Crest in 3D

Arrgh.

The moment where if you have to explain why something is offensive, it means it can’t be explained. Well, mostly it means the non-offended will likely continue blinking blankly at you post explanation.

So, when the new Crest 3D Arctic Fresh Toothpaste commercial didn’t elicit the “WTF?” reaction I expected on Facebook, I simply rolled my eyes and, without bothering to rattle off an explanation, turned to Twitter. Responses there were varied, hilarious and full of dropped jaws. I felt a little better. For a second. And then I was irritated again.

Ok, clearly I’m still irritated. It took me a minute to figure out why. I concede up front that commercials are always assholes, so why bother being offended? It’s just toothpaste and it’s over in thirty seconds.

I just keep hearing the narrator…

“He could be the one: soul mate, husband, loving father to your children…but first you’ve got to get him to say hello.”

Seriously? Are my teeth going to mesmerize him? Ok, I’ll play along and assume they are. Look into my teeth…I will now trick you into becoming a husband and loving father. Because that’s what women are up to nowadays.

Wait, what?

Isn’t that what we were up to 50 years ago in these barely believable ads?

My favorites include:

  • “You mean a woman can open it?” Gasp! The thought of a woman opening her very own ketchup bottle!
  • “Keep up with the house while you keep down your weight!” Perfect! Those dishes aren’t going to clean themselves; when I fuel up with Total cereal I won’t have to worry about packing on extra pounds and being undesirable to my husband!
  • “WIVES. Look this ad over carefully. Circle the items you want for Christmas. Show it to your husband. If he does not go to the store immediately, cry a little. Not a lot. Just a little. He’ll go, he’ll go.” No comment.

No, that last one is not from Family Guy despite the Peter-esque cadence. Those are all real, ladies and gentlemen. And at the time, a very small minority thought to be offended, just as very few viewers looked up during the Crest 3D ad. We rarely notice things that reinforce our culture as we know it.

So, of course people aren’t offended. Why would they see something askew in those brief thirty seconds? It’s not a novel notion that a woman would consider mate shopping while she’s toiletry shopping. Our culture is still built around the notion that my primary goal as a woman is to become a wife and then a mother. Should I also decide to “have it all” and attempt a career alongside wifedom and motherhood, well that’s just the frosting on the cake I’ll be baking in my kitchen where I belong.

And if the gentlemen thought any of those ads were unfair to them as well, good call. Things for you all have narrowed a bit, but I wouldn’t say they’ve changed much. Your role has evolved from provider on a pedestal to hapless sap dragged around by your genitals like a frontiersman with a divining rod.

No, the procreation prompting promotional material definitely isn’t aimed only at women, as I was quickly reminded by “Jamaan Challenger” in the best Twitter response ever: “Who has time to trap men with Crest?Already tired from catching blonds after I moisturise.” Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula For Men clearly invokes the primal urge to literally catch a blonde.

And why not? If I can use whitening toothpaste to trap you into marriage, why shouldn’t you be able to use a moisturizer to attract the glance that provokes my white-tooth-filled-man-ensnaring smile? Makes perfect sense.

Perhaps it’s being unmarried and childless in my thirties that make me more receptive to the nuances of cultural assumptions. I’m the target of both well-intentioned and judgmental assessments of my life. It turns out I don’t want children and have no desire to get married – both completely unbelievable to just about everyone. As the years go by, the “oh you’ll change your mind” approach from my twenties is evolving into confused looks of sympathy paired with “well, you just haven’t met the right one yet.”

No, I definitely have. There have actually been a couple right ones in the sense people usually mean, which makes me luckier than most. And now, I’m surrounded by right ones – the amazing people I call my closest friends. Thankfully, one has even given me a fantastically adorable little girl I’m honored to call my niece.

So, kiss my ass, Crest. Colgate has a pretty reasonable looking whitening mouthwash I want to try…

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Categories: Finding My Voice

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3 replies

  1. I don’t recall exactly where we met, but it certainly wasn’t in the toiletries department; more likely a picket line some where. ;-)

  2. I realize I am way late in responding to this… but: Oh how I miss our morningly office political banter! Adam and I were just talking about this very subject the other day after the Crest commercial (and again when he found those bow-down-to-your-man propaganda).

    Fantastic read, Katie!

    • Thanks, lady! It’s never too late. Fortunately (unfortunately?!), most of my stuff from last year is still relevant. I’m working on adding updates where needed to make sure that stays true, but things haven’t changed much.
      I’m glad to hear your other half shook his head the way we did!

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