I’m old enough to remember when television first allowed lingerie to be modeled on TV commercials by actual women rather than beheaded, limbless mannequins. This was a good day in my young life. And okay, I’m guilty of paying attention when Molly Sims’ exposed midriff is trying to get me to go to Old Navy. But lately, the way that sex has been presented in commercials has been more overt than the Maidenform woman could ever have predicted.
The most obvious (although the most subliminal) is an ad for Trojan Extended Pleasure Latex Condoms. In the ad, two women are sitting in a coffee shop, one of them telling how "amaaaaazing" her boyfriend was in bed the previous night. "Reeeallllllly!" says the other, then suddenly Trojan Man, the Condomed Crusader bursts in to reveal that the long lasting lover must be using new Trojan Brand Extended Pleasure Latex Condoms (just typing the name of the product takes longer than I sometimes last!). Galpal #2 asks if Trojan Man can stop by HER boyfriend’s place, to which he replies, "Been there!," at which point she grabs her purse and rushes off for a good long fuck.
Now, it’s not the tale or the rather odd concept of a Prophylactic superhero that makes this ad an eye-opener (presumably licenses were not granted to use Plastic Man or Mr. Fantastic for the ads).... it’s the imagery used throughout the commercial. The ad never shows any of the people above the chin, the shots are almost all close-ups of different things, most of them visual metaphors for genitalia: First, a cappuccino machine’s milk steamer is put into a cup of cream; Next, a woman’s muffin is split apart; Then the other woman runs her fingers up and down the very phallic sugar dispenser (which just so happens to have two smaller round creamers right in front of it). Finally, the condom is set against the sugar and creamers, just in case you missed it the first time. I confess to not catching these the first handful of times I saw the ad, but once I saw one, I saw them all, and my jaw was agape.
In another phallucentric commercial, this one for 7-11, two dudes (trust me, they’re dudes) sit in a car. One guy takes a sip of his Big Gulp and puts it between his legs. He looks down. Man, that’s a Big Gulp. Then he glances over to the passenger side and is dismayed to see that his buddy has a DOUBLE GULP between his legs, which is much larger, and hence, more virile than his soda. The tag line comes in, "No matter how big your thirst".... they should just go ahead and add "or COCK!" Hell, why didn’t they try to throw some hot dogs in for good measure?
Health Club ads have been skirting around blatantly touting looking good naked as the primary reason to work out for years... then finally I saw a billboard for a gym that just said, "Look Good Naked." Now that the gloves are off (or on, if they’re extended pleasure gloves), all pretense is gone. One club (I don’t remember which, sorry, adfolk) commercial shows a couple actually having sex. No nudity is shown, of course (we’re still behind Europe in that regard), but the couple is most definitely engaged in a coital act. When it’s over, the guy leans back, exhausted, the woman’s feet by his head, and the announcer says something about working out enabling you to have better sex. But I thought that sex WAS working out! You mean I have to do MORE?
A recent ad on The New National Network for a showing of THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER PART II pictured, get this, a bunch of kids gyrating in a dance club while the movie played on big screens above them. It’s perhaps the most dissonant marketing I’ve ever seen, but I guess the lack of much exposed flesh other than Richard Castellano’s man-boobs left TNN with no other choice. Dammit, if THE GODFATHER ain’t sexy enough, then show sexy people dancing in front of it!! This from the network that proudly touts itself as "Bigger, Younger, Richer," and ran a spot that referred to its new logo as "phallic." Another promo asks the question, "Would you fuck a female Klingon?" Okay, not in so many words, but that’s the thrust (pardon me) of the gag.
It’s a natural evolution that as you age, advertising should become increasingly alien to you; The idea is, the older you get, the less disposable income you have, the less crap advertisers can cajole you into buying. Ma and Pa Kettle can write all the angry letters they want about Bob Dole and Britney Spears sharing a Pepsi shill. If they’re out of the demographic, they don’t mean a thing. While I’m not Grampasimpsonesque enough to be offended by these commercials, I am most certainly bemused. I just hope we never see the day where the Jolly Green Giant shows us his enormous niblets.
ORIGINALLY POSTED on CHEEKYMONKEY, Summer 2002