More Culturally Subversive TV Advertising: FarmersOnly.Com’s Bigotry

Farmers Only

The latest strain of divisiveness to become virulent in American society is resentment and anger against “elites,”  those pompous know-it-alls who have money, education, power, influence, go to work wearing suits, and listen to NPR. Certainly the Elites have asked for this backlash for a long time and in many ways, deriding “fly-over” country, mocking religion, demonizing communities that are slow accepting sudden cultural shifts like gay marriage, and reflexively using accusations of racism and xenophobia to mark conservatives as a blight on mankind. Nonetheless, the backlash is taking the form of outright bigotry, with elites now under cultural assault as “the other” in some shockingly blunt ways.

A dating service called FarmersOnly is running a series of national TV commercials that portray “city folk” as unfit for human association. These ads started off  as benign—my initial reaction that it was just strange to be slicing the dating pool this thin. Here is an example from the first wave…

I can understand Christian Mingle, which aims for a market of singles who regard religion as central to their lives, but occupational dating restrictions seemed like a Saturday Night Live skit. What’s next? PlumbersOnly? AccountantsOnly? TerroristsOnly?

Then the ads turned nasty. First there was this, trading in pure negative stereotyping:

Then  FarmersOnly.Com’s pitch became  less about farmers finding farmers than about dividing the country between the “good” people and the assholes.

Guess who are the assholes.

Look at these ads:

The message is now that “city folk” are obnoxious, incompetent, stupid, and deserve to be mistreated (and that country folk are sadistic bullies, apparently, but that this is fine). That kind of sharp stereotyping was condemned ( by critics in the cities and the country) back in the Sixties when it was friendly and aimed at “rustics” in popular sitcoms of the era, like “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” and “The Andy Griffith Show’…and don’t forget “Hee Haw!”  In those shows, however, while specific “elites” might behave like jerks and end up in a pile of manure or being humiliated by someone chewing on a stalk of grass, nobody could detect real animus in the plots; for one thing, the country folk were always nice, never mean, and the lessons (about not judging people harshly by their accents, clothes and traditions) were good ones.

That’s not the message FarmersOnly is sending. It’s telling the country that “city folk” are rude morons; we’re invited to cheer as the good, competent country folk strand them in lakes and splash mud on their faces. In the last two, the “heroes” behave disgracefully, but because their victims are presented as worthy of hate, it’s acceptable…. you know, like the Nazis harassing all those greedy Jews on Kristallnacht. “Sign up for free to find a farmer, rancher, cowboy, cowgirl or animal lover here at FarmersOnly.com, an online dating site meant for down to earth folks only,” the site says. “City folk just don’t get it.” Translation: “We know we’re better than them.” This is the essence of prejudice.

I don’t like writing the obvious, but I also don’t like saying “it goes without saying” and then saying it, so I have to just come out and say it: imagine the reaction if the same tone was applied to whites dating blacks, Christians dating Jews, or vegans dating overweight people.

These are bigoted and divisive commercials that work to create a them vs. us environment by class and region. That is the last thing the United States needs right now, or ever needed.

 

24 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising

24 responses to “More Culturally Subversive TV Advertising: FarmersOnly.Com’s Bigotry

  1. The one positive takeaway from these commercials is the line “You just won the date lottery”. I am determined to use that line on my next date, solely to get a laugh.

    And I hope that this is not indicative of some deep seeded misogyny, but somehow, while the dude in the last commercial is supposed to be the obnoxious jerk, somehow the girl comes across as the bigger one to me. I don’t know if it was her awful acting, the fact that she’s not wearing a seatbelt in the final scene, or for being a “muddin’ ” kind of gal who voluntarily chose to go out with an obnoxious idiot, then chose to ditch him while he wasn’t looking.

    Or, perhaps Im overthinking it. Man, I need to get a date.

    • No, you’re right, the country folk in both the car ad and the fishing as are horrible.

      • By the way, there a new DirectTV ad out. Three college bros sitting on a couch, upset they missed the beginning of Conan. Sting shows up, does his schtick, except the “funny rewind parts” are the bro’s go back to before they quit gym, so they instantly get buffed (ok), and go back to where one of them has a chance to say goodbye to his “Grampy Tim”,who appears in a chair, waving, while the guy looks forlorn and mouths “Grampy?”. Why/how is missing out on the chance to say goodbye to a loved one funny??

        I didn’t mind the earlier ones (though, I see your point)…now I’m starting to really dislike them.

        • “Why/how is missing out on the chance to say goodbye to a loved one funny?”

          Was it supposed to be? Or was it supposed to dredge up feelings of regret over having missed something? Commercials are advertising, not entertainment, although often entertainment is advertisement.

          Regardless. I think this is as good a point as any to lament what I’ve come to think of as the latest casualty in the culture war, although I can’t really point to the moment when the body hit the floor: Humour.

          I’ve often called the regressive authoritarian side of this conflict joyless, and they are. But apparently joylessness is contagious, because we’re afraid to tell jokes. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld touched on this while they were talking about refusing to do bits on campuses.

          That vacuum has left us with a fundamental misunderstanding of what humour is. Is the death of babies funny? Maybe if you’re Cecile Richards, but generally no. Are dead baby jokes funny? Sometimes. Not because of the dead babies, but because of the absurdity of them. Humour was supposed to be edgy, to push boundaries, to be absurd, to amuse. What used to be told over water coolers or around poker tables to choruses of laughter are not met with pearl clutchings from the school marmish: “You can’t say that!” “That’s not cool.” “You’re creating a hostile environment.” “you’re a bigot for thinking that.”

          Perhaps humour wasn’t inclusive or diverse. Maybe after humour is thoroughly scrubbed out of our culture we will be more inclusive. And then we can all gather around and talk about the weather, or make puns. Puns are good humour right? A friend of mine tried to annoy me with bird puns, but I soon realised that toucan play at that game.

          In the meatime:

          What’s the difference between a joke and two dicks?

          You can’t take a joke.

  2. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Conservativesingles.com – Tired of overpriced Chablis that tastes like vinegar, boring, pretentious plays without a point, atonal concerts that leave you with a headache, bashing Sarah Palin and George W. Bush passing for wit, and that annoying gay “best friend” always hovering nearby? Come to conservativesingles.com, where you can find the RIGHT date and the RIGHT mate. Libertarians, Zionists, and Brexiters welcome!

  3. Mark

    It’s really quite simple to me. A culture that can be sliced and diced so thoroughly can’t hold together. The “common” anything (much less the good), gets scattered into as many pieces as the mince. If I were in charge and tasked to find seemingly innocent ways to keep otherwise decent people from communicating with one another – much less dating – this seems like a good idea. The job is already accomplished in politics – might as well head on over to the dating pool.

    Your Friendly Liberal Conspiracy Theorist

  4. JimHodgson

    I am not a farmer but am the son of a farmer, grew up on a farm and have lived in farm country most of my life. When I first glimpsed the “FarmersOnly.com” ads, I thought it was a parody of some sort, poking more fun at “country folk.” Only after actually seeing the TV commercials appear a few times did I realize it was a real product. I assure you that none of the farmers, ranchers and other “country” men I count as friends would act so ungentlemanly toward any “city” girl no matter how obnoxiously she behaved. Every one that I have talked to about these ads thinks that they are stupid. This is just another example of marketing strategy taking advantage of the “backlash” you mentioned against the popular culture’s habitual stereotyping, demonization, derision and ridicule of rural people, and then that strategy ends up contributing to those same processes. Unethical, of course, but I realistically don’t expect better. It is an optimistic man indeed who expects ethical behavior from marketing people in today’s business world!

    • Other Bill

      It is an optimistic man indeed who expects ethical behavior from marketing people in today’s business world!

      Check.

    • pennagain

      That was my first thought, Jim. I grew up in the metropolitan NY/NJ area — except for weekends on one grandpa’s dairy farm upstate, vacations active in the outdoors, and summers camping and later working (and dating) alongside farmers, rangers and ranchers, and finally settling in the Colorado Rockies for twenty years.

      I can think of a worthy rationalization for this dating service, though: small, “real” farmers on the whole, are a dying breed in this country’s over-mechanized corporate agriculture. Nonetheless, they persevere. But it’s damned hard work, unrewarding financially as well as in status in the eyes of … well, non-farmers . It makes sense, in a sensible way, to look for a mate who understands what farming means to them as individuals, parents, members of a community and an essential, still essential, part of the workings of this country. [I’m not excusing the nastiness of the ads: I said it was a rationalization!]

      The nation benefits from those farmers: in sustainability, dispersing market share, keeping markets competitive, protecting against Big Farm’s soil erosion, genetic engineering (not all hideous, but dangerous in greedy hands), monoculture, chemical residues and the potential effects of irradiation, and in what I believe to be the criminal patenting of indigenous crop varieties. And since out-of-country comparisons are not welcome here, I won’t get into the necessity of supporting family (or community?) farming as a bulwark against corporate agriculture’s fatal effects on food production and supply worldwide.

      There is even a social effect: destroying local or otherwise sustainable farming destroys the rural communities themselves. They survived the Dust Bowl. They’re not likely to survive this for many more generations. Unless there are more generations. So date away, folks — just don’t use FarmersOnly.com.

    • Which brings up an interesting point – when I picture marketers, I don’t picture farmers or blue collar workers. This isn’t an example of what rural America feels about the upscale set, but rather what the city mouse thinks will amuse his country cousin. It may or may not be effective, but I doubt it started out on the farm.

  5. Other Bill

    I really liked the girl in the Daisy Dukes and heels on the horse riding date. How could anyone fault her riding skills when she rode around that ring hanging by a single leg, er, foot. That there’s some pretty dang good stunt riding. I doubt the talking dog or the bevy of properly attired girl riders could come anywhere close to doing anything like that.

    In my family, we’ve always had what my wife and I long ago came to call country mice and city mice. It’s just part of the deal.

  6. Wayne

    I have no interest in dating a lady who wants me to be a farmer. My dad actually worked on his father’s farm when he was a kid and I heard enough horror stories about what it was like then. I would definitely go fishing with an attractive woman though which would float my boat. Still, a group for people that dislike city folk? Seems kind of dumb to me.

  7. Kevin

    I think FarmersOnly is a front. Considering all the talking animals in those ads, I think the site is actually for schizophrenics who happen to live in rural areas, also, what are all these “salt of the earth” people doing with smartphones? Don’t be putting on airs now.

  8. Isaac

    I’d wager you don’t actually have to be a farmer to sign up for that site. Farmers Only is probably just the name determined most likely to ward away Black people from joining.

    • And in a sense this goes right to the core of the issue. Since I am in favor of people living in accord with their values and understanding of things, and deciding as well who they desire to blend their genes with (avoiding the ‘jean’ pun), I do not have any problem with people who have outright and declared ‘prejudice’, racial and cultural preference, religious preference, or any preference they desire to have.

      It seems to me a basic conservative principle and I suppose an indicator of sovereignty of the person that they have and should have the right to decide according to their values. What does not seem conservative, and what seems like ‘enforced liberalism’, and which hinges into many other ‘forced’ issues, is the sense that people should be condemned for their preferences.

      I see other elements here, other undercurrents, and one that is ‘resistance to imposed narratives’. The farmer type (which I know because I grew up in Sacramento and visited many farms in the Central Valley) or the ‘red neck’ type, is a unique breed. They do not read Chomsky and Eric Fromm. Actually they are sort of living forms of resistance to much that is modern and, seen in some ways, perverted.

      I do not see it as an ethical wrong to augment a sense of difference, nor to ridicule nor to hold in contempt either the ideas that have informed moderns, or moderns (urbanites) themselves.

      The last paragraph in Jack’s blogpost I completely disagree with. I think people need to learn again HOW to cultivate difference as well as separation and distinction. The value needs to be about how to get out from under those impositions.

    • Wayne B

      Isaac, you can’t be serious! No black farmers? I know for a fact there’s a lot of black guys that like to fish and the deep sea party boats are very happy to accommodate them.

  9. Betty Fairy

    If country folks want to exclusively date each other, or gay people want to just date each other, straight, fat, skinny, ugly, good looking, smart, dumb, black, asian, or even (dare I say it) WHITE people, then that is their own business. I think it should be okay to exclude people from membership if they don’t meet the basic criteria. I don’t think you should go looking for a heterosexual relationship on a gay website. You shouldn’t go on BlackPeopleMeet.com if you aren’t a black person. I mean, I suppose you could sign up on a site like that, but you are just wasting your time and theirs, and for what? Just to gate-crash where you aren’t wanted? That is just being a jerk IMO.

  10. Kush

    I like how there isn’t one black, Hispanic, or other non white person, though there are many who are farmers!

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