Who else reads books about submarines?
January 13, 2021 11:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to understand a joke from a popular TV commercial that's currently being shown in the US.

Progressive Insurance has a series of silly TV ads that feature a consultant who advises young-ish people on how to stop acting like their parents. The jokes hinge on various stereotypes concerning older people (they don't know how to silence their smartphones, they are upset by hipsters who dye their hair blue, etc.).

One of these ads shows a young-ish person reading a book about submarines. The consultant asks him, "Who else reads books about submarines?". The man sheepishly answers, "My dad".

I'm puzzled by this joke. Is this really a cliché with regard to elderly men? If so, I hadn't heard it before.
posted by JD Sockinger to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
 
It's a stereotype that Boomer Dads love WWII and military stuff in general, watch a lot of The History Channel, etc. "Books about submarines" is a bit more niche than I'd have chosen there but I immediately picked it up as "Stereotypical suburban boomer dads really love WWII and Cold War stuff."

I wouldn't peg it as about "elderly" men per se but more specifically Baby Boomer men, basically.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:03 PM on January 13 [26 favorites]


I think the joke references the common understanding is that middle-aged men (i.e. fathers) are often into reading military history. Certainly it was true of my dad, and is true of my oldest brother.
posted by suelac at 12:03 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I assumed they meant books like "A Hunt For Red October" and similar Tom Clancy-ish military/action novels. I know my wife's grandfather has a study full of those and similar types of books.
posted by Captain_Science at 12:04 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


A recent semi-viral tweet plays on essentially the same stereotype: "men will literally learn everything about ancient Rome instead of going to therapy"
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:07 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


I think you're overlooking the obvious here. The commercial series isn't about becoming "parents" in general, it's about becoming "like our parents". And the only person that guy could name who reads books about submarines is his dad. He's engaging in unusual activity only because it mirrors what his dad does - he is becoming his dad.
posted by hanov3r at 12:24 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


I'm just a regular Joe, with a regular job
I'm your average white, suburbanite slob
I like football and porno and books about war
I got an average house with a nice hardwood floor
My wife and my job, my kids and my car,
My feet on my table, and a Cuban cigar
posted by phunniemee at 12:51 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


I recall a line from a John Mulaney stand-up where he said something like "Everyone's dad is studying for a World War II quiz show."
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 12:55 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


"men will literally learn everything about ancient Rome instead of going to therapy"

Don't know about therapy, but I can tell you that books about WW2 and the US Civil War outpace books on ancient Rome by a long shot.
posted by BWA at 12:56 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


The obsession with WWII among American dads in the post-60 age range has been showing up in humor recently, see e.g. Mulaney's SNL monologue.

Yes, my dad would also win WWII trivia. But I (female, still under 40) am the one watching the Smarter Every Day submarine youtubes. So as usual it's an imperfect stereotype.
posted by nat at 12:56 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


After Tom Clancy wrote most of his Jack Ryan series of novels (including the aforementioned Hunt for Red October), he put out a non-fiction on submarines. So there's something a little more concrete.
posted by notsnot at 1:35 PM on January 13


I guess I could be a father to a new adult (I am of the right age) and I do like submarines, and I probably know more about submarines than most people. But then, I've always been weird. :D
posted by kschang at 4:38 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a boomer dad...yeah, I have been known to read a book or two about submarines and WWII (but lots and lots of other things, as well). My dad, however, did not. He lived through it, didn't feel the need I did to read about it.
posted by lhauser at 5:41 PM on January 13


The joke that a relatively young man is acting like a boomer dad by being interested in military history was done best in Peep Show.
posted by caek at 8:28 PM on January 13


What I didn't get in this same commercial was the plumber referring to an adjustable wrench as a "spanner". Maybe they were catering to British Boomers in the viewing audience?
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:51 AM on January 15


What I didn't get in this same commercial was the plumber referring to an adjustable wrench as a "spanner". Maybe they were catering to British Boomers in the viewing audience?

No.

It is also a boomer guy meme to be confidently incorrect about things to professionals. The guy is backseat plumbing, and is also incorrect.
posted by phunniemee at 12:01 PM on January 15


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