Men In Commercials Being Jerks About Coffee: A Mashup of 1950s & 1960s TV Ads

Found­ed by Rick Prelinger in 1983, The Prelinger Archives have amassed thou­sands of “ephemer­al” films — adver­tis­ing, edu­ca­tion­al, indus­tri­al, and ama­teur films of “his­toric sig­nif­i­cance” that haven’t been col­lect­ed else­where. We’ve fea­tured some gems from the Archive in months past. Remem­ber How to Spot a Com­mu­nist (1955) or Have I Told You Late­ly I Love You (1958)?

Among oth­er things, the archive fea­tures some 2,000 pub­lic domain films, which peo­ple are free to remix and mashup how­ev­er they like. Some time ago, Shaun Clay­ton got into the spir­it, took a series of 1950’s and 60’s-era cof­fee com­mer­cials from the Archives (like the one below), and “edit­ed them down to just the moments when the guys were the biggest jerks to their wives about cof­fee.” The point of the exer­cise, I’d like to think, was­n’t just to show men being jerks for the sake of it, but to throw into stark relief the dis­turb­ing atti­tudes cours­ing through Amer­i­can adver­tis­ing and cul­ture dur­ing that era. And noth­ing accom­plish­es that bet­ter than mash­ing up the scenes, plac­ing them side by side, show­ing them one after anoth­er. It gives a clear his­tor­i­cal real­i­ty to views we’ve seen treat­ed artis­ti­cal­ly in shows like Mad Men.

Just for the record, I make my own cof­fee.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

This is Cof­fee!: A 1961 Trib­ute to Our Favorite Stim­u­lant (from the Prelinger Archive)

“The Vertue of the COFFEE Drink”: An Ad for London’s First Cafe Print­ed Cir­ca 1652

Black Cof­fee: Doc­u­men­tary Cov­ers the His­to­ry, Pol­i­tics & Eco­nom­ics of the “Most Wide­ly Tak­en Legal Drug”

The His­to­ry of Cof­fee and How It Trans­formed Our World

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Comments (14)
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  • I think it’s sad that Amer­i­can men have fall­en so low in the order of things that we can’t offer an opin­ion on some­thing as innocu­ous as how the cof­fee tastes with­out being labeled “jerks.” Fur­ther­more, it should be not­ed that many of the male char­ac­ters in those ads kept their opin­ions about the cof­fee to them­selves. Are men even allowed to have an opin­ion any­more? If women tru­ly do seek equal­i­ty, they real­ly should­n’t expect to be arti­fi­cial­ly shield­ed from even the slight­est­n­crit­i­cal com­ment about the qual­i­ty of their cook­ery! As some­one who knows, appar­ent­ly, how to cook well (accord­ing to oth­ers), I would count on noth­ing less than can­dor from my girl­friend. I would trust her opin­ion, her adult­hood, and her taste, and I would­n’t seek cen­sor­ship of her taste buds! Dare I call this post u201cPCu201d? Or I am being a u201cjerk,u201d too? (I ask this, rhetor­i­cal­ly, at the risk of cer­tain par­tic­i­pants respond­ing in the affir­ma­tive, which would­n’t sur­prise me: name-hurl­ing is a rel­a­tive­ly easy way to obfus­cate mat­ters–.)

    • johanna macdonald says:

      In a way, the guys in the ads aren’t being jerks per se; they’re behav­ing in a way that was sanc­tioned and nor­mal. I’d see it as less about the men in the ads and more about the whole social sit­u­a­tion. I sup­pose it only makes us eye­roll nowa­days since it’s so bla­tant here that the woman is expect­ed to do the cook­ing, and that the rea­son why she’d like to make good cof­fee is not for her­self, but for her hus­band. nnAll of which is pret­ty much cov­ered in the arti­cle.

    • Strepsi says:

      Matt, you’re miss­ing the con­text — you cook, your girl­friend cooks, each can offer an opin­ion equal­ly. Not so these house­wives, who are slav­ish­ly cook­ing and mak­ing cof­fee for the hus­band only. (Of course, the hus­band would say that’s only fair as he is the one work­ing to pay for every­thing… thus the entire con­text is, yes, sexist.)nnBut seriously,nn“Happy anniver­sary darling.“nn“Try to do some­thing about your coffee!“nnOn their anniver­sary? Yep, he’s a jerk.

    • Guest says:

      I feel bad for you if you treat the peo­ple in your life like those men treat­ed their wives. I can’t imag­ine any­one act­ing like that at work or at home. I kin­da feel sor­ry for you that you are act­ing if it is OK.

  • twitchit says:

    Per­haps some­one should do some­thing sim­i­lar to throw into relief the dis­turb­ing atti­tudes in Amer­i­can adver­tis­ing and cul­ture today. The result would be a mashup of exposed and exploit­ed female body parts, which boiled down to their core like these ads, would be noth­ing more than porn.n

    • twitchit says:

      (of course sim­i­lar things have already been done in con­tem­po­rary art, but it tends to be too obscure to get the mes­sage across to a wider audi­ence)

  • Egyptsteve says:

    Well, thank God for Mrs. Olsen, then! She saved more mar­riages than Doc­tor Phil.

  • Masculinist says:

    Yes and now we have come full cir­cle. In today’s adver­tis­ing men are rou­tine­ly por­trayed as bum­bling idiots inca­pable of the sim­plest of tasks

    • Jen says:

      I think that’s start­ing to pass, though. I’ve final­ly start­ed see­ing, for exam­ple, dia­per ads fea­tur­ing com­pe­tent and car­ing dads.

  • DrObvious says:

    What’s inter­est­ing? Seems like a lot of these dudes have jobs.

  • M.R.Stringer says:

    Do Amer­i­cans real­ly drink pre-ground cof­fee all time time? — or are things worse, and that tin is filled with … DRIED cof­fee?

  • Eric Meyer says:

    What are you doing watch­ing com­mer­cials and TV? Idiot Box- full of pro­pa­gan­da.

  • Mike says:

    “With cof­fee that tastes like THIS,honey,is it any won­der that I’m ‘brew­ing a pot’ with my sec­re­tary? That’s right,honey,it’s YOUR fault! Well,you and this godaw­ful coffee,at least.”

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.