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September 24, 2009

ABC Loves Cougars - As Long As They're Fictional

We already know how the One Million Moms feel about cougars. So of course, we were surprised that they hadn't (yet?) taken any action against the new ABC show Cougar Town... especially since they already bashed its lead-in show Modern Family without having even seen it.

Cougar Town follows the story of a recently divorced single mother as she "explores the honest truths about dating and aging in a beauty and youth obsessed culture" and stars Courteney Cox.

Even more surprising than the fact that we haven't received any OMM action alerts yet... is that ABC is being a little bit anti-cougar themselves! (Or, you know, anti-real-cougar.) Apparently the dating website CougarLife.com tried to run a commercial during the show, but ABC said they didn't feel it was "appropriate". The website's founder Claudia Openkelder released a statement:

It appears the executives at ABC seem a little too insecure to allow the notion of real world cougars to exist anywhere other than in the realm of fiction. [via PerezHilton.com]

Frankly, I'm surprised that ABC is being so hypocritical. They obviously realize that cougars are totally in right now (as far as TV/movie trends go, they're right up there with widowers and gigolos) or they wouldn't be airing Cougar Town in the first place.

So what was so inappropriate about the commercial?

I don't know. Maybe the fact that it portrays an older woman as an object of lust for younger men makes some people uncomfortable...? But if that's the case, then why are they watching Cougar Town? And the show itself is way way way more sexually explicit than the commercial is... so what's the problem?

Executive Producer Kevin Biegel has described the show on the ABC website:

I’ve always been surrounded by very, very strong women—my mother, my sister, my wife—and I always wanted to write something that would both honor them and take advantage of their stories. [...] I love that our show is about a women [sic] confidentially and honestly discussing aging, dating and life, and if I can promise you anything it’s that we won’t pull any punches and gloss over some of the uglier, harsher truths.
Hm. So ABC isn't going to pull any punches or gloss over the truth on their TV show, but they will do it about the fact that real life cougars do exist outside of their television fantasy land?

You'd think that ABC would be trying to cater to the strong, confident cougar demographic as much as possible. (The fact is that women over 40 is a huge demographic - one that has enormous spending power.) They're probably going to be a big percentage of the audience of Cougar Town, so you'd think ABC would want to air commercials designed with them in mind. At the least, it would be nice to see some ads geared toward older women that weren't for anti-aging products or home cleaning supplies.

Unless of course, cougars are actually the butt of Biegel's joke. Does he - and the rest of the ABC bigwigs - think that cougars are "good TV" but not worth taking seriously as TV viewers?

As a cougar-in-training or "Cougar Pup" (don't ever call me a "Puma" or I'll scratch your eyes out), I've found that a lot of cougar humor can toe the line of funny and offensive. The concept of sexy older women dating (or just seducing) younger men has been around for ages in movies and television shows... from Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate to Samantha from Sex and the City.

As with the whole MILF movement (the cougar's previous incarnation that gained popularity with Stifler's mom in American Pie) movies and TV shows often bounce back and forth between adoration and ridicule over the concept of an older woman daring to still be sexy... and sexual.

I also recently watched the pilot episode of the new CBS show Accidentally On Purpose (and that's exactly how I watched it, accidentally... on purpose). It has a very different storyline but a similar sentiment: an "older" (she's 37) woman, played by Jenna Elfman, finds herself pregnant after a one night stand with a younger guy... and then hijinks ensue! My favorite part of the episode came when the saucy sidekick (Ashley Jensen) responds to use of the word "cougar" with "I prefer the term lynx or ocelot." Maybe CougarLife.com can advertise on CBS instead.

It's time that we put to rest the stupid, sexist double standard that makes it acceptable for older men (or manthers) to date younger women while still shaming the older women who date younger men (or cubs). That's basically the message in Cougar Town so it's pretty stupid for ABC to refuse to back that up with their advertisers as well.

Edited: Some people have contacted us to let us know that the CougarLife.com commercial did run(we watched it online so we missed it). However, after some further investigation we learned that it only ran in some areas. The site's founderClaudia explained:
ABC corporate DID reject airing the commercial but some locally owned ABC stations didn't agree with the corporate positioning and decided to run it.
Hope that clears everything up.


Scandalous Housewife said...

I have been in a battle of the cougar this week with 2 30 year old staff writers at the Washington Post (see my post from Tuesday)! I look at is as fun and games, a silly label to call a woman over 40. As I've stated many times, I'm not interested in any 20 something boys, as I already have a high school son and that would be nothing more than "icky"! But I think the Cougar Movement is about empowering 40+ women that they can be just as sexy as their younger counterparts! Kinda like men grow old sexier than ever? So can women!

Anonymous said...

Maybe ABC disliked the commercial more because they were uncomfortable with men being protrayed as the sex objects instead of the women. I mean, the guys were staring at the woman, but she was actually portrayed in a very respectful way - the camera didn't pan all over her body, her cleavage wasn't pushed up to her chin, and she was portrayed as being intelligent, capable, and still sexy. No wonder ABC was scared!

I don't know if I'd do well as a cougar.. when I was 20 I still felt that 25 year old guys were just way too young for me.. by the time I'm 40, I think I'd just laugh at them in bed. But I love the idea of any show that focuses on a woman older than 25, and the problems and discrimination single "older" women face in our culture.