bravery and how it relates to the events of the commercial. I think there needs to be more said than a slight nod to understanding his situation which comes off as it was thrown in keep people from complaining about making the discussion all about girls/women. Here goes.

Okay Brad from the start of the ad we see that in the usual custom of high school social conduct, going to the prom alone carries a stigma that one is a loser and is to be ostracized (you even get some reassurance from your mom that it wasn't that bad, just to have it dashed by your little sister). Yeah I remember that. I had someone to go to the prom with in my own day but I do remember that pressure. No one wanted to be that person that went to the prom alone. And I also remember that pressure leaning more on boys than on girls.

Chances are having someone to go to the prom with is still held up as an indicator of being "a real man". It's proof that you have what it takes to get down with the ladies. It's a totally terrible burden that guys have to carry and I'd like to see it ended (as well as the burdens that girls carry).

More than likely this isn't some isolated event. You've probably been somewhat of a social outcast for a long time I bet? Since you're going to the prom you are likely a junior or senior in high school. Probably bullied and ostracized by girls and boys alike. And now you have to face going to a prom with that same bullies and teasers, and alone at that.

With all of this in mind Brad I wager you want to have some feather in your cap. Some triumph that would tell all the people that harassed and ignored you that you are a "real man". A symbol that would shine in front of the entire population of your high school and would live on past the end of your high school days. That's totally understandable.

Now one does not simply pull off moments like that without some a key ingredient. Something that allows us to overcome the odds of an ugly situation.


As I saw your dad let you borrow the Audi. I'm not sure if he let you get it specifically as a source of bravery to counter the fact you were running solo or not but it looks like that is how you saw took it.

When you got behind that wheel your aura changed. You got a look in your eye that said you are a different person. You are not the lonely loser that didn't have someone to go to the prom with. You probably thought you were on top of the world, or at least it looked like you thought you were on top of the world considering what you did next.

You got to the prom and parked in the principal's spot in a display of you new found bravery. After going inside you went straight to the prom queen and planted a kiss on her that you were certain would grant you a long running wish of kissing her and cementing your place in high school as the big man on campus so to speak. Sounds simple right?

Not quite.

Okay I know that most of the advice you've been getting this week has been centered around you kissing the prom queen without consent. Yes that is important advice and you should heed it. But I don't want you thinking that if you not kissed her without asking the rest of your night would have been fine or something.

Let's go back in time a bit.

You took your parents' car to the prom as a source of bravery to do something that was certain to cause a stir (kissing the prom queen in front of everyone, bonus points for rising the ire of the prom king). Now I know this was an ad for a car but I have to say that obtaining bravery is not really as easy as borrowing a fancy car.

Unfortunately bravery is something that you can't so much get from somewhere else as you kinda have to generate it on your own. If you feel like going over that feel free to reply. But the main thing I wanted to get to wasn't the bravery or the source of the bravery but what you did afterwards.

Parking in the principal's space isn't that big of a deal (hopefully the most that would happen is that you would be told to move). The kiss on the other hand that's where I want to go for a bit.

As I said earlier I am familiar when the desire to perform a major action to show that you are a "real man". Let me get real with you here for a bit. This is one of the hardest lessons that any and every man has to learn. So hard in fact it is neither surprising nor inherently bad that you may not have learned it yet.

A man has to learn that he cannot get wrapped up in the measurements that other people try to hold him to in order to see if he is a real man or not. Notice that I didn't put that in quote marks this time. When I was using the quote marks earlier I was talking about those measurements from other people trying to dictate your manliness for you and to you.

If you get wrapped up trying to be a man by everyone else's standards you will end up living a rather miserable life. So take a moment to wonder why exactly did you rush up to the prom queen and give her that kiss she didn't get a say in. Did you do it because it was what you wanted for yourself or did you do it because you saw that it was what others wanted for you? Did you need that bravery for yourself or did you need it for the people that were watching?

Hopefully you kissed her because it was what you wanted for yourself.

Now speaking of what you wanted and her having no say bear in mind what you did. You walked up to this girl and just kissed her without prompt or asking. That's violation of her and her space if I ever saw one. It was wrong. There is a good chance that you like this girl and you really want some sort of interaction with her and that is perfectly understandable. On the other hand let's think about the method of interaction you chose.

You chose to walk up to her and grab her for a kiss. Yeah she might have smiled afterward but you initiated the action with no prompt or asking. I can understand how you would come to think that that is what you should do as a guy that is interested in a girl. However there are going to be some girls that want you to do that and some that don't and when you just kiss them like that you aren't giving them the chance to say which they kind of girl they are.

So to try to sum this up.

1. You really can't depend on external sources for bravery.

2. You should't feel bad or ashamed because you're a social outcast.

3. Make sure you are doing things because you want to do them, not because it's what others want you to do.

4. When you do those things and they involve other people make sure it consensual on all sides.

5. Don't make your moment of bravery about other people, make it about yourself.

Take it easy Brad.