A balm for the soul

3 04 2009

I absolutely guarantee that this is the best two four minutes you will spend all day:



I’m not funny.

2 03 2009

The tired theme that women aren’t funny gets some new life in today’s Guardian, with Germaine Greer trying her hand at the famously explosive topic. Greer’s strategy seems to be to mitigate the objections of ladybloggers and assorted other wimminfolk by following each absurd assertion (“Women are about as funny as a botched colostomy”) with some half-hearted apologia (“But that’s only because they don’t want to be!”).

“Women famously cannot learn jokes,” Greer writes. “If they try, they invariably bugger up the punchline. The male teller of jokes is driving towards his reward, the laughter of his mates. The woman who messes up the same joke does so because her concentration is not sharpened by that need. She is not less intelligent, simply less concerned.”

Oh Germiane, you caught me. Try as I might to tell a good chuckler, my lady brain invariably gets distracted by more pressing issues, like hairstyles and sewing notions.

Wait, though. Greer then backpedals a bit and asserts that women actually can deliver jokes, we just can’t think them up:

“Given an opportunity to perform a finished comedy routine, a female comedian will make you laugh as hard as any man. Put her in an improvisation situation along with male comedians, and she is likely to be left speechless.”

Where the logic of Greer’s argument falls apart is when she moves from moderately fact-based Assertion One, “There are more funny men in entertainment than there are funny women” to unsupported, overreaching Assertion Two, “Men are naturally funnier than women.”

I think that if it is true, at least on average, that a woman is less likely than a man to get a laugh, it’s because boys are raised to attract attention, while girls are brought up to deflect it. All jokes, gags and innuendos basically say the same thing: Look at me. And on the whole, men are more comfortable in the spotlight, possibly because they don’t have an entire entertainment industry firing mortars at their self-worth from the time they pick up a crayon.

I wish there were more funny women. There certainly are a few. It isn’t easy being a woman who’s more piss and vinegar than sugar and spice in a society that still values doe-eyed deference far more than we’d like to admit, and given the choice, I’d much rather laugh than drink, cry and cut myself.

I just hope I won’t be laughing alone.

Only you can help prevent skidmarks.

23 12 2008

Thanks to The Dateable Dork for inspiring this post, in which we investigate the horror that is the Charmin Bears.

My favorite Charmin Bears ad is, unfortunately, not available online anywhere (yes, I checked YouTube, helper), but it is pitching a new line of pre-moistened toilet paper with the tagline “You’re not done yet!” which I take to mean “There’s still a little shit on your ass!” I really do pity the poor agency staffers who had to sit down and create daytime-friendly advertising for a product designed specifically to remove annoying stuck-on fecal matter, one can only imagine the spots that didn’t get green-lit.

Not everyone is as forgiving. Kate, from Tiny Pineapple, comments on Jodiverse.com:

I ABHOR, DETEST and REVILE the fucking SHITTING “Charmin” bears. Seriously, who still thinks that this ad campaign should continue (and CONTINUE and CONTINUE ad nauseum). GOD – the MUSIC, the stinginess of that fucking parent bear (four squares???? FOUR SQUARES????? I don’t care is NASA made the toilet tissue; sometimes you need more than FOUR FUCKING SQUARES), the smug “post-shitting” look of satisfaction on the faces of these wretched ursine creatures – EVERYTHING. OH – and don’t get me started on the DUCK. We, evidently, were lulled into a complacent daze where four sheets of magic toilet tissue was PLENTY to “do the job” (no pun intended) and THEN, that fucking quacker insists that we need special WET WIPES just to make certain that we are SQUEAKIN’ CLEAN. Perhaps if the fucking miserly Pappa bear would dole out more than FOUR SHEETS OF TOILET TISSUE that whiney little cub wouldn’t NEED specialized MOIST shit wipes. Or get a fucking BIDET.

Besides, if I wanted to see a bear SHIT IN THE WOODS, I could find a forest nearby where there are ACTUAL BEARS. Yes, I might suffer an untimely death, but if somehow I made a bargain with the Universe that my untimely death would stop Charmin from running those FUCKING SHITTING BEAR COMMERCIALS, I might just consider it a “good death.”

Hear hear, Kate. Hear, hear.

And lest you fail to grasp the horror, here’s another Charmin Bears spot featuring the hilarious perils of leftover toilet paper bits:

Smells meaty

17 12 2008

Still looking for the perfect gift for the piece of meat on your Christmas list? Consider “Flame,” Burger King’s newest, uh, fragrance that promises an alluring eau de Whopper, which is known to drive the ladies wild, according to some dude in Boston, named Salami.

Just please don’t wear it to the dog park.


Five Dollar Footlong vs. Saved by Zero

20 11 2008

Since the days of Burma-Shave and the Victrola, advertisers have used jingles to worm their way into their customers’ conciousness. Advertising has gotten a lot more sophisticated since then, but these insipid anthems still have the power to hijack our brains in a way few other strategies can.

As consumers, we like to think that we’re not so easily manipulated, and maybe you’re not. But try to read the following lines to yourself without also humming the tune:

  • My bologna has a first name, its O-S-C-A-R
  • What would you do for a Klondyke bar?
  • Give me a break, give me a break, break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat Bar


Recently, the Gods of Marketing added two more jingles to our playlist from hell: Subway’s “Five Dollar Footlong” and Toyota’s “Saved by Zero.”

Launched earlier this year, “Five Dollar Footlong” has met with largely good, if exhasperated, reviews. It also seems to have had a dramatic impact on sales of, you guessed it, $5 footlongs.

“Saved by Zero,” on the other hand, has recieved a downright chilly reception. In place of the bemused irritation of the Subway campaign, reactions to “Zero” have been much more hostile. Why?

Read the rest of this entry »

Routan Bust

6 11 2008

Last week, I noted some of the unsettling racial/sexual overtones of the new Axe Dark Temptation campaign. But it’s not surprising I don’t like the ad; I’m nowhere near Axe’s 18-24 year old male target demographic.

Which is what makes CP+B’s recent Volkswagen “Routan Boom” campaign so bizarre. As an educated, solidly middle-class, 26-year-old female who would like to have children in the not terribly distant future and who is, as a matter of fact, actually in the market for a new car, I’m sitting square in the middle of VW’s ideal consumer real estate.

And yet the ads, which should be tailored to appeal to me, instead achieve the unfortunate trifecta of offending, confusing, and utterly creeping me out.

The 30-second spot “Meet Christine” opens with spokesgal Brooke Shields sounding the alarm about a growing “epidemic”:


“There’s an epidemic sweeping our nation. Women everywhere are having babies just to get the new Volkswagen Routan. Take this couple. Christine here is so seduced by German engineering, she’s having a baby just to get it.”



Probably the weirdest note these faux-public service spots, presumably aimed at the educated young women who make up a full 61 percent of the minivan-buying market, hit is the mocking tone they apply to one of the most monumental decisions in a woman’s (or man’s) life: When, or if, she wants to become a parent.

As traditional gender roles begin to thaw, more and more women are agonizing over the choices that come with potential motherhood—Can I keep my career and have a baby? What am I going to do about child care? Can my spouse or I afford to stay home? What if I’m still single, but my biological clock is ticking?

The Routan spots minimize these life-altering moments with a gusto not seen since Coors’ ’07 spot “Pregnancy,” in which the woman’s positive pregnancy test is equated with the changing color of the temperature indicator on the man’s beer.

Interestingly, as I was transcribing the line from the “Christine” spot above, I typed “Couples everywhere are having babies…” before listening again and realizing that it’s not couples, but women. That’s another unsettling aspect: Even though all of the women in the ads are coupled up (Dan Quayle would be proud), it’s always the woman who has initiated the pregnancy, apparently covertly, painting the men as dupes and the women as manipulators.

Also bizarre is the choice of Shields as the face of the “Routan Boom” campaign. In recent years she has spoken publicly about her struggle first with infertility, and then with post-partum depression. Now here she is making a joke about women who approach having babies with the same gravity as changing their hair. What?

Sales figures for the Routan aren’t yet available, but it will be interesting to see if they hit their mark. In portraying women as wonton, overgrown children impulsively having babies to get a new toy, the campaign dismisses the legitimate and pressing concerns of exactly the consumers it’s trying to reach. They’re not just doing a disservice to women, they’re doing a disservice to themselves.

Once You Go Axe, You Never Go Back

23 10 2008

Good news for fraternity brothers, Von Dutch enthusiests and Nickleback fans across America: Unilever has announced plans to release Axe Dark Temptation, a body spray that drives women wild because it smells like chocolate, in the US next month. The Dark Temptation Chocolate Man marketing campaign, which has already raised eyebrows in India and elsewhere, released it’s first US commercial online last month.



This isn’t the first time Unilever has taken some flack for its Axe marketing efforts. Still, there’s something vaguely unsettling about this particular campaign. Something about all of those nice girls… overcome by the ‘dark temptation’… of the chocolate man… whipped into a frenzy of desire… by his big, powerful… fragrance?

Yeah, it’s probably nothing. Anyway, I hear it’s huge in the Netherlands.