Monday, September 1, 2008

Does a bear wipe in the woods?

I suppose as Americans we have our puritan roots and the shame that goes along with it. It isn't polite to discuss natural bodily functions. Of course, that leaves Madison Avenue and the ad men a problem. How can they peddle their hygienic products without even having to show or perhaps mention the dentures, piss, poop, herpes sores, anal fissures and menstrual fluids?

The first big idea was to give the products fancy names. The higher level of vocabulary that is used, the more clinical the products feel and thus the more detached we are from our own disgusting body waste and odorous expulsions. Instead of "blood diaper" or "period sponge" we have feminine hygiene pads. We use toilet paper (toilet being a fancy French word) instead of "ass wipers" or "shit towels". This clinical approach is one that works. It allows us to feel adult and mature when discussing our bodily functions and prevents us from giggling like a 10 year old boy after he hears a fart.

In order to continue with the clinical theme, the ad men often put their products in a laboratory setting in demonstrating their products absorbency or usefulness. The cold stainless steels and white wall backgrounds again bring up that this is indeed science and not something to look at the TV in horror or snicker when the announcer mentions diarrhea.

The best idea to emerge for TV was the use of blue colored water- Need to show how a diaper absorbs up lots of pee and doesn't leak? Start mixing up the blue raspberry Kool-Aid and pour on the blue water! Need to show how well a feminine hygiene pad keeps the menstrual fluid away from the edges versus the leading brand? Get the tidy bowl pellets out and pour on the blue water!

As a child, I would watch game shows like Match Game and Super Password with my mother during day time television. The commercials were overwhelmingly filled with hygienic products. As a result, I was concerned that someday that I myself would be leaking blue water or would eventually have to wear dentures that look like giant white tiles. Madison Avenue would use practically anything but the product's intended target. Our sensitivities must be as fragile as a sugar sculpture that we can't even bear to look at a pair of dentures sitting in a glass. Heck, there is a cable game show called Hurl, where the whole point of the show is to get contestants to puke up gobs of creamed corn and broccoli with mac and cheese. But they don't even show the vomit! They actually cover up the spewed chunks! Personally, I think that if they feel it's necessary to block out a stream of upchuck on a game show titled, Hurl, then they should at least use modern digital manipulation and have the decency to replace it with blue water.

Nowadays, I think we even have taken a step backwards. We can't even stand to look at clinical commercials (or perhaps are bored with them?) and now prefer to make our bodily functions cutesy. Just look at the silly song on the Pepto-Bismol commercial or the Charmin commercials with the cartoon bears and their dilemma of which toilet paper to use. Maybe it's me, but that stuff really skeeves me out more than a direct approach would.

"Charmin, softer than sand paper and doesn't leave dingleberries!"

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