Men have always been great at inventing various, and mostly deplorable, ways of comparing themselves to each other. We have retained this ability from our days of tribal wilderness dwelling, where the Alpha male controlled the group and had his choice of the women.
Modern equivalents of the old hunting prowess and physical intimidation come in less physical forms. Men now compete for positions at the workplace. Better jobs earn more money for buying expensive cars. Luxurious possessions can be used as candy to lure attractive women. Beautiful parents produce more attractive children. When men have all of the above they are considered successful and admired by other men.
Along this treacherous jungle path to prosperity lie smaller goals and benchmarks. These change with the times and bow to the outside pressure of our evolving culture.
Last year a new object of desire was mainstreamed to the American male. Any decent man worth his weight in imported beer and golf clubs was drawn to the crystalline glow of a high definition plasma television screen.
Advertising agencies and electronics manufacturers have spoken. Madison Avenue and Tokyo declare that a plasma-watching man is a successful man. Gentlemen, start your credit cards!
Commercials for these televisions portray plasma owners as pioneer visionaries who forge through the digital wasteland and bring home the kill to their families. An early gem had Mr. Big Dad firing up his plasma for the first time while the wife and kids flanked him on the couch. As the moving image ignited a glow in his family's eyes, Big Dad smiled and confidently reminded his clan that, "I told you this thing was awesome."
By the way, that scene read, you would have thought that Mr. Big had designed the television and directed the movie they were watching. All he had to do was be rabid enough to buy early and spend thousands of dollars on new technology. Stand aside everyone, and let this learned explorer pass.
Keep up with those Joneses! From coast to coast men began lobbying their families to mortgage the house and send the kids to state college. While prices are still falling on these wall-mounted wonders, no football watching technophile is willing to compromise for the $2,500 model. Their eyes are firmly glued to the $4,000 and $5,000 displays.
A more recent commercial aimed toward the Super Bowl had two younger men leaving the grocery store after stocking up for the big game. The younger, Goofus-like, character carries a bag of food as his trophy and asks his Gallant counterpart if he's ready for the game. In a gesture oozing with contemporary status, Gallant presses a button on his key chain and the back of his SUV glides open, revealing his unopened plasma, fresh from the store.
Gallant is ready.
To all male readers: this year you will feel enormous pressure to own a plasma television by Christmas. As the months fly by prices will drop slowly and gradually. Just before Thanksgiving, news outlets will announce that sales of high-end TVs are up, and expected to account for a large portion of the Christmas retail season.
Can you hear the sizzle of digital bacon?
Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.