Jun 08 2005

Women. Always Making Stuff Complicated.

Unidentified doofus (not pictured: smokin’ hot, wisecracking wife)

You know the Doofus. He’s one of the more repellent recurring characters in our cultural narrative, the balding, pudgy, slightly homely, solidly middle class guy with arrested development, limited mental faculties, and a heart of gold. His foil is the good-looking, intelligent, mildly acerbic wife whose slender purpose to the plot is to patiently mother him through all the hilarious scrapes he gets into as a result of his juvenile worldview and pea-brain.

Since his earliest incarnation as prevaricating moron/wife-beater Ralph Cramden in “The Honeymooners,” the Doofus has been honed to a gleamingly neutered edge in TV sitcoms, but he is also used extensively in commercial marketing. He’s the guy who can’t figure out how to clean the toilet, or microwave dinner for the kids, or adjust the KFC bucket so that the Original Recipe is within his reach, without his wife’s stoic yet smug intervention.

That men complain extensively about this unflattering characterization of their species supports my contention that patriarchy is bad for people of all chromosomal configurations, but I’ll leave it to the Endangered Manhood blogs to dissect the anti-dude issues raised by the Doofus. A lone spinster aunt can only do so much.

The misogyny is what concerns us here, and the Doofus is an exemplary tool in in the patriarchal shed. He can’t exist without the wise mother-figure wife, who demonstrates that domestic drudgery is a skill set completely beyond the scope of the puny male mind. You’ll never see a Doofus paired with a dishy sexbot–she is the exclusive property of handsome, powerful men. Corollary: the intelligent woman is such an aberration that she is lucky to have found herself a retarded tub of lard who will let her wash his socks.

Here is a current example of doofusism: an article at CNN.com — I never watch it on TV because it’s always people yelling at each other — commenting on market research showing that women prefer different cars than men do. The author, Peter Valdes-Dapena, adopts the voice of the Doofus, the better to put a humorous spin on the boys vs. girls theme in an article clearly meant for an unimaginative, Hemi-craving male audience. His homily begins:

“If a typical male mind — take mine, since I’m evidently not doing much with it — were expanded to the size of the United States of America, that portion of the mind dedicated to responding to the word ‘enough’ would be the size of a bumper pool table in a New Jersey bar.”


The predictable gist of the car-and-gender study is that men want fast, expensive sports-cars like the Porsche 911, whereas women want cheap, sensible sedans like the Kia Rio. Valdes-Dapena interprets this intelligence to mean that women are unfathomable.

“When it comes to cars,” he writes, “it’s easy to figure out what men are after. It’s women who are complicated.”

Sure, if by “complicated” he means “unpaid maids and childcare workers who earn 25% less than men.” Perhaps because of his tiny man-brain, he is oblivious to the fact that women, as a class, are fiscally unable to consider anything flashier than a Kia Rio. His rudimentary reasoning skills also prevent him from comprehending that women are the ones driving the kids around, and that they can’t fit 2 car seats into a 911.

What a stupid, bogus argument. There can be little doubt that as soon as women get a handful of cash, they, too, start tooling around in fast cars. My own unscientific study, conducted from my own supposedly macho roadster on the streets of Austin, is that the number of bleached blonde heads poking out from the rollbars of Porsches and Corvettes and Beemers is roughly equivalent to the number of greasy heads with hair plugs.

“Women,” quoth Mr. Valdes-Dapena, pleased with his thesis. “Always making stuff complicated.” I bet Mrs. Valdes-Dapena just shakes her head in happy consternation when old Pete whispers that sweet nothing into her ear.


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  1. Steve Pick

    Of course, I know you read James Wolcott every day, so know you and he (along with the also excellent Tom Watson) are somehow inadvertently arguing about Jackie Gleason this morning. I submit that Ralph Kramden, while indeed a wife beater and a moron, wasn’t quite a doofus. My memory of the Honeymooners is that, while he acknowledged that Alice was, indeed, the greatest, it wasn’t because he thought for too many seconds that he couldn’t really accomplish anything without her guidance. And, besides, “The Honeymooners” is entirely too caught up in class issues to be an example of the doofus paradigm. I don’t think doofusses (I guess that’s how you spell the plural) become so much a part of the culture until later in our evolution towards spiraling consumer debt.

  2. Twisty

    It’s Kramden with a K? Yipes, and me such a stickler.

    Well, I have not read Wolcott in a few days, so I guess there’s just some kind of Gleasonesque component to the intellectual aether this morning.

    I agree with you about Ralph. My argument, apparently not well-worded, is that he is the prototype–in that he is fat and unsuccessful and married to a wisecracking hottie–and that over the years the type has been diluted to produce today’s modern doofus, lost in the desert with his family in the Dodge Durango.

    Are you suggesting that the modern doofus somehow reflects male insecurity re:being a successful provider?

    Perhaps the plural of “doofus” is “doofi”?

  3. Steve Pick

    I’ll go with doofi, considering the obvious Latin root of doofus.

    I wasn’t suggesting anything about male insecurity leading to doofism, but I kind of like the theory. At any rate, in the 50s, we were never shown true doofi in any cultural representation. I vaguely remember it being born in the late 60s or early 70s, when men were incapable of properly brewing instant coffee as well as their beautiful wives could. But much greater research than my spotty memory needs to be conducted.

    Perhaps a Doofus Studies chair could be created at some enterprising university?

  4. yankee transplant

    Great, funny, well-written post! Makes some excellent points!

  5. Twisty

    Thanks, Yankee. We aim to give satisfaction!

  6. a nut

    Okay, I definitely have to disagree with Mr. Doofus who said that women like cheaper, sturdier cars such as the Kia. I can’t wait for my hands to get on large chunks of cash (and for Peanut to get older than 12) so I can buy an Audi TT. That’s not anywhere close to cheap and it’s a tiny 2-seater. Other than that, I’d buy myself a Honda or a Volkswagon….

  7. a nut

    Ohhh, did you know that Volvo has come out with a concept car for women by women? It’s okay; it comes complete with a hole in the headrest for your ponytail, extra storage space for shopping and the hood doesn’t come up but every 30,000 miles and by the Volvo people only. That’s the part that killed me as I like to lift my hood and tinker myself.

  8. Karl Maria von Berensdorff

    The Volvo concept car was made by women for women AND men. In all Volvo released material it says this but it was the media who constantly said “Look! A girly car by girls for girls You can’t even open the hood! omg lolz!!!!!!oneoneone”

    “…Because I’m certain that our male customers will love this concept car” – Hans-Olov Olsson, Volvo CEO at the time

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