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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