Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Caveman Could Do It

Okay, I’ve been watching this GEICO commercial for a few months now, and I have to say it -- it bothers me. I’m not sure if they show this commercial in all markets, so this is how it goes:

A GEICO auto insurance spokesman tells the viewers that they can get an insurance quote in as little as 15 minutes by calling GEICO’s toll-free number. He concludes his spiel by laughing and saying, “It’s so easy, a caveman could do it!”

The commercial then cuts to the same spokesman sitting at a table in a fancy restaurant. With him are -- wait for it -- two cavemen. The cavemen are wearing business casual and they speak perfect English. The GEICO shill apologizes to them and says, “We had no idea you guys were still around.”

“Next time do a little research,” says one caveman while the other snorts derisively at GEICO-dude.

The waiter comes to take their order. The caveman who snorted says, “I’ll have the roast duck with the mango salsa,” and the other one looks pointedly at GEICO-dude and says, “No thank you, I don’t have much of an appetite.” The commercial concludes with the GEICO guy looking embarrassed and we’re supposed to feel his pain as he presumably suffers through a meal with these two hostile minority reps.

Someone must like the caveman commercials because this is the third one. There’s one where a caveman is a “grip” working on the set of a GEICO commercial and when the actors drop the “a caveman could do it” line he drops the boom mic he’s holding, shouts, “NOT COOL!” at the director and actors and storms off the set. In another one, two cavemen are at home in front of the TV (are they roommates? Lovers?). They see the GEICO commercial, hear the “a caveman could do it” line and they react with bewildered WTF? expressions and remark, “How condescending.” The restaurant commercial is a sequel to the “roommate” commercial, which isn’t shown anymore.

The problem I have with the GEICO cavemen commercials is that the humor hinges on the viewer agreeing with GEICO that it’s funny when white men disrespect people. The cavemen are a stand-in for everyone who’s not a white man and -- ha ha ha! -- the cavemen should realize that they’re inferior and they shouldn’t be offended when GEICO disses them. But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a white man treating you like shit, you’ve been the cavemen in this commercial. And maybe you've suspected that this is how you were viewed -- as subhuman. And that’s not funny.


Claude said...

I should preface this by saying that I'm a white male, so I may have my head in an anatomically interesting place when I pose this:

I don't think that the cavemen are supposed to realize that they're inferior, it's more that the Geico representative doesn't realize that they aren't.

Which actually doesn't take away from your argument a bit. However: turn the concept around a little.

While the cavemen in the "roommates" and the "restaurant" spots are generally bitchy (in the "boom mic" one, he's just angry), the Geico rep is being made to look like an ignorant fool in each and every case. This could be considered a commercial series that bashes white males, who are a pretty popular target these days.

Michelle Pessoa said...

I'm always puzzled when white people talk about a supposed preponderance of white male bashing. I highly doubt that the people running GEICO are non-whites. If white people are depicting white men as bigots in commercials they sanction, how can that be called “bashing”? They’re in control of the whole situation, so it’s not like they’re trying to drag themselves down.

Michelle Pessoa said...

Well, someone decided to be gutless and leave an anonymous comment today, so I've deleted his/her comment and I'm shutting off all further comments to this post.

If you believe in what you're saying, sign your name to it.