— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 17, 2013
A new ad, tweeted from President Obama’s account, has people talking — but not about getting covered. Just as HealthCare.gov distracted from the underlying principles and issues of the Affordable Care Act, “Pajama Boy” has burst on to the scene is his plaid onesie glory, stirring up stereotypes and debate about the millennial generation.
Organizing for Action is the group behind the ad, and it isn’t the first time the holidays have been used as a window for a discussion about health care. Leading up to Thanksgiving, the same group behind hot chocolate and health care ran a TV spot — possibly using the same actor as a “millennial” — about the importance of parents and their kids talking about health insurance.
Neither has sparked a debate about young people signing up for health care. Instead, pundits have latched on to the images, creating a personality, backstory, and sexual orientation for the young man sitting on the couch. He has become a meme, a parody, a hashtag, and a cultural conversation that can easily slip from reasonable to ignorant.
One side follows a train of thought akin to a quote from Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention: ”College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
Over at Politico, conservative columnist Rich Lowry called Pajama Boy “the picture of perpetual adolescence. Neither is a symbol of self-reliant, responsible adulthood.”
The difference between the two is that Ryan recognized that young adults want to move out of their parents’ homes, and Lowry lambasted a fictional character for lacking responsibility. This side of the discussion is slight in comparison to the one about Pajama Boy’s love life.
Andrea Tantaros, a co-host on Fox News’ ”The Five,” tweeted that portraying the American male as “a hot chocolate drinking doofus in a onesie” was “Disgraceful.” Scrolling through other tweets about Pajama Boy offers comparisons to Rachel Maddow, the openly gay MSNBC anchor; discussions about his “effeminate” looks; and thoughts about where they, too, can get a pair of those pajamas. (For those who are huge onesie fans, fear not: J. Crew has a pair. Sadly, they aren’t plaid.)
When the TV ad aired, Kirsten Powers said on Fox News that it was “cute” but that it “didn’t really explain anything.” The Pajama Boy discussion is an interesting insight into how Americans view the young and how sartorial choices of fictional people determine their sexuality. By and large, it isn’t all that cute, and it doesn’t really explain anything.