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Geico Caveman Commercials Irk Me

I’ve gone back and forth about writing this post several times. There’s one part of me that says, “This is such a minor thing, why even bother?” Another part of me says, “If you don’t get it out of your system you’ll end up stabbing an advertising executive somewhere.” So I shall blog.

Who amongst us hasn’t seen the Geico Caveman commercials? The basic template is:

“Using Geico.com is so easy, a caveman could do it!”
[caveman gets upset]

Here’s a compendium of them on YouTube.

The first time I saw these commercials I didn’t think much of them. I got the joke, found it to be only slightly funny, but it didn’t piss me off so much. It’s a send-up of how easy it is for some commercials to unwittingly offend and also a send-up of folks who get overly offended at small things like stupid and ill-conceived commercials.

I fully realize that by talking about this at all I am taking a first class seat on the irony train.

But I really felt, as the commercials went on and got more elaborate, that they were making light of an actual problem in our society. And, I have to say, I’m really starting to feel like they’re a little bit racist.

In the world of the commercials, the cavemen are mostly well-educated, cosmopolitan people–no, no, Men, because we have yet to see a female cave person–who hold jobs and have plenty of money and seem middle or upper class. When they hear the line about ‘so easy a caveman could do it’ (or see posters about it) they become offended because the commercial insinuates that they are nothing but stupid, bipedal animals only capable of the simplest of tasks. No matter how they try to address this issue – by talking directly to Geico, by appearing on Bill O’Reilly-type cable news channel shows, or even by going to therapy – the message they get from everyone is that the commercials are valid because, well, cavemen are just simple, stupid bipeds barely above animals. There’s even a commercial where one caveman is disappointed in another caveman for ‘selling out’ by getting insurance through Geico.

If this isn’t clear to everyone by now, I think the Cavemen are really thinly veiled pastiches of black people! Their skin is even dark (but not too dark or else someone might get offended). They’re seen as simple, stupid creatures. They have a hard time getting white people to understand their feelings about the issue. In the end, the prevailing opinion is that the slogan is fair because the cavemen really are what others think they are, despite the evidence. And, let’s not forget, that the cavemen are really just being oversensitive to begin with.

If anyone out there doesn’t get how this is exactly the struggle black folks have been having with the white-dominated media since… well, since minstrel shows, let me know. I will school you.

Looking at these commercials and how very (detailed? accurate? historically-minded?) they are, I have to wonder if the advertisers are being racist or if they’re making a point about how far we have and haven’t come in terms of race relations and the media. Are they sending out a veiled message that people should stop being so damn sensitive about racism (or sexism or queerism or whatever) in commercials and making fun of people that are? Are they being subversive? Or are they just a bunch of people who are too stupid to understand the message they’re sending and just think it’s a funny, funny joke?

I honestly can’t tell.

Which is why the commercials irk me. I don’t know whether to be full-out angry or just annoyed or ignore the whole thing. What do you think, faithful readers?

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274 comments to Geico Caveman Commercials Irk Me

  • John B

    Man, that’s just stupid.

  • Former Marine

    Think you might be reading to much into this one. See your points, but I feel you answered your own question, “people should stop being so damn sensitive”.

  • runner

    Why isn’t there a female caveman?… because its “So easy a caveMAN can do it”… not caveperson.

    I’m also writing this comment to let you know I’m actively trying to hold black people black, which is what you probably assume EVERYTHING in this country is doing.

    Stop complaining and prove the racists wrong. George Washington Carver did, but Ludacris set you farther back than you started.

  • ABW: Damn, girl, it’s not even noon yet, and we’ve already got three people who need a lesson on privilege!

    Anyway, from the very first commercial I thought that the caveman could be substituted for a Black man. By the way, have you ever noticed that everyone who tells CM that it’s no big deal is White?

    Even though I like the CM concept better than the cockney gecko, it is getting tiresome because I honestly don’t think that the producers of these commercials realize how true to life these situations really are for people of color. I don’t think that they’re “making a point about how far we have and haven’t come in terms of race relations and the media”, I just think that maybe somebody brought up the issue of being “politically correct” and “too sensitive” and they thought it was a good idea to use in order to make a buck.

    By the way, the ads are created by The Martin Agency.

  • erizzle

    ABW,
    I’ve had the same curiosities/thoughts. Sometimes I’ve tried to think the commercials are subversive, as I see the non-caveman people depicted as deeply insensitive. The news person and the therapist, for example, are asshats. On the other hand, that’s pretty subtle, and the mocking of discrimination and its effects on people couldn’t be more obvious.

  • I suppose I can understand how you arrived at your conclusions, but (because of my background) view the world through a different prism.

    I think your argument would have more merit if the agency hadn’t gone to such great lengths to make the Cavemen mimic the stereotype of a neurotic white yuppie (I mean, come on — the restaurant scene where a caveman orders “roast duck with mango salsa,” or in the airport wearing his sweater over his shoulders, carrying a tennis racket, etc.)

    While I hope I’m not a stereotypical white yuppie, frankly, when I watch these commercials I identify with the caveman.

    To me, the cavemen are portrayed in a sympathetic way — frustrated at being misunderstood and stereotyped, etc., while the “O’Reilly host guy,” the therapist, etc. are portrayed as insensitive, shallow morons.

    So, perhaps the ad is saying that people are oversensitive. But at the same time, they’re poking fun at the ignorant “racists” that hold harmful stereotypes in the first place.

  • Hork,

    I don’t necessarily see the traits you describe as being stereotypical of ‘white’ yuppies only. The restaurant scene in particular I saw as the cavemen proving they were high class by ordering food that marks them as such. Or by showing that they enjoy food that ‘white’ people enjoy as well.

    Same with the airport scene. I’ve seen some buppies (black yuppies) who dress that way.

    What I find very interesting about this is that both of our interpretations are valid. You see a send up of white yuppies and I see a send up of black yuppies. Either way, the majority of the cavemen we see are yuppie types.

  • Ann

    ABW.

    “In the world of the commercials, the cavemen are mostly well-educated, cosmopolitan people–no, no, Men, because we have yet to see a female cave person–who hold jobs and have plenty of money and seem middle or upper class.’

    I too felt the same way in the ads never showing cavewomen.

    I asked myself:

    “Where are all the cavewomen? Do these cavemen spontaneously burst upon the Earth without any help from women birthing them?

    All I could think of was the title of a book on the “invisible” history of black women in America:

    “All the Women are White, All the Blacks ARE MEN, But, Some of Us Are Brave.”

    Just as this commercial has only shown cavemen, so it is the same in the white-run media for years, as if only black men exist and represent the black race, and as if black women are none-existent and do not qualify as human enough to be even black.

    Quick!

    When I say the following words, what image comes to mind?

    Woman.

    Black.

    Yeah, I thought so.

  • Deoridhe

    Personally, I always sympathized with the cavemen and felt their treatment at the hands of the ignorami was unjust, and I thought it was a rather clever play on a problem that all minorities receive from the white minority. The yuppie/lack of females angle is making me rethink that, though… so now I’m not sure.

    I do think the sympathetic characters are the cavemen, though, and I think that’s deliberate. What it indicates beyond that… I’m not sure anymore.

  • I’ve never liked the commercials or found them funny. It felt almost like picking on the mentally retarded or some other traditionally belittled group. I hope they change their ads soon, they really give me a bad taste in my mouth.

  • I felt the same way you did about the commercials. I thought to myself that the way the caveman was being treated seemed like the same way African Americans are treated. We have been and still are belittled in the same way. I don’t see how anyone could not see the similarities. Also, the earlier comments bring to light something that really irks me. You kidnap our people from Africa, commit genocide and enslave them, rape our women, destroy our families, promise reparations after slavery but never deliver, have scientists do fraudulent research to prove their racism is justified, enact government policies for the sole purpose of keeping us down, allow terrorist hate groups to murder us and when we are angry about it we are too sensitive??? You people are ignorant, insensitive, self-absorbed, and are not even worth my time. Do you know how ridiculous you sound.
    Now, when people state they have been a victim of racism or that something is racist it is common for White people to say ‘you are being too sensitive’, you don’t even know what it is like to be the victim or racism or to be devalued in society and you quickly jump to think the person must be wrong. You are disgusting!

  • There’s an excellent article (at the link I’ve provided) that articulates your vague misgivings. The key insight of the article is this: What people are laughing at is the painstaking portrayal of an absurdly inflated sense of entitlement on the part of the cavemen — the suggestion is that it’s funny and strangely fitting that the cavemen are appropriating the language of cultural critics, because our criticism is inherently absurd and overblown in the first place.

    To me, the cavemen are very reminsicent of Frasier Crane — no one ever took his claims of entitlement seriously, and he always got his comic comeuppance at the end. The caveman trope is an attempt to take the audience response to an effete, wealthy, media-empowered Seattle WM, and elicit the same response with respect to every aggrieved group that’s out there. The intent and effect of the Geico campaign is to silence us.

  • tallullah

    I doubt that Geico is being ironic or engaging in some attempt to challenge racist stereotypes.

    However, just as literature is open for interpretation(s) once it’s out of the author’s hands, I think that it is acceptable and sometimes /necessary/ to interpret media in radical and creative ways in order to combat oppression. The intent of the creators matters less than our own critical analysis, perception, and response (s).

  • Looking at these commercials and how very (detailed? accurate? historically-minded?) they are, I have to wonder if the advertisers are being racist or if they’re making a point about how far we have and haven’t come in terms of race relations and the media. Are they sending out a veiled message that people should stop being so damn sensitive about racism (or sexism or queerism or whatever) in commercials and making fun of people that are? Are they being subversive? Or are they just a bunch of people who are too stupid to understand the message they’re sending and just think it’s a funny, funny joke?

    I have the same evaluative problems with that campaign. I laughed at them, but when I thought about it, I found myself laughing because I related to the frustrations of the caveman.

  • I don’t think you’re reading anything into it. I took the darkish skin as a reference to ANY group other than whites, as opposed to specifically blacks.

    But I see it in a positive light because it’s the first thing I’ve ever seen that blatantly makes fun of privilege and how very happily ignorant privileged people can afford to be, and how hopeless it is for him trying to get them to see the proof right in front of their eyes that he’s considerably more than capable of signing up for insurance.

  • Tangela

    Well, I really didn’t get “racism” from the commericals. I actually, thought it was a funny jab at sterotypes, and how we make a fool out of ourselves by assumptions. Perhaps you are reading a bit to much into it. Though this is a rather interesting point of view about how racism is ever so subtlety pushed through our cosumer culture.

  • It’s a shame that white audiences can’t handle hearing about the perspectives of real people who experience racism, so the only way of communicating to them is through this counterfactual scenario.

    I think the commercials have effect of ridiculing complaints about racism as not being based in reality and therefore exaggerated and hypersensitive. Overall, the campaign comes off as an attack on the supposed overreactions of people with PC sensibilities who make it so difficult for well-meaning white men to navigate social discourse in this modern world.

    In addition to “Frasier” (see my comment #12 above), I think “South Park” is an accurate forerunner for the likely approach of the forthcoming “Geico Caveman” sitcom. The town of South Park is nearly all-white by design. In the handful of episodes where the African American character Token (and his family) appears, he is presented as an affluent model minority with right-wing libertarian sensibilities. The character Chef is a male Mammy, a clown who raises no racial issues during his oversexed musical interludes. To the extent racial grievances have ever been raised on the show, they’ve consistently been trivialized and ridiculed, and explained away at the end by one of the principals at the end — usually Stan, the right-wing libertarian voice of reason.

    Click on my name for another good article about this.

  • Sue

    This blogger has a major chip on their shoulder.

  • Sue:

    NO WAI!!

    p.s. Way to be a part of an intelligent discourse there, sunny Jim.

  • It’s always interesting to me how people who stumble upon this blog via reddit or digg or, haha, stumbleupon, choose to enter the discourse. In the case of the first three people, they chose to enter as raging assholes. Ah, white privilege.

    I don’t get if Former marine is saying that *I* said somewhere people should stop being so sensitive. Maybe he misread my ‘oversensitive’ comment an an opinion I have rather than the opinion the commercials seem to have.

    In any case, I would never tell a member of a minority group that they were being ‘too sensitive’ over something that offended them. Why? Because I don’t wallow in my privilege. It’s always been my experience that people with privilege and people with nothing at stake in a particular issue are always the ones who demand that others stop being ‘so sensitive’. So my answer to that is: No, I’m not being too sensitive about this, you’re being INsensitive, and that makes you a jerk.

    Runner’s comments managed to mix in sexism and racism.

    Why isn’t there a female caveman?… because its “So easy a caveMAN can do it”… not caveperson.

    *sigh* First, I never asked why there wasn’t a female caveperson shown, all I said was ‘we’ve yet to see one’. I wouldn’t even bother asking that question because I already know why there aren’t any – and it’s not the stupid-ass reason you mention.

    First, in our culture, MAN is seen as the default. So we have that going on. And many times when people engage in general racial stereotyping, the image they have in their head is of the male. Who are white folks really afraid of? The Black Male – he’s dangerous, yanno. There are a bunch of him in jail and a bunch more of him committing crime and he’s always out to get in the panties of white women. Whenever immigration issues come up, who white folks think of? The Latino Male. He’s crossing our borders and working in the orange groves and taking our jobs!

    Any time there is general stereotyping going on (as opposed to specific stereotyping that involves popping out ‘too many’ babies or walking around dressed in a slutty way enticing good clean white men to sexual deviance) it’s usually represented by the male.

    Even if the first word that rolls off the tongue was ‘caveperson’, we still wouldn’t see any cavewomen.

    I’m also writing this comment to let you know I’m actively trying to hold black people black, which is what you probably assume EVERYTHING in this country is doing.

    Ah, the first blush of white reactionary silliness. Because, yes, any time a black person discusses racism at all it totally means they are completely overboard and thinking that every white person is ‘keeping me down’.

    Why to be a credit to your race there, hon.

    Stop complaining and prove the racists wrong. George Washington Carver did, but Ludacris set you farther back than you started.

    Now this part of the comment is actually interesting and worthy of some deep attention.

    “Stop complaining and prove the racists wrong.”

    The implications of this statement are rampant! It implies that complaining never did anyone any good. Why, we achieved civil rights for black people by sitting at home and waiting for white people to wake up and realize that Jim Crow was kind of wrong.

    I’m called upon to prove the racists wrong. How, exactly? What is it about this post or this site that doesn’t prove racists wrong? Also, what are we proving them wrong about, exactly? There are so many beliefs people hold, how to pick just one? Maybe the racists think that black people complain too much. So by not complaining, I prove to racists that black people don’t complain and therefore we are okay. Is that it?

    Maybe the clue is in the next sentence: “George Washington Carver did” GWC proved racists wrong by finding 12,000 new uses for the sweet potato. So what this commenter is implying I do is go out and find new uses for the white potato? Or maybe what he’s saying is that GWC was really smart and articulate. But he didn’t do much in the way of directly challenging white people, he just did what he did and was good at it. Maybe I’m supposed to stop challenging white people and just go be smart in a corner somewhere.

    “but Ludacris set you farther back than you started.”

    I’m not aware of there being two separate bathrooms or water fountains anywhere in this country. I’m not aware of any rule that says I have to sit in the back of the bus, or ride in a special colored only car in a train. I’m not aware of any law that says I cannot vote because I have one drop of black blood in me. So please explain to me where exactly Ludacris set *me* back to.

    From my point of view, the only thing setting or holding me or any black person back from anything is ignorant people with small minds.

    p.s. hey Andrew, thanks for the links!

  • A.D.

    When I first saw these commercials, I could see they were making fun of PC-types who “complain” at everything.

    They seemed to say that people didn’t have the right to expect the media or anyone else to listen to their complaints or take them seriously.

    It pissed me off, because the media is an unabashed display of stereotypes, and prejudices. Everyone should always have the right to complain about them.

    I definitely see these commericals taking away the voice of the “caveman”– he is constantly being put down, belittled, ignored.

    So what does this say about the possibility of social change? It doesn’t exist in the Geico world.

    But now that the commercials are more popular, (and turning into a TV show), it’s a bit more insidious. And what’s worse– they lure with a levity, humor and charm. I have to admit, I laugh at the caveman party where one guy is so excited about getting back with his (unseen! as others have noted) girlfriend.

    That’s how they get you– with an easy laugh.

    I would say that the commercials are not only racist against black people– but that the caveman is a stand-in for all disenfranchised/ disempowered groups– people of color, gays, women.

    And I don’t buy the argument that people can “sympathize” with the caveman. Sympathy just isn’t good enough.

  • per the ludicrous Ludacris business: sounds like someone’s a fan of Bill O’Rly? i guess someone had to be…

    yeah, i dunno. being without cable, i’ve only caught one or two of these here and there. it’d be interesting to find out whose brainchild these were and what else they have on their resume, maybe?

  • KMD

    Whose has GEICO as their auto insurer? That’s the real point of the commercials: to get the public’s attention… the commercials are supposed to be funny, catch your attention and make you realize that its simple to just make a phone call or go on the internet and get a quote. They may not be funny to everyone, but they certainly grabbed your attention. Does it really matter what sex or what color a caveman is? If they have the cheapest quote and its simple to switch insurance, they will be the carrier of choice.

  • KMD – so what? It doesn’t matter if the commercial’s main intent is to sell anything. That in no way invalidates this discussion (to which you’ve added nothing substantive. Go you!)

  • shante

    Although I like you because you make some very valid points about racism, however on this one, you lost me. They’re being funny!!!!!! Caveman making fun of mainstreem society. Laugh girl! You need that break from all the true racist things that happens in our society that make you want to holler.

    peace!

  • I have become very upset with these Geico commercials. They actually have found a way to BE racist without aiming their bigotry at anyone who is alive! Still, racism is racism. It’s like they wish they could have said: even a Jew, or even a Black, or even a Korean could do it—-but of course, that would be blatant. So, they were able to use the same approach, but more insidiously.

    I find these commercials UTTERLY racist, and the more I see them, and the more high-toned they become, the more angry I get.

  • Gene

    You are absolutely right.

    I just googled “geico caveman politically correct” to see if I could find anyone else who thought so, and that’s how I found you.

  • Gene

    Apparently they’re getting their own sitcom:

    http://www.esquire.com/the-side/geico032007

  • ten

    cavemen are black people? your the one, and only one who made that connection.

    if commercials about cavemen being offended by commercials of stupid cavemen offends you then the shoe must fit. so wear it. which you have done very well.

  • umm…”ten” that comment peeved me in so many ways…you seem very ignorant

    i did find a little humor in the commercials though but that is only because most jokes are hardly PC…(although at one point i did find myself wondering whether i should be offended or not; especially after watching the “interview” and the “counseling/shrink” ones)

    sometimes youve just got to laugh at yourself…comedians get most of their material from personal experiences and true life in general and for some odd reason we still find them funny

  • Kenny

    Truly amazing that you can see ANYTHING beyond the sheer stupidity of these dumb F’ing commercials.

    In a hypothetical world where Cavemen live among us and hold jobs and speak English, WHY would they use the byline “So Easy A Caveman Can Do It”???

    It makes NO SENSE!

    Racist??? No.
    Mentally Retarded??? YES!!

  • moon

    ok the first one was funny.but more than anything else they’ve just beat the whole concept into the ground.maybe if Geico wouldve just left it at one or two it wouldnt seem like such a big deal.Every week it seems there is a new one,but i doubt it is really meant to make us think,its only meant to get us to purchase car insurance,also has anyone else heard the rumor that there is to be a TV show made out of this ca ca!

  • wow, Kenny. You are not in any way a science fiction fan, are you?

    Let me ask you something – in a world where black people live among us and speak English, why would a furniture company label their products as being “Nigger-brown” in color?

    In a world where black people live among us and speak English, why would a toy company make a device called the “Jolly Nigger Bank” ?

    You act as if the caveman situation doesn’t have real-world parallels. And yet, you are wrong.

  • Kenny

    I’m not familiar with “nigger-brown” furniture. I’m also not familiar with the “Jolly Nigger Bank”. I’d find it extremely difficult to believe that either of these products is sold in the ultra-litigious and racially-sensitive USA…unless, of course, they were some sort of hip-hop paraphernalia.

    Let me ask you something, in a world where the word “nigger” is considered vile, and where black people live among us and speak English, why do they refer to each other as “niggers”?

    The silly Geico commercial does not have real-world parallels, except for those you have imagined. And if you see the Caveman as being a parallel to black people, then perhaps you should hold black people in higher regard.

    BTW, have you seen the commercial for Nair?? I’m quite certain you noticed that the word “Nair” starts with an N and ends with an R, just like the word “nigger”.
    Coincidence?????
    I THINK NOT!

  • Kenny, you are now “On Notice”. That means I’m moderating your stupid ass until you stop being a reactionary wanker all over my blog and Read With Comprehension and Intelligence.

    On nigger-brown furniture, click here.

    For the Jolly Nigger Bank, use your Google-fu.

    Neither have anything to do with Hip-Hop.

    In answer to the question in your second paragraph, read the book I talk about in today’s top post. The answer is there.

    As far as the geico commercial not having real-world parallels, you’re just wrong. that’s the bottom line. Since you’re wallowing in your white male privilege, I’m sure it’s hard to see that. But I don’t really care if you do. If you cannot provide intelligent discourse, I’m not going to engage in adult conversation with you.

    The next post I see from you will be devoweled if you continue in this vien.

  • Kenny

    And neither are sold OR LABELED in the USA, which was MY POINT that you somehow missed.

    Apparently, the Chinese are not familiar with racial protocol. But congratulations on exposing those darn Chinese racists for what they are.

    And for now on, whenever you give in to your obsession-compulsion to talk about my “white male privilege”, please start your post with “once upon a time”.
    Thank you.

    BTW, if you’re idea of intelligent discourse is “you’re just wrong”, then go ahead and delete my posts. That’s certainly a neat way to deal with dissenting opinions. :o)

  • Actually, the Jolly Nigger Bank was and is sold and labeled as such in the USA. It was patented in the USA and designed by an American company.

    As to the nigger-brown couch, we do not actually know if any of them were or are sold here in America. They aren’t some kind of brand new product in Canada, so how many people just trashed the label without even noticing what was written on it? If they were sold in America is could be that no one has noticed yet. Therefore your argument falls flat.

    Also, you may have just been speaking of America (and you didn’t make it clear whether you meant America the continent or the USA – gotta be careful with those words) I was speaking of the world. Thus my use of the phrase ‘in a world’.

    If you do not believe you have white male privilege, then you are also wrong. It’s perfectly acceptable for me to say to you “You’re wrong” when you are wrong. I don’t dance around stuff here, as you may have noticed. I do not feel the need to couch your ignorance in pretty words. You’re wrong, ntohing you’ve said has convinced me that your opinion is based on anything but ignorance, and therefore I have no need to engage in a meaningful dialogue with you.

    Also, I don’t censor dissenting opinions as this page as every other post and comment page on this site shows. However, I will not allow you to rampage through my virtual house breaking lamps, peeing on my expensive carpets, and generally making a nuissance of yourself just because you feel you have a right to. I’m sorry, privilege boy, but no.

    Now, if you want to change your tone or attitude, I’d be pleased to debate with you. but so far most of your comments boil down to: OMG you are teh st00pid for thinking things I disagree with!!11!!eleventy!

  • abw

    I am an African American female and to be the devil’s advocate, I did not get the same vibes you got-at least with the same emphasis. But I see where you are coming from. Still it is so much offensive stuff on T.V. nowadays so keep being “sensitive” and “PC”. White people are notorious for stereotypical drivel out there, but minorities also contribute their fair share. This does not get white folks off the hook or justify their sense of self-righteous entitlement to try to purposely say offensive things in the guise of free speech. It is just the facts. Anyway, I laughed at the commercials because they do mock people with power,money,etc. But now that I hear your side of the argument, the commercials seem a little patronizing because even though it shows the folly of stereotypes, very little will be done to get rid of them-more from the standpoint of guilt and temporary compassion.Lastly, like other posters, I saw the caveman as a stand in for all minorities, but the main target was blacks.

  • curiousgyrl

    I have long thought this about the caveman commercials. And while the caveman/buppie character is the hero, the gimic makes racist society into something cute.

    ten: nope! several people posting before you made the connection, so your statement is counterfactual

    kenny:once upon a time, there was a little boy. and his mom or dad or minister or teacher or maybe all of the above told him he was very very special and smart. When he hit the real world he became very angry and abusive. The end.

  • Here by way of a comment you psoted on Making Light.
    Interesting observation on the Geico caveman commercials. Whenever I see them on tv, I am bothered also — I feel sympathy for the caveman. I think I will vote for “subversive”. I don’t find the ads very funny, but they are memorable.
    You make a good case for the caveman being a stand in for a black man and I do not think you are being too sensitive.
    (PS I’m not black but I’m not white either.)

  • Will

    Are you kidding me?
    I cannot believe the childish sensitivity on display here. Geico went with an ad campaign which they thought would be funny. It is. If you have to be an ass and dissect it to it’s minutest details – you should only find that if it casts anybody in a poor light it’s the people who stereotype the cavemen, so why bother with all the fuss? Geico isn’t trying to make a statement, they’re trying to be funny and get people to buy their car insurance with a memorable commercial. Give me a break…..

  • Decadent

    ABW: I have to google to find your post. I can’t believe so few people were irked by this. No matter which group of people the cavemen stand for, the whole funny business of these commercials are based on racial discrimination. Geico can argue that’s a fictional race, but it’s still racism. Their basic idea to make this look like funny is making it racial.

  • Will

    Decadent, the reason so few people are irked by this is because you have to be a ridiculously sensitive, confrontational, childish crybaby who spends more energy looking for things to be mad about instead of just going on with life.
    I’m glad I’m in the other camp.

  • Arrow

    ABW, it seems to me that you place yourself on the oposite side of the fence from white folks. Where does a native americans fit into all of this?

  • Ms. Mathis

    I am probably the MOST hypersenisitive African-American woman on earth, and even I was not offended by this. I was offended, however, by the M&M’s (or some candy) commercial from the 90′s that sent elephants charging through a concession stand to steal peanuts (while African drums beat in the background). The voiceover said, “Hey, he didn’t pay for those.” The responding voiceover said, “They never do.”
    I am saying all this to say I honestly don’t think Geico meant what you believe they meant. Too many of their target market customers are African-American and their market researchers fully understand the power of the “Black” consumer and what losing that segment would mean.
    DISCLAIMER: I believe it was M&M.

  • Naina

    You’re right on.

    No black person or person who has felt the pain of discrimination in the USA would write such a commercial.

    Would a raped woman make a comedy about rape? It’s an extreme parallel, but there is a parallel.

    This commerical series has to have been made by a non-minority (white person).

    It may be making light of either the majority or the minority; it doesn’t matter. At the end of it all, it’s making light of a serious problem that’s not funny to someone whos been discriminated against.

  • elizabeth

    I completely agree! I was just googling to see if someone had written about it before. These ads are totally racist, they completely mirror the way white society has treated black people.

  • DR

    You’re not imagining it; it is definitely a jab at minorities. I’m white, and even I could see that. It seems the white bois are mad because people of color/women wont let them openly spread hatred. Their assertion is that racist/sexist rhetoric qualifies as freedom of speech, and that they are somehow being deprived when they cannot spread hate.

    Aint it funny how so few use free speech for the good of society? They only care about “freedom” when it entails bringing someone else down. What a wonderful world, eh?

  • Will – thanks for adding thoughtful and insightful commentary to this post! /sarcasm off

    Seriously, hon, if you disagree, disagree with grace and intelligence. (I don’t know why I bother asking this of wankers such as yourself, but I’m attempting to be zen, so…)

    Arrow – I’m in the process of working up a post that kind of addresses this, but I’ll give you a short answer now: Since I identify and experience life as a black woman, I often have blinders on when it comes to people of color who are not black. I am guilty of seeing the world in black/white terms though intellectually I know that this is not the case. Also, being that I am not Native American (though I am of Native descent), I really don’t know hwere NAs fit into all of this, myself. I have to rely on friends and aquaintences who are of color, but not black, to help me understand just where they respectively fit in.

    After writing this post, I realized that the Geico Cavemen could represent most minority experiences, not just black people’s. But, as I said, I was only thinking Black because I am Black :)

  • Erik B.

    Of course she’s right. Miss, I’d apologize to you for the conduct of your readers, but I’m sure that you’re aware that it makes the mass of people very uncomfortable to recognize tht they should be thinking more deeply about their media. So they’re acting out.

    What the rest of you don’t seem to get is that the point isn’t whether or not she’s overreacting, but that this MASSIVE media campaign is actually making the statement that “we” are overreacting. It’s making the statement that we all need to be less conscious of our marginalizing impulses, be less politically correct, and that either minorities are not routinely and daily marginalized in our society (which they are, and I don’t hear too many people claiming they’re not frankly), or they are and it’s FUNNY. Racism is funny? Do you agree with that? It is not possible to overreact to something like this unless you feel that we do not have a problem with racism in this country, that the wealth of this country isn’t overwhelmingly in the hands one specific ethnic group and the expense of a multitude of others. What you all seem to really be reacting to is your own desire for this situation to be true, so you can continue to enjoy your class privaledges and continue to feel as though you’ve come by them rightly. You watch the commercials and you think to yourselves, “Yes! Finally somebody sees it,” and you’re the target audience thinking exactly what the target audience is supposed to think. What you don’t understand is that the fact that your feeling this way prior to the commercial is itself a tacit agreement that this is a problem.

    In this way, how can we understand this campaign as anything other than a pretty dangerous step backwards, although certainly not the first of its kind. These commercials are certainly very cleverly composed, but I do think that the message is essentially a socially regressive one.

    Thank YOU for pointing this out. I too googled Political Correctness and the Geico Cavemen just to see how many other people felt as I do about this, hoping that there was some buzz of public outcry, and I must say I’m very proud to see that their is. Dissention is so very important in this case, because the subtext of this campaign is to tell us that we’re talking too much, and it is obviously working on A LOT OF PEOPLE. Please keep it up. Thanks.

    ~Erik

  • Stephen

    You know what irks me? Black people playing the race card every chance they get and trying to find something racist in everything. I think this mindset is by far the largest contributer to racism in this country. Let it go.

  • Well, I think a lot about words – and I am always writing and lecturing (I study languages for a living, teach, and practice law, too). When I first saw the commercial, I said to myself, “Wow, this is going to make some people very angry, and rightly so.” I thought that Geico was clearly mocking an imaginary group of people, and sending the message that if this group of people were real, it would be okay to mock them, just because of the way they look (and haven’t we been down that Ugly Road before? And how much Pain did it cause us all?). Because this imaginary group of people apparently has no political power – and that is the ONLY thing that stops a bigot – they are fair game for derision. People who write these ads get paid a lot of money, and anybody who writes for a living KNOWS exactly how things can be taken, and they certainly know they are poking at a very HUGE open American wound. To ignore the screaming subtleties or “era-ism” or “epoch-ism” or whatever we want to call it is naive. There is simply no way that a thoughtful writer could not know exactly what s/he was saying between the lines. The bottom line is this: the commercial mocks the idea that these “cavemen” should feel like they should be treated with the same respect as others who surround them, and even some of his friends have realized that resistance to this “ism” is futile, so they even buy Geico insurance. The caveman represents ALL of us who feel we are not getting the legitimate respect we deserve, just because of some irrelevant physical, social, religious, or national aspect that makes us different. I have seen many classes of people face the brunt of discrimination as a defense lawyer. Our Primary Goal should always be that Justice abound, and that everybody is respected, and the Geico commercials fly in the face of this. If messages matter, then the Geico message should hurt you. If it’s all about humor – and damned by the message – then the commercials are just fine. I know they are “just commercials”, but they are very POWERFUL commercials with BILLIONS of dollars behind them that are teaching millions and millions of people that mocking others – even if make-believe – is okay, just for the mere sake of mocking them, or making a buck off it. It is pitting tribe against imaginary tribe. If I ran Geico, I never would have approved the campaign because of the message it sends, and I predict that ads will ultimately get pulled because of public pressue – after all, those who love Justice find themselves cheering for the Cavepeople. The only way out is for Geico is company suicide: have the cavemen fight for Equal Rights. If they do this, they are conceding the the cavemen are tantamount to the African-Americans, and Geico will not go down that road – even though they have already parked their company at its adjoining intersection. Many of us feel that “smart people” write in code. This has been done throughout the ages. John Lennon talked about achieving one’s intended results by doing this. The problem is that these CavePeople are a distinct race of imaginary people. Geico is not poking fun of everybody who wears green, or everybody who likes pizza, etc. Those things cross racial lines. When you attack habits that we ALL share, we can laugh. When you attack one physically different group, you are going into a very hurtful area, even you are attacking a “cave man”.

  • P.S. I am White. :-)

  • That’s right, Stephen. It’s all black people’s fault. It’s always just the black people who perpetrate racism.

    Sometimes I wonder if these mentally challenged people even understand the words that they type? Really, truly understand. It’s attitudes liek this that make racism possible. I weep for the future of the human race.

  • Carlos

    I majored in Communication and work in advertising so I never passively watch TV, especially commercials. I always look at what messages are being sent and the manner in which they are being sent. I am not one to overreact about imaginary slights but I’ve been bothered by these commercials for some time now. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    Greg is right. There is a lot of time spent brainstorming the concepts, developing the creative campaign, and going through rounds of approvals between the ad agency and client to have the correlations be a complete accident. I assume the ads are probably doing well for some reason (I don’t think they’re all that great) and that’s the reason they are continuing down this path. I guess on a certain level it’s working right now since we’re all discussing Geico – even if half of the people posting will probably actively avoid contributing business to them. But in the end I doubt Geico or it’s agency are racist, even if the messages they are sending have an underlining of racism. I do, however, think they are acting irresponsibly because there is no one that can (or cares to) hold them accountable for what they are really saying. Besides, when the dialogue begins with them making fun of those who complain of insensitive ads, how can any minority come out and complain about the Geico ad being insensitive without effectively becoming the caveman that Geico has already given permission to openly mock? It’s a nice position for Geico to be in.

  • my view comes from media, from being trained and working in film/TV. and i think greg nails it very well a few comments above, regarding why these spots are wrong in general. the more of these you watch tho, i think the clearer it is that black folk are referenced. i’ve even seen one about how the “caveman” is reminding a pundit how the “cavepeople’s” struggle in the past years has made it possible for everyone to prosper or “walk upright” nowadays. and like greg said, writers who get paid this kind of money do NOT just “accidentally” write things or do so unaware of the image pool and collective history they reference.

    on another tip, i’m amazed by both how many people feel fit to come in here and castigate you, as well as that you give them room to talk. wow. even as confrontational i am, writing as “The Unapologetic Mexican,” while i get hate on the regular, people are very bold with you. they are a bit more hesitant with me. i’m guessing it has something to do with (not only the “black” thing because there are plenty of people nowadays who hate mexicans, believe that, but) the “woman” in your title. amazing. the rudeness and presumptuousness of people is f**king amazing. sometimes i leave haters’ comments up to show others what i get. but usually i don’t like them littering the discourse. and i just get too mad to see them over and over.

    i saw this before, but i came back because i’m posting about george lopez’s show getting cancelled and replaced with a pilot about….waIt…..here it comes….THE GEICO CAVEMEN! i wanted to link here.

  • Tom

    I’m as white as they come. And I think the caveman commercials have an obvious racial content.

  • Tom

    I agree with Hork, though, that I identify with the cavemen and the non-cavemen are portrayed as two-dimensional asshats. I’m a yuppy myself.

  • Tom

    Folks who have deployed the ‘too sensitive’ line here. Let’s back up and leave racism aside for a moment.

    I have a different question for you, not about racism but just about the history of entertainment. Would you argue the single point that Angry is wrong to call those mercials a bit of an updated, science-fiction, 21st century, minstrel show? Would that label be completely inaccurate? Simply from the history-of-entertainment perspective, not getting into racism.

    Or is there some truth in it?

  • Ann

    I’m a white girl who just stumbled upon your blog because I saw they are making a TV show of those Geico commercials and I have always thought they are racist…and stupid. I think they try to make light of racism send a subversive message that black people take racism too seriously. I hate these commercials.

    I also think that a lot of kid’s movies are racist too, such as Shark Tales and Happy Feet. It might sound crazy, but if you watch these movies with a careful eye, you’ll see that they really perpetuate stereotypes about races.

    People that don’t see this stuff just aren’t attuned to it.

  • Willow

    I was looking for a post I did on my journal about this, and can’t find it. Ahh, if only I remembered to tag more often.

    The first ad I saw – the airport one – I liked. Because it seemed like such a simple and elegant statement about privilege while also selling something. I thought to myself ‘Huh – Geico’.

    Then came the restaurant version and my hackles got raised for the first time. In all honesty at that point I read the cavemen as gay.

    Then the commercial that really hit me on the nose was the talking points version.

    “Looks like someone woke up on the wrong side of the rock this morning.”

    Smack – In my face. Because I could easily see it as:

    Looks like someone got up on the wrong side of the watermelon…

    Looks like someone got up on the wrong side of the sombrero….

    Looks like someone got up on the wrong side of the bowl of rice…

    The casual dismissal and play for laughs made me furious. It was so true to life in the way that people’s concerns are just _ignored_.

    In fact I can read some of the comments here that dismiss your concerns _as_ “ABW got up on the wrong side of the rock this morning”

    They’re doing the very thing they claim isn’t happening in the commercials. They _are_ those offensive idiots in the commercials who don’t want to see the point.

    The thing that makes me flip the channel whenever I see the ads now are the therapist version and the sell out version.

    The therapist version could easily have him mouthing back ‘What if they said it was so easy a woman could do it’ instead of ‘Therapist’. It seemed to be that he’s made to say ‘therapist’ because if he said woman, then logically he’d have made an ally against the company. And the whole point is to keep them disenfranchised.

    And in the sell-out version, there’s this underlying sense of ‘I’m tired of -fighting- they don’t *mean* to be offensive / they aren’t beating us with hoses, get off my back.’ Maybe you have to be part of something and watch others give in because fighting is exhausting to be offended. So that’s why I was.

    I used to feel silly for being upset by them – though that didn’t stop me from talking about it and pointing it out.

    It’s good to know that I’m not the only one going ‘WTF Gieco’ off a straight reading.

  • J

    They bother me as well, and that’s new for me.

    I’ve pretty much ignored the ads and wondered why they stretched the joke so long.

    With people fighting for their right to offend(so sad), it’s now clear why these commercials are so popular and why there will be a sitcom.

    Public and ad dollar response has been swift and extreme lately so the klansmen are finding alternative ways of getting their “jokes” to their brothers and sisters.

    No, you’re not crazy or sensitive if you don’t like being dehumanized or regarded as lesser than other people.

    I’d really appreciate it if these talentless morons would just come out of the closet and stop trying to hide behind freedom of speech or calling their garbage satire. Just admit you’re a neo-nazi or that you’re pandering to them because that’s the only way you can make money or make something of yourself.

  • Sean Novak

    I don’t think that you are over reacting. I thought the same thing. I ran the idea past quite a few people and very few people see the correlation which confuses me because it is obvious. Especially since GEICO has been accused on a large scale to racially disciminate. Many have filed lawsuits even.

    http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/case/geico_race_classaction.html

  • :o

    Whoa.

    Thanks for posting that link, Sean.

  • Isaac

    I don’t think these commercials are racist, I think they are just casting a common, usually unfunny occurence in a humorous light.

    After all, the Cavemen ARE being unfairly and falsely portrayed, so their complaints are legitimate.

    I think the commercials are popular because most people can relate to some aspect of the situation.

    Just about everybody in America is a member of at least one group that sees themselves as receiving inaccurate and demeaning portrayal in the media. We are all familiar with racial stereotypes, but movies and television also engage in negative stereotypes in their portrayals of people based on: gender, sexual preference, socioeconomic group, religion, age, etc.

    These negative portrayals enable the potential customer to sympathize with the plight of the maligned caveman.

    So nearly everyone can relate to the caveman, but they can also identify with the ad exec as well.

    Very few people think of themselves as being racist or discriminatory, but we are all capable of being insensitive to some degree, often unintentionally. The ad exec thought he had a good ad, then was suprised that he had offended somebody.

    I think ABW and others are right to see the caveman as being representative of minorities; I just doubt that a company would insult potential customers with the malice that ABW infers.

  • John Dennis

    Im am a young black man(age 16) and I always seen these Geico as a way for the media to symbolize how black people are “to sensitive.” I havent said anyting about this observation to anyone because I didnt want to hear some crap like: “get over it,” “your taking it to far,” or the common “here we go again.”

    I am glad someone is discuusing this because it doesn’t make me feel alone. I wish that more black people (esp. youth) will discuss these problems and open their eyes to see what is happening in this society.

  • steve

    Insensitivity is only insensitive if it offends black people or women. What bothers me more about t.v. commecials is that in the vast majority of them, men are portrayed as buffoons that need to be rescued by women. They have been feminized and reduced to objects of loathing that need all powereful, all wise women to save their ignorant selves from catastrophe. I still like to watch well produced commercials. A very rare few have anything but marketing to offer the viewer, (e.g. the pepsi spot of the dad being made up by his daughter) but a cleverly written funny commercial is much better to watch than a breaking news story of some iconic hollywood god trashing our nation, or adopting a baby for publicity , or another L.A. freeway chase.
    “So easy a caveman can do it” is funny because the ad people didn’t realise they had another sensitive minority to dance around with. I have a half-black 20 year old stepson who withdraws into the oppresed blak man mode to excuse his shortcommings and failure all the time. He speaks with a mouth full of filth to his peers, calls his contemporaries “nigga” and refers to all women as bitch and ho. He disowns his white side because he can’t use it as an excuse. He despises women just like his rap gods tell him to.”I ain’t ‘gonna be weak under no woman”.
    I don’t think picking stereotypes out of every little thing is going to make this a better world where all people live together in real love. I have tried to lead this young man into relationship with a several black men with integrity,family values, and devotion to God and community. He don’t want no part of it cause they aint no riches and bitches in it.
    The reality of stereotypes is that if we take an honest look at what makes a sterotype happen is what sosciety sees happening around them. It’s what different races,social classes and types of people exhibit to the rest of the world. “You just might be a redneck” wouldn’t have been successful if it were’nt backed by reality. It’s still funny,not to my wife who thinks being a redneck instantly means being a racist, (I know that’s not true, I have many redneck friends who are not) but I sure can laugh at my human frailty by not getting my nose out of joint over trivial matters that I would have to look for under a microscope of self worth. I’m human,very human, and in spite of that, I’m loveing life just as it comes.

  • Yvonne in Denver

    I have a problem with these commercials. Last night I seen a new one…the evolution will not be televised. Obviously, this is a take on Gil Scott Herons, “the Revolution Will Not be Televised.” I don’t know what Geico is trying to imply but i don’t think it is funny.

  • Tom

    The scary thing is that are probably just twiddling the knobs, watching the meter, trying to get it to attract as much attention as possible.

    The corporate world maybe makes way too much of whatever slight difference there is between amoral and immoral.

  • Steve: So much idiocy…so little time. (I mean, literally. I’ve got to be out of here in 15 minutes!)

    Insensitivity is only insensitive if it offends black people or women. What bothers me more about t.v. commecials is that in the vast majority of them, men are portrayed as buffoons that need to be rescued by women. They have been feminized and reduced to objects of loathing that need all powereful….blah, blah, blah, fart…

    If it won’t burn too many braincells, Mr. MRA, I highly suggest reading ABW’s Required Reading, if not for yourself, then for the sake of your wife and your stepson.

    The reality of stereotypes is that if we take an honest look at what makes a sterotype happen is what sosciety sees happening around them. It’s what different races,social classes and types of people exhibit to the rest of the world.

    No, stereotypes exist because people are too ignorant or too damn lazy to get to get to know a person as a person. So, they create assumptions, which create stereotypes, which create prejudices, bigotry, and angry black women like myself and the blog author who are freakin’ sick of it all.

    Times up! Gotta blast!

  • JW

    You have completely missed the point of these commercials.

    First of all, you completely contradict yourself, by admitting that the cavemen are “well-educated, cosmopolitan” men. Then you proceed to say that the “commercial insinuates that they are nothing but stupid, bipedal animals only capable of the simplest of tasks”. The commercial does nothing of the kind. The people in the commercial (who aren’t caveman) make these suggestions.

    There is an important difference here. If the commercial itself was suggesting that cavemen are indeed stupid and over-sensitive about their stupidity, your ideas would be valid, but in reality it is the people in the commercial who are making the suggestions. The result of the commercials (especially where they have headed recently) is that the caveman are the only intelligent ones around, always attempting to handle themselves with dignity and respect, while others attack them with stereotypes that are clearly untrue. (I could go into depth about this by breaking down the commercials, but I won’t for the sake of brevity. You may email me if you want to hear such a break down).

    What results is an attack on stereotypes in general and a mockery of anyone who is racist. Remember the cavemen are the protagonists of these commercials. We are meant to like them. They are intelligent, where the stereotype suggests they are dumb. The viewer is not meant to think they are being over-sensitive, they are very clearly supposed to see the humans in the commercial as the ones being stereotyping, blind morons.

  • Dear JW,

    Critical reading skills are important. You obviously lack them. Please brush up before looking more foolish than you already do.

    (No) Love,
    ABW

    Dear anyone else coming to comment on this thread,

    Before doing so, read the other comments first. With 71 of them, any thought you might have on the subject has probably already been voiced. If you’ve come to argue against me, be sure you don’t just reiterate the same old tired arguments that have already been addressed. If you agree with me, engage with some of the other comments as well as the post. (I particularly appreciate constructive analysis of how the commercials make you feel.)

    Love,
    ABW

  • JW

    Wow… That was all kinds of insulting. Actually, I realized that immediately after I posted and had no way to edit.

    Your response, however, does not make my point any less valid, nor do I believe anyone has articulated what I said in the same manner, and those who have made similar statements were not responded to by you. So maybe I should just re-post the last paragraph of my original post, and you can respond to it constructively. Here it is.

    “What results is an attack on stereotypes in general and a mockery of anyone who is racist. Remember the cavemen are the protagonists of these commercials. We are meant to like them. They are intelligent, where the stereotype suggests they are dumb. The viewer is not meant to think they are being over-sensitive, they are very clearly supposed to see the humans in the commercial as the ones being stereotyping, blind morons.”

  • JW

    One more thought. It is easy to respond to the fools on this thread such as Kenny, Will, former marine, and myself (first post), but I have yet to see you really respond to someone who appears to have a legitimate dissenting opinion (besides Hork and even he mostly agreed with what you were saying).
    Then again, I do respect that you leave all posts up, despite what their views may be.

  • JW,

    The viewer is also supposed to find the whole episode (whichever commercial it is) humorous. The reactions of the cavemen are played for laughs; their very real sorrow and hurt and anger is treated as cute. The one that sticks out most clearly in my mind is the one with the airport conveyor belt. At the end of the commercial the camera focuses on the face of the caveman, as he looks (overacting badly, though that’s possibly because of the makeup) shocked, then angry, then miserable. The commercial ends there. There’s no one else in the commercial, no one but the audience to engage with the character. And what is that audience supposed to feel? I get the impression most viewers would laugh at the caveman’s dismay. I don’t, because I know how it feels to see something stereotypical or offensive, and there’s nothing funny about that feeling. Though someone else viewing this — someone who considered the reaction to be a sign of oversensitivity — might think it was hilarious. Ha ha, isn’t it easy to rattle these supposedly intelligent, erudite, wordly characters? Isn’t it cute to see them humbled again and again? Aww, look, he’s about to cry. Funny, funny pain.

  • B. Edmondson

    The caveman commercials are to me personally repulsive. I have never liked them, so I merely change the channel when they come on. Because I do not like them, I would never buy Geico Ins.

  • JW

    In the commercials, the caveman are portrayed as a minority so small that (“We had no idea you guys were still around”) they are hardly known to exist at all. The reason I believe the commercial is funny, is because it is so specific. To explain, it would be like if I walked through the airport and turned and saw an ad that say “So easy JW (insert real name) could do it.” Can you imagine anyone’s response? I sort of chuckle at how taken aback I would be at the prospect, but there is no way anyone could say I was being oversensitive about the issue. I laugh because the situation itself is so preposterous, not because the caveman is upset about something he clearly should be upset about. How could he possibly be seen as oversensitive, when what he is looking at is so obviously and brutally demeaning?

  • In the commercials, the caveman are portrayed as a minority so small that (”We had no idea you guys were still around”) they are hardly known to exist at all.

    I have heard people refer to Native Americans in the past tense, as if they’re all extinct. I’ve seen the same in textbooks. There are millions of Native Americans still alive and kicking on this continent and people forget all the fucking time that they exist. Those same people think it’s hilarious to dress up sports mascots and kids at Halloween as NAs — and they have the nerve to get upset when the very real, living NAs dare to protest this kind of caricature. One of the phrases that gets tossed around when it happens is that the protesters are “oversensitive”.

    So it’s not all that preposterous. Or very damn funny.

  • JW

    It is preposterous because cavemen are living amongst us as intelligent, fully evolved beings. Actual cavemen (whether it be Homo ergaster or Homo erectus) have been extinct for about 30,000 years. Are you actually suggesting that if Native Americans, who are simply people just like everyone else, could simply be inserted in their place in these commercials, and it would be the same thing…

    I know you are not, but throwing Native American struggles into the equation does not make things any less preposterous. After all, it is not the struggle for rights and against stereotypes that is preposterous. That isn’t preposterous at all, and I never suggested it was. It is the idea of cavemen and in my previous posts example, it was how absolutely ridiculous it would be if an ad specifically attacked a single, non-famous, random person.

    Finally, I don’t think that what Native Americans have gone through with mascots and stereotyping is funny at all, nor do I think that they are being oversensitive. I think that most people (I could be wrong) think that they have a very legitimate gripe, but are just terrified of any change at all.

    The main point of my previous post was to give one example of why I thought the commercials were funny, and it had nothing to do with a caveman or anyone being oversensitive.

  • JW, you are missing the point. Let me reiterate: The cavemen are stand-ins for minorities. When seen through the eyes of someone who has to deal with this bullpucky every day, who often has his or her valid concerns dismissed with a wave of the hand and charges of oversensitivity, it is not funny or cute or ‘just a commercial’. You are engaging with the commercials on their own terms, as if they exist in a void. Of course cavemen do not exist now, that IS NOT THE POINT.

    And, yes, you could insert a NA person or a black person or a Latin@ person in those commercials and not be anything more than a hair off from an experience many people of color have. Like the commercial where the boom mike guy gets upset and the actor says “I didn’t know you were there!” I wonder how many times that’s happened to a First Nations person who has light enough skin to pass for white? Or the airport commercial — how do you think it made black people feel to walk/drive past billboards with a mammy-style Aunt Jemima on them? Or the talk show one. How do you think Latin@s feel during debates about immigration when not only the skills and integrity of ‘immigrants’ are called into question, but also their intelligence and worthiness as people?

    Are you starting to get it? All of these situations have real world parallels and it feels like Geico is mocking that. You come across as a white person, so it’s probably safe to say that no one has ever done anything like that to you. You’ve never encountered an ad campaign that calls into question your very human-ness. You’ve never been bombarded with media images that show people like you in an extremely negative light and then don’t show them in any other way. You’ve never been in a room full of people, maybe even people that have some power over you — an office party with upper management, perhaps — and had them tell a joke that was so offensive it was worse than a punch to the gut. You’ve probably never had to make the choice between speaking up and possibly losing your job or keeping silent and definitely losing your self esteem/respect.

    So therefore: shut the hell up. I’m serious. You need to just stop talking/typing/whatever and LISTEN. Go look at my post “things you need to understand #7″. Think about what it says. And, for god’s sake, quit acting like you can know the experiences of people you are nothing like without and careful thought and consideration!

    Now, as to specific things in your comments:

    First of all, you completely contradict yourself, by admitting that the cavemen are “well-educated, cosmopolitan” men. Then you proceed to say that the “commercial insinuates that they are nothing but stupid, bipedal animals only capable of the simplest of tasks”. The commercial does nothing of the kind. The people in the commercial (who aren’t caveman) make these suggestions.

    That’s not a contradiction. this is what I meant about reading skills. The commercial WITHIN the commercial insinuated that the cavemen are stupid. Whereas in the commercial proper (let’s say Layer 1) they are indeed not.

    What results is an attack on stereotypes in general and a mockery of anyone who is racist. Remember the cavemen are the protagonists of these commercials. We are meant to like them. They are intelligent, where the stereotype suggests they are dumb. The viewer is not meant to think they are being over-sensitive, they are very clearly supposed to see the humans in the commercial as the ones being stereotyping, blind morons.

    That may be your reading of it, but I don’t see it that way. Though the cavemen are the protagonists, they’re slapped down at every turn. Even by the therapist who is supposed to be an intelligent, learned person. How is she helping at all by being the way she is? What that says to me is that, in the world of the commercials (Layer 1), intelligent people think that the cavemen are indeed being too sensitive. The only people I see being mocked here are the cavemen, not the other people. Maybe in the first few commercials I might have agreed with you. But this later batch are much worse. The vague discomfort kicked up a notch. perhaps if someone in these commercials OTHER than the cavemen ever told them that they were right, I might not feel that way.

    The ads in the commercials (Layer 2) are not mocking some random, non-famous person. They’re mocking a whole race of people. How do you know that the caveman population is very, very small? What clues do the commercials give you to make that assumption? Just because the one dude says they didn’t know any were still around doesn’t mean that there aren’t. After all, there was one right in front of him and he didn’t notice. says a lot about his and his company’s powers of perception. So unless you can give me some more examples than that, your argument falls flat.

  • JW

    ABW,

    First, I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my post and actually only have a few minor issues with it that I hope you will see as sensible.

    “That’s not a contradiction. this is what I meant about reading skills. The commercial WITHIN the commercial insinuated that the cavemen are stupid. Whereas in the commercial proper (let’s say Layer 1) they are indeed not.”

    I already admitted that my first response was a disaster for this exact reason, and I once again apologize for the mistake. As I said before, I did not catch it until after it was posted. I should have posted a revised statement immediately, but decided to wait. My mistake.

    “That may be your reading of it, but I don’t see it that way. Though the cavemen are the protagonists, they’re slapped down at every turn. Even by the therapist who is supposed to be an intelligent, learned person. How is she helping at all by being the way she is? What that says to me is that, in the world of the commercials (Layer 1), intelligent people think that the cavemen are indeed being too sensitive.”

    This is really where we have a difference of opinion. It is simple really. You asked, “how is she helping at all being the way she is?” The answer is, of course, she isn’t. I believe the point was to continue to create an upside down world where even their therapists aren’t trying to help them. For me, this further alienates the world they are living in and only makes the caveman look better. Every person who we would normally assume to be intelligent appears idiotic all because they don’t see a problem with this obvious race based attack. Honestly, when I put myself in the caveman’s position in the therapist commercial, I think I would want to strangle her. It is even worse on the news forum commercial. I can’t even put myself in the therapists shoes because her responses are so ridiculous. Not to mention the woman who says, “Looks like somebody woke up on the wrong side of the rock”. Are we supposed to see this character as intelligent? They were on a news show and her whole response was to issue a single, race-based personal attack. Would you have me believe that the commercial (layer 1) is mocking the caveman and not the woman?

    Ultimately, intelligent people in the commercial do not find the caveman to be oversensitive simply because there are no intelligent people. The only smart people that we have seen so far are, indeed, the cavemen.

    “After all, there was one right in front of him and he didn’t notice. says a lot about his and his company’s powers of perception. So unless you can give me some more examples than that, your argument falls flat.”

    This is a very good point, and my response, is actually that the rest of the commercials have felt very disconnected from this initial one. There are only two possible explanations. First, they wrote the first ad, and then later decided to create a wholes series based upon this. Or, second, they are purposely making their Geico representative out to be a liar.

    We know he knows they exist because in the very first ad he has a dialog with one, yet in the ad I referenced he says that Geico was unaware of their existence. I believe this is meant to be taken as a true statement, which would mean that the commercials are acting as if the first never happened. I am sure you will disagree, but that is my interpretation.

    Further, I would say that though they mock the company for not doing its research, when a company comes out and apologizes to a group of people, its usually in press conference form. I don’t see how the fact that the company spokesperson is personally having dinner with two of them so that Geico may apologize to the group as a whole does not suggest that they are a very, very small group of people. Now, of course, there could have been an unseen press conference, but the apology seems very personal and directed at these two men specifically.

    That said, just because one of the reasons I find the commercials funny is that the ads within them seem (at least to me) directed at a very small, very specific group, does not mean that they cannot also represent minorities at the same time. Of course, they represent minorities. They are a small(er) group being discriminated against by a larger because of untrue stereotypes, but I believe they are displayed in a positive light. This brings a larger questions to bare.

    What would these commercials have to do, to not be racist in your eyes? I don’t mean this as a challenge of any kind and am honestly just curious to see if you have given it any thought. I see that you have a South Park avatar, so I assume you are not oversensitive to the idea of race relations being commented on in a comical fashion as long as the context is correct. Am I wrong in saying this?

  • Tom

    “What would these commercials have to do, to not be racist in your eyes?”

    “Too sensitive,” is she?

  • JW

    Tom,

    I don’t think she is too sensitive. If I agreed that the commercials were mocking the cavemen and not the world around them, than the ads would be racist. I don’t see it that way, but it still does not maker her oversensitive.

    Calling or considering someone too sensitive (at least to me) suggests that their claim is so outrageous its not even worth investigating. This and most issues brought up by minorities rarely, if ever, deserve that tag. I feel that the majority often throws it out there as if they can simply say “oversensitive”, and everyone will dumbly nod their heads. Some people do, but those people are clearly unwilling to think for themselves.

  • JW

    Just checked out your link. As you can tell, I completely agree.

  • Virago

    “What would these commercials have to do, to not be racist in your eyes?”

    What a question!

    Translation: I feel you’re not being “oversensitive,” but you’re still not “getting it,” so, let’s, you know, talk about the feelings you say you’re having but that I’m not convinced you’re right about.

    Shorter (but only somewhat) translation: I don’t trust that you are able to critically examine your own experiences and responses to this commercial.

    This JW feel she deserves an answer, why?

    I’m tired of having to justify it to white people when I say that something is racist. The only way they ever understand is if you can “intellectualize” the experience for them, because they damn sure don’t have any empathy. I’m tired of those white people who say, “Well, I can see your point here and here, but just because it walks the line, does that mean it’s racist?”

    Yes. It means it’s racist.

    And–for everyone who doubts the connection between this caricature of a modern-day caveman and Native Americans needs to brush up on the whole concept of the reduction of NAs to “noble savages” and “urban indians.” I suggest you start with Vine Deloria, Jr.

    I hate the commercials because they’re insulting on so many levels. Racism is just part of the whole insult package.

  • What would these commercials have to do, to not be racist in your eyes?

    Stop existing. Seriously. because the entire concept is just so messed up on so many levels. There’s no way to redeem the concept at all. They trade off common issues raised by race to sell insurance. They’re making a profit off of someone else’s meme. Not even a funny haha meme, but a meme that grew out of oppression. There is no redemption.

    That’s like someone making funny commercials that referenced elements of apartheid in South Africa. There’s no redemption for that.

  • Tom

    JW, ok. (The link belongs to Nezua, who has compiled a whole glossary of useful antiracist terminology.) It sounds like you’re trying to engage intellectually, but Virago’s comment weighs heavily on me here.

    How about this? I grew up in a place that was 95% white. College was a lot more diverse. I hurt a friend there when I ignorantly used the word “Oriental.” Luckily for me, whatever she was feeling, she just calmly said “that’s prejudiced. You say Asian.” Luckily again, I just turned beet red and stammered some kind of an apology. Did I do the wrong thing?? Should I have challenged her? Should I have explained at length that, to me, that wasn’t a bad word to say??? (To me, it wasn’t! What has that got to do with it??)

    Do I believe a friend when she tells me I hurt her? Or not?

    Am I here as a friend? Or as something else?

  • JW

    Virago’s post was excellent. I do feel that ABW is missing out on the joke, but I now have to agree that it is for a good reason. She has no motive to look further into the depths of the commercial because they are so immediately offensive to her on a shallow level, and their merits when looked at in depth level are still clearly debatable.

    I have looked to break down the commercials because I believe they are an attack on racism, but it is obvious that many people don’t see it that way. I am not going to change my views on the ads and neither is anyone else. But Virago’s words are powerful, and he/she brings the subject to closure nicely. I will say (in specific response to Virago), that I assumed the subject was posted here for the purpose of discussion and to help all of us gain a better understanding about why we feel a certain way about these commercials.

    Tom,

    I have been in similar situations and handled them basically the same way with a simple and honest, “I am sorry. I had no idea.” In that scenario, however, you naturally don’t want to press your friend despite an innate curiosity to understand why the word “oriental” is prejudice. This, and ABW’s many responses seem to agree, was meant to be discussed here.

    I apologize if I have offended anyone here, as that was never my intention. I did my best to avoid personal attacks, as well as ignore them when they came my way.

    JW

  • Tom

    JW,

    Maybe I screwed up my last comment. I was trying to arouse sympathy for the person who had been hurt in my story. Instead perhaps I have drawn even more attention to the feelings of the person who did the hurting (me).

  • I know I’m very late here and I have not read much of the previous comments. For what it’s worth, I agree and understand what you are saying. I thought about this too a while back.

    But you know what’s so ironic about this? Even though certain people disagree with your theory and laugh at the “over sensitivity” of the caveman (minorities), they’re still seeing how the bigot majority (supremacy) comically deny and dismiss the caveman’s (minority people’s) reasonable plight. Both the comical ignorance and blatant denial are almost reflective of our racist society today. Therefore, I’m laughing back at them, while they laugh at themselves and their own ignorance. LOL

    -Tributetoblackwomen.com

  • CroMagnon

    Dear ABW:

    Others here have said this much much more eloquently than I can. But, it’s important to show that many people agree on this issue. So, here are my 2 cents:

    The caveman ads operate on several levels. On one level, they make fun of people who are too stupid to know when they’re being offensive to others. On another level, they try to make fun of political correctness. I am offended by the anti-PC aspect of the ads. It suggests that people objecting to being treated badly by the majority are just being silly. Were the Holocaust, Apartheid, slavery, or lynchings silly? Yet, the root cause of all those things was the majority’s insensitivity to the pain they were causing other human beings based on nothing more than superficial differences. We should not deaden our sensitivity to the pain we cause others. History shows that bad things happen when we do.

    I was very pleasantly surprised when I came across this blog. There are several blogs on the cavemen, but, sadly, none of the others express this point of view. My experience is that some of them even edit out responses like the ones expressed here.

    I think that some of you very articulate people should go express your opinions on those other blogs. We desperately need you there. Here, you’re kind of preaching to the choir.

  • Marla Hill

    Just to go back to the comments of the folks who feel that marketers and advertisers conduct highly sophisticated consumer analysis and know what they’re doing… If that’s so, would someone please tell me why – in uber-Black Atlanta, Georgia – are the haircare products designed for blacks, Hispanics and other non-white groups still in a separate section labeled “ethnic”? I laugh because otherwise I couldn’t stop crying.

  • Damn… I don’t even know how to comment on this.

  • That Bul™

    You’re a fucking moron.

  • Ahem. Bul-whatever. This is your first warning. Stop being an asshole, or face banishment.

  • BRIDNEY W.

    im A YOUNG BLack femALE and i got EXactly the sAME MESSage from the commerciaLS BUT I FELT THEY WERE TArgetng minorities AS a whole. of course its funny to people like whIte people aLWays compaRNG NON-CacASION PEOPLE TO animaLS?HA!

  • Roderick F.

    I did not read all the posts so forgive this if it is a repeat. In the Airport commercial, I “think” there is a small attempt at subliminal messaging. At the end we see a black man in the back ground slightly ahead of the CM in the fore ground. If one were to put the two in silloutte they would be very simular; long hair, jutting jaw*, even the bag drapped over the shoulder. The thing about this is, considering how the mind works, the first thing one notices with their sight is movement then shape then detail.
    This could be explained as coincidence, but consider asking any casting director if coincidence has any place in a multi-million ad campaign and the answer is becomes obvious.

    *Does it seem like the actor in the background is purposfully craning his neck?

  • Roderick F.

    One more thing, do not be surprise if in an attempt to poo-poo off any racial parallel in this campaign they cast a black character as human to off-set the arguments that we find ourselves engaged in right now, right here. This, of course, would have to be done without the littlest hint of their acknowledgement of the parallel.

  • denise

    A person who does not see it as such (racist) is in denial. The commercial shows a man with “light skin,” coarse hair, full lips, and expressing the problems that he goes through. The physical features are overly exaggerated much like how whites drew pictures/cartoons of blacks back in the day- extra large butts, lips and all. Some of the issues faced by blacks range (d) from being considered “part human” way back in the day, unattractive, uncivilized, and “not smart enough or as smart as whites.”

    The commercial might as well say “So easy even a black man could do it.”

    If this commercial was meant to target those who are so stupid/oblivious to the problems of others then a balancing act should have been taken into consideration the feelings of those it is so called defending too.

    What was the message in using the GEICO lizard, anyway? Was this a message against the abuse of animals?

    If this commercial was meant to do something positive IT DEFEATED ITS OWN PURPOSE. Luckily there are Progressive and ALLSTATE-who have blacks depicted in a civilized manner in their commercials not as a some caveman who can not cope who has to see a therapist.

    Besides GEICO should not try to examine or tackle racial issues, they need to leave that up to the EEOC, NAACP, & AL SHARPTON, etc. We gave Imus the boot, we don’t need an insurance company to help us with that-but what we do need-IS CAR INSURANCE!

  • TheImmortal

    So, after reading the main post and the comments it is my understanding that some of you believe that a company, Geico, who is trying to sell a product to the public as a whole (im not sure what percent of thier customers are black but im sure its a pretty good percentage, we all need car insurance) hired a marketing agency, then a racist team from this agency sat around in a boardroom somewhere and decided to make a racist commercial and in a oh so sneaky, deceptive move, in place of black people put cavemen and then believed we wouldnt figure it out. you have to be kidding me..right…or are you saying that this creative team ended up making a racist commercial because on a subconcious level,they are racists….dont you think Geico would be cutting their own throats by doing such a thing….and now after these racist commercials were such a hit, some racist tv network is going to make a series out of it….interesting

  • [...] for example, at this thread deconstructing the GEICO caveman commercials: Geico Caveman Commercials Irk Me. And if you visit, please, for the love of Mike, read through all the comments. There are so many [...]