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Help! I’m Worried My Sons Will Turn Out To Be Total Assholes!

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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about advertising, the parameters of a chokejob, movie death brainworms, and more.

Your letters:


At this risk of turning the Funbag into a weekly advice column for parents, I wanted to pose the following to you. I've come to realize that the most important job I have on a daily basis (aside from keeping my sons alive) is to prevent them from becoming permanent moronic meatheads. While I openly acknowledge that teenage boys are going to do and say dumb shit, I am finding it harder and harder to make sure they don't go too far down that path to the point where I find myself with two misogynistic assholes as sons. Am I the only one having to deal with this and if not, what are some strategies to use aside from what I currently do ,which is laugh along to a point and then put the hammer down when it goes too far?

I worried about this many years ago. It’s one of the unspoken fears that every parent has. You worry that your children will die young. You worry they’ll contract some awful brain disease. You worry they won’t be able to make friends at school. You worry about their grades. You worry about them getting kidnapped. All of that is a given. Above the table. But what few parents will ever ask out loud is … what if I don’t like my kid? What if he turns out to be a complete asshole? No one wants their kid to be Aubrey Huff when they grow up, but there sure are a LOT of Aubrey Huffs out there, enough to make it feel like your own kid’s destiny is inevitable.

The good news is that I have discovered that this is not true. Your kids WILL be assholes to you, because that happens to every parent. But they’ll only stay assholes if you, the adult, happen to be one. A boy, like any child, is an incomplete person. He needs to learn how to react to adversity, how to deal with other people, and how to deal with himself. He learns almost all of that from his parents, which means that 99 percent of your job is modeling. If you’re nice to other people, he’ll be nice to other people. If you help out around the house, he’ll help out around the house. If you attend MAGA rallies and hate black people, he’ll attend MAGA rallies and hate black people. Children learn life from you, which means that if you’re a well-adjusted person and a loving parent, they’re likely to come out the same way.

This has been, and I’m not exaggerating, the most gratifying part of having kids for me. I’m hardly a perfect person (my blogging archive stands as proof), but I do my best, and I do it all for them. So far, that effort has paid off handsomely. I can’t promise it’ll pay off likewise for every dedicated parent out there. I’ve read enough scare stories about seemingly good kids who become gambling addicts/school shooters/Stoolies to know that nothing is guaranteed, even when mommy and daddy are giving their best effort. But if you notice all of the GOOD kids out there—and there are a lot of them!—you’ll find that their parents had plenty of influence in that happening. There are even great kids out there who have SHITTY parents! Like Kieran Culkin! That should give you some hope.

One other thing: even if your kid does turn insufferable later on, that doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way. You never know when the light will go on.


Drew, you were at Ogilvy? When? I was there from ‘97 to ‘07, but spent ’01-‘03 in Beijing. Came back just in time for the timesheet fallout, and the timesheet police. I knew both the people who went to jail. And the guy, Bill Grey, who should have. The real problem was that Shona Seifert, who ran the ONDP account, had just come from Asia, where they were doing unreconciled fees. I was running the IBM account over there, and had to point out to many people who should have known better that those kinds of shenanigans didn’t go over with Big Blue. It’s a small world, sir.

Lemme blow out this answer for the people here who have NOT worked at Ogilvy, née Ogilvy & Mather, one of the largest ad agencies in the country founded by industry legend David Ogilvy. Ogilvy is where I got my first copywriting job: the first time someone paid me money to do creative shit. Getting just to that point in my career felt like a victory. Because when you start out at the very bottom of the corporate ladder, all of the good work feels like it’s a galaxy away.

Before Ogilvy, I had been a lowly account executive at DDB, fielding calls from angry clients, and then getting yelled at by my bosses and by the creative teams. One time I saw our creative director huck a phone against a wall in anger. Another time I was out to dinner with a client and he told the whole table how proud he was that his little daughter was old enough to understand that abortion was infanticide. I didn’t argue with him, because I had to cater to whatever clients wanted. I was a nobody. My account director liked me, but didn’t really need me. Whenever I passed by the agency president in the hallway, I straightened my spine and walked like I was entering the Oval Office. All of the senior executives were damn near celebrities to me. Their jobs felt out of reach. They felt out of reach. I saw their names posted on placards outside of their offices and it was like walking by Tom Cruise’s dressing room.

Meanwhile, I was a replaceable drone. The only time my work was fun was when I got free candy on client trips to Hershey, and when I got to hang out with the creative teams alone, without my bosses around. Every agency back around Y2K was roughly divided into five departments: account, creative, production, media buying, and planning. Crossing over from one department to another was frowned upon. Or at least, I was under the impression that it was. I wanted to be one of the people writing the ads, and not just some pair of khakis acting as liaison between them. I wanted, no surprise, to be a star.

I couldn’t tell my immediate boss that, because then she’d know I didn’t want to do the work I’d been assigned to do. But I could tell some of the creatives, who knew I was unhappy and worked to get me over to the dark side. I’d steal any moment I could get in their offices to look at their award show mags, to get tips on where to go to night school (SVA, Adhouse), and how to put together a portfolio of spec ads to send out to other agencies. When I got laid off from DDB in early 2001, my portfolio was done. I sent it out and prayed. My wife knew someone who worked at Ogilvy, they passed my book onto someone else, and I got officially hired as a creative. I was ecstatic.

My first day at Ogilvy was Sept. 10, 2001.

Copywriting, as you might have guessed, was not exactly all it was cracked up to be. I had never understood why the creatives at DDB complained so much, given that they had the good jobs. Now I understood. Not only were the big execs still distant, but they were now basically in the way of shit. Shona Seifert was one such executive, although she didn’t work on the same account as me. I met her once, said hi, and then found out later that she was about to go to jail. Meanwhile, I was stuck writing newspaper headlines for pre-Lily AT&T: full-page ads that were mostly occupied by legal disclaimers and participating retail locations. I had roughly two sentences in each ad where I was allowed to be creative, and even those ended up being lines like FAMILY TOGETHER TIME after my boss had thrown away my initial offerings. The best part of that job was when my art director partner and I would go out drinking after work. We also had an office with our own couch. Someone later stole it.

I quit that job in 2003 to move to Maryland with my wife, hence missing Robert up there by an inch on either side of his time in China. I got a job writing for a boutique agency in Virginia, discovered blogging in my off-time, and now here we are.

I tell you all of that for two reasons. One is that I still love ads. When I see a good ad on TV, like a Dr. Rick ad, the old copywriter in me is both happy and envious. I still consider ads to be a form of art, with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie perhaps the pinnacle of the form. I never did make it terribly far in the ad world, and I genuinely wanted to. Part of me feels like I still have unfinished business on that front. I’m obviously happy where I am now, but I would have been content to be a creative my whole career. I don’t believe that all advertising is bad, and I still believe that there are a great many creatives in that business who are trying to make it as good as it can be. You should know that whenever you see a shitty ad out there. I promise you that someone who worked on it cared.

Secondly, I wonder how good advertising can really be anymore. I left advertising before the internet all but ate it alive. The gold standard from my copywriting days were magazine ads that no longer exist and national TV spots that no one any longer watches. The new gold standard is probably, like, the fucking Wendy’s social media team. I also have no idea if agencies are structured the same way as they once were. I wonder if a One Show pencil is still the highest honor a creative can win. I wonder if creatives can still stay at joints like the Chateau Marmont when they’re on a big TV shoot. I wonder if agencies still go to Cannes. I wonder about all of that, and I hope that the best ads can still get out there in some form. For now, I’ll just have to settle for being one of the most popular and handsome writers in the world. But I still have a soft spot in my heart for the ad business, and I always will.


First off, I'm a 49ers fan, so take this how you will. If you think I'm off my rocker let me know. I saw a lot of hot takes that the 49ers choked in the Super Bowl because they blew a 10-point lead. But what constitutes choking? Blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter by giving up 21 points? That's probably a choke job. This time, though? A 10-point lead in the second quarter? No way, there's far too much time left in the game. I don't care who they were playing in that situation, a 10-point lead at halftime in the NFL is really nothing. What do you think?

When I have to write the 49ers Why Your Team Sucks entry in September, I will call that game a chokejob. But otherwise, you’re basically correct. It’s hard to call any loss a choke when it’s Patrick Mahomes doing Patrick Mahomes stuff to you.

Also, the NFL is currently structured so that the talent disparity between the best teams and the worst teams is remarkably thin. That means that comebacks should be expected. Half of the largest comebacks in league history have occurred this century. Fifty-two games in the 2022 season featured double-digit comebacks. This makes for more exciting, SEC-style football. It also means that the true definition of “choking” is more obscure than it once was.

However, this is football. This is not a place for nuance. If you blow a lead, regardless of opponent, I reserve my right as a fan to shit in your face over it. What are you gonna do, cry? I bet you will cry about it, you fucking choking-ass choker. SHANNY JUNIOR WILL NEVER HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN A RING, BABY!



At the risk of being a shit-stirrer, I’m curious if the editorial opinions of Defector staffers ever butt heads in any kind of meaningful way. I ask because there seems to be solid alignment on most major political and cultural issues, and often when an opinion-ish piece is published, it usually feels like it has been presented as a consensus opinion. I’m wondering if that’s ever really not the case, though? Let’s kick up some drama amongst the Defectorate! Air some laundry!

I got EXTREMELY pissed at two of my co-workers for meh-ing No Country For Old Men in company Slack a while back, so much so that EIC Tom Ley had to DM me to cool it down. I still find their opinions on the film to be deeply embarrassing, but have since held my tongue. Oh, and another time a bunch of staffers tried to pull an Actually Spinal Tap Was A Bad Movie? in that same Slack channel and I wanted to quit this job on the spot. I am no longer in that Slack channel, for the good of all. Oh, and I got pissed at another one of our writers once because he suggested that Kalen DeBoer was a medium coaching talent. I have no idea why I wanted to defend Kalen DeBoer so vociferously, but I’ve always been that way with football opinions. Whenever someone has a football opinion I don’t care for, I get crazy pissed. These people don’t know football, I think to myself. THEY DIDN’T EVEN PLAY THE GAME.

I also get mad whenever any Defector staffer says “meh” in a post or uses the ironic “lol.” I think you can see that I’m the problem here, but I’m hardly an anomaly. Social media made it so that disagreement between people is now an act of war, and I’m as vulnerable to that preconditioning as anyone else. You have to be able to disagree with people in this world, and I don’t mean that in the David Brooks way. I mean that you can’t take one difference you have with another person and use it to write them off entirely. So while we’re all lefty pinkos here at Defector, we do indeed disagree on shit. But we also go to great lengths to make sure those differences don’t end up killing the faith that we have in each other to publish good work and run a good business.

But for real, you’re telling me that Spinal Tap was a bad movie? I don’t wanna know you.


How many people in the world who are capable of dunking a basketball don't actually know they can dunk a basketball? It can't be more than a handful, right?

Well it’s more than, like, five. Even though basketball is now a global sport, you have to account for people who still haven’t heard of it, people living in the middle of the desert without access to a hoop, people who don’t know they’re good at sports, people who don’t CARE if they’re good at sports, and monks. Sift through that basket and you’ll find a few hidden gems.

Although if you measure over 6-foot-6 someone in your life WILL ask you if you play basketball. You could live in the fucking Gobi Desert and still get the question once a week.


Can you see a near future where apps and websites in the U.S. are inaccessible in the same way as China?

Hey now, our evil-ass SCOTUS is deliberating that topic as we speak. Lucky us. I would never bank on this court making a helpful decision on anything, not even on a takeout order.

But I’m not gonna do the whole Chicken Little routine about internet freedom here, because you know where I stand on Goth Twitter screaming END TIMES! every time it sees a shadow. Instead, I’m gonna confidently tell you that the internet will never be reined in here in America, as it is in China. And do you know why? Because it’s too hard. We are a lazy-ass country that wants everyone else to do its work for us. To physically confine the current internet, we wouldn’t just need SCOTUS to do its usual bullshit. We’d have to get web censorship mandated across every state, every town, every utility, and every company. China is skilled at forcing all of these conflicting entities to fall in line, because China has been a dictatorship for roughly 4,000 years. Those people know how to run a dictatorship.

We do not. Every wannabe dictator in Amercia, from Trump on down, is cosplaying as the real deal. They know how to fuck you over, and they’ll do so any time they can (see: Florida). But America as a whole is too big of a goddamn mess for one person/party to bend all 350 million of its people to their will. This is especially true of the American internet, which is an even bigger clusterfuck. The unwieldiness of America is why we’ll never have Medicare For All, which annoys me greatly. But it also means there will always be porn, so that’s a nice counterbalance. This is not a great country, but it is an untamable one. I can always count on that.

Also, I just pissed and moaned about doomsayers two grafs above, but I do want to give them a morbid salute for their efforts. One thing I’ve learned about living in a democracy is that keeping it a democracy requires constant vigilance, even when things are calm. This is a fucking exhausting job, which is why I personally don’t have the energy anymore to scream IT COULD HAPPEN HERE! to random passersby. But many other Americans do, and that soft hysteria is often enough to get lazy asses like me to go eh shit I better vote. You paranoiacs are keeping us on our big fat toes, so big fat kudos for that!


Under existing NFL constraints (salary cap, roster limits, inability to trade more than three years' worth of draft picks, etc.), is there any trade for Mahomes the Chiefs would accept? I think the answer is no, even if, say, the Bengals offered Burrow, Chase, Hendrickson, and their next three drafts.

You’re correct. There’s no trade KC would accept for Mahomes. If you ran the Chiefs, would you trade Patrick Mahomes? For anything? Of course not. I wouldn’t trade him even if I were held at gunpoint. Chiefs fans would just end up killing me anyway, and they’d be right to.


About once a week when I turn on a light switch, I think of <spoiler alert> Caretaker’s exploding light bulb death from The Longest Yard (original 1974 version). I’ve only seen the movie a few times, but that death achieved permanent visual brainworm status. When the scene pops up in my mind, I’m not particularly upset or skeeved out. My reaction is just huh, that happened again. Do you have a specific movie death that permanently lurks just outside of your consciousness?

I have entire movies playing on a loop in my head against my will. Some of them are among my favorite movies of all time (Miller’s Crossing, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels), but others are there just because they’re there. The foremost example: Married to the Mob, which is a perfectly good Jonathan Demme that I saw 500 times when I was young because I had nothing better to do. Thanks to that repeated exposure, quotes from MTTM crawl through my mind all of the time, as does checkout time for Frank the Cucumber DiMarco:

Dean Stockwell had the bad luck to go up against Kevin Kline at the Oscars that year, but this was still a balls-out performance. “You disappointed the shit outta me.”

Bob (fake name):

I might have been slightly high when I thought of this, but follow me for a second. What if there was a guy that fought dogs. I mean not just some dude rolling around punching dogs, but like sanctioned stuff. You think your dog is a badass? Cool, call this guy and set up a fight. I really don't have any more specifics than that worked out right now. I'm not sure if it would be in a cage or backyard or arena. The guy or dog may get some armor or padding, not sure. I think I have a good base here, just need to work the kinks out. My daughter said my idea was, "scary." My wife said it was stupid and not to tell anyone I had an idea that stupid. I don't listen to her anyway. Pick a fake name, my company drug tests.

I see what you’re going for here, Bob. Now your idea is illegal, unethical, and perverse … so much so that Dana White is probably trying to boot up a dog vs. man fighting league as we speak. But I have indeed wondered if I, Drew Magary, could beat a dog in a fight. The answer there is an emphatic no. My dog Carter is 20 pounds and would DESTROY me in a fight. I know because I tasted his wrath more than once back when he was untrained. Give me a heavyweight champ’s physique and fighting skills and I don’t think I’d fare much better. Especially if I had to face an officially sanctioned fight dog trained by Michael Vick. Dogs are fast, strong (especially in the jaw), low to the ground, and most important, WILD. Fighting a human is easier because, on a primal level, humans know how other humans think. A dog? No fucking idea. You are not ready for the chaos.

To that end, I know someone (who shall remain unnamed) who fought TWO dogs at once. My man was walking his own dog, “Spot,” when two neighboring pit bulls, who had slipped out of their house without a leash, unleashed a serious attack on Spot: a coordinated ambush with clamped jaws and TONS of blood. Left with no other choice, my friend had to kick the pit bulls, as hard as he could, to get them to let go of his dog. When that failed, he had to beat them off with a nearby rake. The bulls finally let go and ran off. Poor Spot was in rough shape, but somehow made a full recovery and now romps around like it never happened. Meanwhile, my friend is still shaken.

That is to say: People fighting dogs only sounds cool when you’re stoned off your ass. In practice, it’s utterly harrowing.

Email of the week!


What celebrity would you say you have the most in common with BUT with one big difference? I ask this because I constantly refer to your writings when me and my wife are interacting, be it cooking, driving, walking the dog, etc. I bring you up, I guess, more than I thought. She says that you and I are a lot alike and I would tend to agree with one large difference. Our music tastes could not be more different. You lean more on the indie/pop side I guess. I tried Bob Mould and had to turn it off immediately. I lean more jam band/rock side with Grateful Dead and Phish my staples. So which celebrity would you choose with that one large difference?

People tell me I’m just like George Clooney, only I have better politics.

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