Not Your Father's Drunk Tank

Not Your Father's Drunk Tank

Jim Washburn at the urban-living site, FourStory, gets worked up over Canadian Club ads that trade in on both retro chic and the presumed nostalgia of 21st-century males for a more  take-charge era of guy. That is to say, a time when men in Van Heusen shirts were free to roam the bedrooms of their secretaries and other lesser life forms without fear of censure or paternity suits. This Early Playboy ideal is captured by the whiskey ads that feature photos of "Dads" in their youth as they fished, danced and sat drinking beside white-brick fireplaces in the 1960s and '70s.

I think Washburn's post, "Your Father's In That Glass, Talking to You," makes some good points ridiculing this pretentious campaign, but he allows himself to be too outraged by the ads which, if nothing else, remind us that  Canadian Club still exists. (The last time I remember seeing its logo was on some black-and-white photographs of Times Square or the Polo Grounds.) In some sense, the ads represent a crisis in advertising -- how do you market Macho in an age that's both post-feminist and post-ironic? Canadian Club tries to impress us by winking with both eyes at once, and the result is that it blindly stumbles about trying to capture a male demographic that is more titillated by Shag than a liquor company's promise of shagging.

For all the brand's ad-copy dismissal of "Martini glasses" and "pink

cocktails," it's doubtful that too many young men will be taken in by

the supposed male golden age that was the 1960s and '70s. They know about

the effects of drinking -- if not first hand, then from the very source

of those Canadian Club ads -- the fathers who wrapped

their cars and marriages around trees after half a dozen CC and

gingers. That culture's self-destructiveness was perfectly captured by

its alcoholic chronicler, John Cheever. His 1962 short story, "Reunion," 

in which a young man watches his hard-drinking, divorced father implode

during a nightmarish lunch get-together, is a look at

one dad's booze-fueled bravado. It ends with the son saying good-bye to the

father and, in my some ways, to his values:

"Good-bye Daddy," I said. "And I went down the stairs and got my train, and that was the last time I saw my father."

Until, that is, Canadian Club resurrected him.


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