KABOOM! So It Has Come To This: The Book-Of-The-Month TV Commercial

We have discussed here the increasingly common phenomenon of companies building their TV ads on the juvenile gag of suggesting a vulgar, obscene or rude word, or a topic not discussed publicly in polite society but not really saying what is clearly implied.

Kraft Heinz Company advertised its products with a TV ad in which a boss caught  his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch, with the tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.” Get it? HAR! Heineken featured a gay-themed beer ad about “flipping another man’s meat”–“Huh? It’s just barbecue! You must have a dirty mind!.” Wonderful Pistachios uses “nuts” as sexual innuendo, Booking.com uses “booking” in phrases suggesting “fucking,” and K-Mart uses “ship” to suggest “shit.” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups has run commercial featuring the tags Women want like to make it last…Men are done in seconds…Typical.”  Last year, Volkswagen had Dean Martin crooning about “The Birds and the Bees”  while we see a VW bouncing up and down as the couples within engage in vigorous sexual intercourse, unless they are tying to use pogo sticks.

This is corporate America accelerating the coarsening and vulgarizing society, endangering manners, and helping to make boors out of our children. Quoting Ethics Alarms quoting Ethics Alarms the last time I wrote about this:

Ethics dictates that one communicates with respect for anyone within hearing distance, and unless ugly words serve a material purpose, using them is not the mark of a good citizen, a good neighbor, or a trustworthy human being. Nor is spouting vulgarity witty, and unless you are 11, and employing obvious code words that sound like curses, epithets and obscenities isn’t especially funny either, since we pretty much exhausted the possibilities at summer camp. I have no idea why anyone would want to recast the culture as a place where professionals curse like sailors and the words “fuck” and “cocksucker” are as likely to issue from a debutante’s lips as those of a hip hop artist, but that seems to be the objective now.

So what, you may ask, prompted me to return to this topic?  My head just exploded, that’s what.I just watched a new commercial for the Book-of-the-Month Club in which the hilarious gimmick is that viewers are led to believe that a series of women are talking about getting their period—“No, I had a great time, but I can’t come up to your apartment…it’s that time of the month!”… “When I get it, it’s always so heavy!”…. “Do you really still get it, grandma?”

Ick, ew, gross, inappropriate, gratuitous, vulgar, rude, stupid, not clever, and about as unrelated to the product as I could imagine. Maybe this connection would be arguably apt for the Gynecology Book of the Month. On second thought, not even then. I think I can fairly say that President Trump is no longer primarily responsible for turning us into a nation of assholes.  There are too many others working overtime to accomplish the same dubious objective.

30 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Kaboom!, language

30 responses to “KABOOM! So It Has Come To This: The Book-Of-The-Month TV Commercial

  1. Arthur in Maine

    Had you been watching the Superbowl, Jack, you would have seen a Febreeze spot centered around the “Man Whose S**t don’t stink” and an M&Ms ad featuring Danny DeVito walking up to complete strangers and asking “Do you want to eat me?”

    I wish I was making this up, but I’m not.

  2. Chris marschner

    I wondered when you were going to weigh in on this commercial.

    These commercials would never see the light of day if marketing data suggested we would find it vulgar and bad taste. On the contrary, the data suggests that many find these messages cute and funny.

    Such commercials supports my thesis that Trump is reflective of us and not the reason our society is what it is. I will say now that Trump is president should not reinforce vulgar behavior. We need no help in coarsening our culture.

  3. One things I noticed and have mentioned a few times in respect to the Ethics Alarms blog and, naturally, the people who participate in it, is that it often clearly distinguishes a situation or event in which an ethical issue is brought out and then it successfully and interestingly provokes an examination of the problem or issue. Yet what I notice as well is that the issue is not brought out in a larger context. Or, the larger context is rarely explored. The reason why it is not explored is more interesting and it seems to me more important than what is allowed to be explored or what is acceptable. I can think of two instances and I will mention them.

    In this present instance it is noticed that advertising is incorporating vulgarity. But it is really far more than that, at least as I see things. What is the real issue? The real issue is the pornographication of culture. It is, I think this is true, coming about because this is the sort of things you-plural have allowed to go on. It is certainly true (as I have scoldingly said) that ‘it is your generation that has allowed these levels of moral and ethical corruption to creep in’ and I think that this is a necessary stance to take. In my view, though it is not appreciated much here, ‘the pornographication of culture’ connects to sexual expression of many sorts and also extends to ‘the homosexualization of culture’.

    There is an active agent, either in the business culture itself, or perhaps in academic culture, that has set in motion these pornographic processes. And just as media culture and Hollywood has gotten continuingly infected with this material (which I assume *you* find titillating and exciting and do not oppose), similarly one can now notice the insinuation of homosexuality into the culture-productions. It becomes visible, included, and influential thereby. Normalized. But behind these appearances, behind this increasing in-flux, stands something far more raw, far more brutal, far more elemental, far more powerful and influential, and that is ‘the pornographic’, a truly ugly and vile *world*. And what *you* do has world-scale ramifications.

    It is a destructive infection of culture that has astounding effects and implications. But this statement, which should be understood facially as true, is not seen that way at all. Just yesterday there was an article in the NYTs that proposes courses, according to the article, to help kids to critically examine what is brought to them through pornography. But there you have the normalization of pornography and it admits that porn and all that is attendent on it is now a feature of the culture, has now been normalized.

    That’s today. And what will happen, because there is no one and no force to put a stop to it, to challenge it, is that the entire process of the unleashing of sexual passion (what should it be called?) will simply and inevitably continue. This cannot be understood as a healthy process, nor can it be described as a ‘good’, and it is doubtful that there will be an upside. It will simply go on from this point into different and now-forbidden categories.

    Why is this happening? Who has put it in motion? What exactly happened that has allowed this and so many of the attendent features of aberration to become manifest and powerful? If one cannot see that, describe it and understand it, what use is a local and topographical conversation about the ethics therein? There has to be a more philosophical praxis and certainly a moral one.

    My other example has to do with the Hunchback of Notre Dame casting issue. Depending on how one frames a conversation about it, and what about it one allows to be included or excluded, the issue will be topographic and limited, or meta-cultural and meta-political. Today, also on the front page (of my iPhone in any case), there is an article that reports on the fact that The Daily Stormer and other web-based message boards picked up on this local Ithica event and are seeing it in a specific light. It had been discussed here on EA but very superficially. But I would suggest that the core issue is far larger and more important, and cannot really be brought out for discussion, because it deals on a very uncomfortable and discomfiting topic.

    To conclude I therefor suggest that if one is to consider, really consider, an ephemeral ethical issue, one must take into consideration and allow into the discussion a great deal more than what is allowed and not only here on EA but within these sorts of conversations in all media, on all blogs and forums. I suggest that the entire conversation needs to become philosophical.

    Therefor and once again I refer to a new movement within politics and culture which, as should be evident now, is gaining ground. Before it was unknown. Now its influence is being felt and noticed. The New European Right has influenced the New American Right, and this movement and the people in it are beginning to come forward in culture and to have their say about things. But in order to have this large and important conversation the confining limitations imposed on this conversation need to be be breached. The present ‘establishment’ does all in its power to restrain the conversation, to control its limits. It is easy to see: they refer to the ideas and views being explored as ‘far-right’ or ‘extreme’ (and neo-Nazi et cetera et cetera).

    In order to have a really meaningful conversation about these two topics, those I just broached (and many many others), all the restraints need to be be removed through conscious choice. And when this happens, I further suggest, a meaningful battle will come out into the open. It is not one that will be without effect. It is not one that will simply be ‘pleasantly discussed’, but rather when the real conversation gets articulated one will have to take sides. And since it is, really, a meta-political struggle and civilizational struggle it will not be free of conflict and veritable enmity

    • Comment of the Day, Alizia, and this time, not as a set-up.

      • Good comment.

        When you correct her typos, I recommend replacing “you-plural” with the grammatically sound term “y’all”, which Texans added to the vocabulary to fix the inexplicable error that English allowed to occur.

        • Thank you Tex.

          It is a curious thing, that you dropped the use of the second person singular and informal in English and kept only the plural form. I have often wondered why that is.

          In addition to y’all, which is a good one, there is ‘yous’ and possible ‘youse’. I’ve heard a boxing trainer use yous-guys which seemed interesting.

          • (Spanish is in the same process…nearing completion of dropping the 2nd person plural in common speech, and among my Mexican co-workers, the 3rd person plural conjugations are awkwardly becoming the respectful way to use verbs describing the action of the 2nd person)

            “yous” and “youse guys” is a northeastern pidgin corruption of understandable English. No self-respecting English speaker would use them.

          • And to be clear though, we didn’t drop the 2nd person singular…we dropped the word we used for the 2nd person singular while the curious thing was that the 2nd person plural slipped into that function while performing awkward double duty in it’s original role of 2nd person plural, where increasingly, additional words were required to be clear about the plurality of the 2nd person (i.e. “you men” or “you girls”, etc…from which we recognized the ubiquity and gender neutrality of “you all” and backwards engineered “yall”).

            • Tex; the burning question: is the plural “y’alls,” “all y’all,” “all y’alls?”

              • “y’all” is the 2nd person plural pronoun.

                “all y’all” is improper redneck speech of far East Texas which buries a redundancy. You will not find a refined English speaker who says that.

                “y’all’s” is the proper 2nd person plural possessive pronoun, as in “y’all’s cow got into my pasture” and “I see y’all’s son’s eyes are crossed again”.

          • With all due respect, it’s you’s guys.

            “Youse” & ”youses” are Yooper (MI Upper Peninsula, or “Superior,” the 51st state, depending on youse audience) terms.

            With Up Nort blood surging through my veins and impacting every fiber of my existence, I…um…youse ’em all the time.

  4. Other Bill

    Compare and contrast these two statements:

    “If a driver can put a sign in his rear view mirror or a bumper sticker on her bumper without state sanctions, then a driver should be able to have whatever he or she chooses on a vanity plate.”

    “Ethics dictates that one communicates with respect for anyone within hearing distance, and unless ugly words serve a material purpose, using them is not the mark of a good citizen, a good neighbor, or a trustworthy human being.”

    25 points.

    • Isaac

      Everyone has the constitutional right to free speech, including unethical speech. Ethics and law are two different things.
      Did I get all 25 points?

  5. Off topic, but in KABOOM territory.

    Anyone see this?

    #MeToo movement lawmaker investigated for sexual misconduct allegations. California legislator cut national profile as activist against sexual harassment.”

    “She (California 58th district Assemblywoman/Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Natural Resources Committee Chair Cristina Garcia) came back and was whispering real close and I (lobbyist speaking on condition of anonymity) could smell the booze and see she was pretty far gone,’’ he said. “She looked at me for a second and said, “I’ve set a goal for myself to fuck you.”

    ”At that point, Garcia ‘stepped in front of me and reaches out and is grabbing for my crotch,’ ”

    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/08/cristina-garcia-california-metoo-398985

  6. Chris

    I think you’re making an unfair conflation between innuendo and outright vulgarity. Innuendo isn’t obscene or vulgar.

    • Innuendo isn’t obscene or vulgar.” (bold mine)

      Just like L.B.J., in spanish it is…

    • An assertion that is factually false, and another example of your habitual humpty-dumptyism. When one intentionally makes a listener see, hear and think obscene or vulgar words, images or events, that is an obscene innuendo. The definition of innuendo is, “an allusive or oblique remark or hint, typically a suggestive or disparaging one.” An innuendo that conveys an insult is an insulting innuendo. Now what do we call an innuendo that conveys an obscenity with out explicitly stating it, class?

    • Arthur in Maine

      “Well, you know what they say… love flies out the door when money comes innuendo.” – Groucho Marx

  7. Son of Maimonides

    The other examples you cited made reference to vulgar words or sexual acts, the present ad, in contrast, only makes reference to … menstruation (the horror). “Ewww … Ick … Vulgar”? How is a natural biological process experienced monthly by some 51% of the population below the age of 60 either of those? Or is it merely the joking about it that makes in offensive?
    Would fart jokes fall into the same category as vulgar? What about burping? Does urination cross the line? If so, why? Because the bodily act now involves genitalia? I realize it’s obnoxious to make points by asking a series of rhetorical questions, but such is not the case here — all of these are asked in earnest.

    Is it more acceptable to use attractive models to suggest sex than actively make reference to it? I ask because many of the same complaints as presented above were similarly used to attack this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XnzfRqkRxU) ad, (which DID involve feminine hygiene products). In your view, does this cross the line? Where is the line?

    I invite your thoughtful response. Thank you.

    • My thoughtful response is that, like urinating, vomiting and defecating, such bodily functions are not discussed at meals, in public, among mixes groups, in front of children, or on afternoon TV. It’s called respect, manners, civility and common sense. I knew someone would try to defend this.

      • Son of Maimonides

        I believe we’re already encountered a miscommunication (my apologies) as I’m not defending the ad, merely trying to understand where the lines of vulgarity fall. As clearly stated, I don’t necessarily disagree with your assertions, I just fail to see the bright line that distinguishes between the categories, and I would appreciate your elucidation. Ignorance, yes, but not willful

        At meals would seem to make sense since many of the above acts run directly contrary to the activity at hand (consumption of food as opposed to it’s expulsion), but why not “in public” or “to children”? And why differentiate urination, vomiting, and defecating — because they involve “private parts”? If so, is farting included?

        Are the above not even okay to joke about?

        • Son of Maimonides

          Do you consider the “Camp Gyno” ad vulgar or otherwise inappropriate?

          • I don’t care for the use of juvenile performers in material like that. But the topic of the ad is the topic of the ad. Has it ever been on TV? Not on anything I’ve watched. As an internet ad, the standards are different.

            But its not relevant. The ad doesn’t use intentionally vulgar fakeouts unrelated to the actual product or service being advertised. Thus we are not talking about gratuitous crudeness.

            • Son of Maimonides

              I don’t consider the ads synonymous; it’s only relevance was to better understand your baseline. Will answers to my other questions be forthcoming, or is this a topic you have no interest in explaining at length?

              The reason I ask is that my question still remains: Why is making a joke about menstruation crude? It’s a natural process, and not a particularly “gross” one at that. Defecation, urinating, and farting produce noises, sights, and smells which are unpleasant. On the reverse, menstruation produces blood and small amounts of uterine tissue — I’ve seen wounds that are far more disturbing to look at.

              You’ve previously bemoaned news sources which censor “disturbing” images of accidents because of concern for “public viewing.” I find many of those far more difficult to look at and hear about than paid spokespeople joking about their “time of the month.” I realize those are in the context of news as opposed to advertising or entertainment, but they’re nonetheless broadcast to largely the same audiences (the news is sponsored by advertisements, after all).

              As a last point, though unconnected with the point of the ad, much of the humor arises from the fact that so often references to menstruation ARE censored (even in ads ABOUT menstruation products) by referring to it as “that time of the month.” In other words, it would seem that the ad is mocking the very thing you’re attacking it for displaying.

              • I think your questions are interesting; it’s just that I am juggling multiple posts here. I’ll try to cover the rest.

              • I had never seen the Camp Gyno ads till today, but I think one could critique them ferociously. But I would start from a position that defines radical opposition to mass advertising as a starting point. That in itself is a radical position and turns against layer after layer of American assertions about public relations and propaganda. I think the PR industry is and should be seen as insidious. But the truth is that PR and propaganda have become so woven into American culture (since around the time of the First WW) that it would be, effectively, impossible to separate the Culture from the Industry.

                Advertising and PR function through basic sophistries. I use the term sophistry in a manner as close to that of the Greeks as possible. I oppose ‘sophistry’ with philosophy and genuine concern for and involvement with ideas. Advertising is a form of extreme sophistry and it is, right at its core, a very sophisticated (sophistic) lying and deception. Similar to sophistry —- that is a lie that is made to seem a truth —- there is a Greek word ‘dolos’ which means ‘trap’. In order to get the victim into your ‘trap’ it requires the bait of sophistry. You can likely see where I am going with this.

                Advertising, PR and Propaganda are acutely and incontrovertably associated with lies and deceptions, yet they become socially acceptable in our present. Indeed people even discuss the SuperBowl ads, and critique them. This seems particularly perverse to me as I do not think the prey should cooperate so readily with the predator!

                The Camp Gyno ads are insidious for a number of reasons. One is quite obvious: they involve overt and absolute lies from the start to the end. Getting a period is never like that, nor will it ever be like that. It is not related to in that way at any level, ever. Therefor the ad starts within a sphere of sheer lie, sheer misrepresentation. This should be obvious to anyone with two eyes in their head. Any person with a modicum of intelligence could ‘dismantle’ the sophistries in these ads. I would regard them as bordering on abusive.

                The other aspect is that mass advertising, because it is exactly that, creates vast memes which are then received by the passive audience. These ads create memes and tropes which, deceptive and non-truthful as they are, are sent out as mass-messages, and this will tend to create a universal image about something (first periods in this case) which reduces it to stupidity, to superficiality, to sameness, to a joke. This demonstrates, quite obviously I think, the insidiousness of those who design these benign-resounding ads: they have a purpose and an intentionality that is disguised and they manipulate your mind, and your feelings I suppose, to suck you in to a false world … and I gather this is so that they can subscribe you up to sell you these products. There is something rather wicked there, at least from a ‘philosophical perspective’.

                Though I suppose I could find and to a certain degree ‘appreciate’ the humor in the Book Club ads, I personlly find myself resisting having my personal and biological functions, and those relative to procreation, become light memes to be seen and discussed —- and shared —- in the public sphere. I’d rather that it not come up. But then again: it is simply a tool to capture and ‘trap’ focus and consciousness (the reference to the period) in a cloying effort to get women (I gather) to sign up for a Book Club. Given my own nature I guess I just do not like to be manipulated.

                The natural world, and the creatures in it, in order to get what they want and need from other creatures, resort to very involved and sophisticated trickery and deception. Whether it is chemical or visual deception, or appearing as one is not, or craftily manipulating other beings with a promise or a hope, the natural world is a deceptive and entraping one.

                At one time we deliberately educated our youth so they would be guileless and sincere. This really had become a feature of our Paideia. Within Platonic philosophy —- the Republic for example and also in the Laws —- one teaches the citizen and children to be upright, honest, forthright and non-guileful. But in creating that decent person one creates a person who is easy to manipulate: he or she simply is not on the lookout for a wolf and a wolf’s trickeries!

                A consumer culture (what a vile term when you think it through) is a culture of easily manipulated people who do not have well-established defenses against those who, essentially, prey on their gullibility. Unless I am mistaken and am seeing things cynically! When that culture has been created one has really created a danger. Because they have been trained to respond not to ‘high truths’ and also philosophically and thoughtfully, but by the degree to which they cooperate with the predators who herd them like aphids.

                [There is a further argument I could broach along the lines of ‘The Eternal Woman’ of Gertrude von le Fort. It is an argument that would be described as regressive and anti-feministic and touches on woman’s ‘symbolical representation’ as necessarily ‘veiled’. It is rather simple I suppose, but certainly not a popular idea, and it is that the inner aspect of woman is something mysterious because it is velied or hidden from too direct view. When women lose their veil, as it were, they become too exposed and in that exposure something essential about femininity is lost. Women, for different reasons, have been brought out of their former hidden and mysterious situation and asked or forced to perform in the same domain as men. The mysteries of gestation and birth is I suppose what I am talking about. Again, von le Fort’s ideas and argument are very contrary to most people’s ideas about The Present … so forget I brought it up!]

  8. Isaac

    There is a strain of thinking (a very popular one) which says that not only is vulgarity acceptable, it should be encouraged, because it offends the status quo or something.

    I can easily define vulgarity, and explain why I don’t think it should be used much. Vulgarity is broadly defined as the way that angry, stupid, drunk people talk.

    It is not wise to hold up angry, stupid, and drunk people as the exemplars to which our speech aspires. It would we wise to do the exact opposite. I hate to keep harping on hipster millennials, but they’re exactly the crowd that generally doesn’t understand this, and thinks that they’ve discovered some sort of glitch in culture that only they can see the foolishness of. “Hey, why does everyone have a problem with cussing? It’s just words!”

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