Holiday Inn
Commentary by David Summers, July 2004

I saw this commercial on TV about a week ago for Holiday Inn. It is basically a mock-up of the show "Jeopardy", and includes an appearance by Alex Trebek. There are three contestants on the show. From left to right:

The two tall contestants are quiet and well behaved. The short man is a complete jackass. He's described as bouncer from Saskatchewan whose hobbies are eating and lighting firecrackers. He blurted out answers to questions that aren't even asked and makes weird faces and gestures to the camera.

In the final exchange:

Alex: It says here, Carl, that you're looking forward to 7th grade. You're going to be teacher?

Short Man: No, a student.... Alex.

Alex: You mean you're not even in high school yet?

Short Man: What is "no". But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Here we have yet another short man being made a fool of on national TV.

The 'STAY SMART' series of commercials have previously been funny and engaging. In those other commercials, the central character displays brilliance and acts with dignity and self confidence. He may be a cowboy coming to the aid of an injured man. Or she may be a woman using her deep knowledge of structural engineering to assure the bus driver that the bridge will hold. He may even be able to avert a nuclear disaster. It is only at the end of these commercials that we find that the people only think they are brilliant.

However, the tone of the Jeopardy commercial is decidedly different. There is no attempt to display the short man as brilliant. He is a complete jackass. While the short man is the big winner, this is mentioned only briefly and we hardly notice because we are distracted by his introduction and odd behaviour.

It is no coincidence that he is obnoxious and short - a stereotype that the media uses all too often. What was was going through the producer's mind when he cast the characters for this commercial? Did he or she realize that it is standard practice for the media to present short people as perennial loosers? As adults still stuck in grade school. Or did it seem like a great new innovative idea? Either way, it was no accident. There was a definite thought process that cast the short man in an ugly role.