Sunday, September 05, 2010

Guys just wanna have fun?

For a while now, AOL has been using this sign-on screen (which I cut and pasted above because for some reason, when I click the link, it doesn't always take me to the screen I have in mind, so it might not take you there either. For the benefit of those who worry that I'm violating some copyright here, I claim an exemption on the grounds of "fair use and comment").

Under the ad the following caption appears:

Safeguard Your Child's Online Experience
Protect your family from inappropriate content online with the AOL Safety Toolbar.
Let's scrutinize the atmospherics here, shall we? We've got a too-cute tweener girl in the foreground, smiling (in an innocent/engaged/subtly flirty way?) into her computer screen. A couple, presumably Mom and Dad, are behind her on the couch, some distance removed. Mom is keeping an eye on the daughter, her expression clearly betraying some unease. Dad, however, seems oblivious to the girl, and is more intent on the wife. (If you click on the above photo, the resulting enlargement will enable you to better analyze the facial detail.) His smile, which to my eye is part rakish and part patronizing, says one (or both) of two things to the woman: 1, "What are you worrying about, babe? She's just bein' a kid. She's fine." And/or 2, "So, am I gonna get laid later? Cuz if so, I'll take the pill..."

I don't think I'm being paranoid in what I'm about to say, or "reaching" too far, because the visuals in that ad had to have been put together by design. Right? So why use that imagery? Why not have both parents watching the girl with unease? Or why not have them both be oblivious? Ergo, what's the intended takeaway? That fathers are clueless when it comes to their daughters' welfare? That they're far too casual about it? That they spend most of their time thinking exactly the kinds of prurient thoughts that force mothers to have to take full responsibility for their daughters' welfare?

Curious to know others think.


Yekaterina said...

What I see in the background (along with the oblivious father) is an uptight, powerless woman.

With a child that young one doesn't sit on the couch immobile fretting and worrying about her safety, one acts. If I don't have a safety toolbar installed and am that uneasy about my daughter stumbling onto porn, I just allow the child to go online anyway? I have no other options, such as not allowing her to surf the web until a solution is found?

Who knows, maybe the man is worry free because he's already set up the AOL Safety toolbar???

All in all the vibe isn't a good one, in my opinion, for either the man or the woman.

Steve Salerno said...

Ykat: I hadn't looked that deeply into the woman's body language, and I think you're right.

Interesting how some of these things can serve as a Rorschach test for our respective lenses on life--but then, I guess all of life is that way, huh?

So wait...are you saying that the visual language of the ad implies that the guy is saying something like, "Relax, babe, I already took care of it... So, getting back to later..."? (i.e. he set up the toolbar?) Or were you just joking about that?

Yekaterina said...

"Interesting how some of these things can serve as a Rorschach test for our respective lenses on life--but then, I guess all of life is that way, huh?"

So true.

I was just joking. Grasping at straws is more like it. The man's odd laissez faire attitude stumps me as well.

Matt Dick said...

I think it's also possible that stock photos are cheaper for the website department.

"Go find a picture of a kid unattended in internet usage... and make it cheap!"

Steve Salerno said...

Iiiii dunno, Matt. In a way I'd almost like to think that...but you really think AOL would be that haphazard?

Where's Snopes when you need it!

1minionsopinion said...

It wouldn't be the first cheap job done.. just look at the gallery at and tell me businesses really do uphold their advertising to rigorous standards...