Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Something Borrowed–The Commercial

with 4 comments

Yesterday was Sunday, and I had the first really bang-up Sunday I’ve had for a long time.  I had Pachibel, and this book I’m reading, and I cooked something I never had before for dinner–it was almost perfect.  Perfect would be doing all that while looking out at the Pacific on Maui, but most of the time, you can’t have anything.

Anyway, as I said when I started this series of posts, there are, in and among these things I want, some very superficial ones, or at least seemingly superficial ones.

The superficial one for today is:

c) I want and end to the now ubiquitous television commercials about human plumbing.

Back in the Fifties and early Sixties, we used to deplore the crappiness and utter banality of American television, which we all pretty much ascribed to the censorship of both the FCC and the networks’ departments of Standards and Practices.

How could American television be anything else but bland when blue nosed neurotics refused to allow more than a hint or two of real life, and sometimes not even that?

Well, cable television came along and so did paid TV, and what we have is sometimes very good indeed–I recommend Band of Brothers.

Unfortunately, we got something else, and the something else is driving me completely out of my mind.

The biggest offenders in this categories are the commercials for various “colon” products.

Now, we had those in the Fifties, sort of.  But in the Fifties, such commercials would just talk about keeping you “regular,” and trust to the viewer to know what they were talking about.

This viewer often had no idea what they were talking about. 

These days, there’s no room for confusion.  We get diagrams.  We get animation.  We get discussions of just how awful it is to be “slow” and how we should–well, you get the picture.

And it’s not like it’s just one product.  There’s Phillips Colon Health.  There’s Activia Yogurt, which has, for the first time, made me feel that I don’t want to see Jamie Leigh Curtis doing something.  And there are half a dozen more.

I have reached the opinion that there is some virtue in having a class of things that is “just not talked about.”  At least not on television in prime time.

But although the colon commercials are ubiquitous and getting more explicit by the day, the most explicit commericals are aired by law firms putting together or managing the results of class action lawsuits.

In aid of this kind of thing, I have now learned that you can get something put into your body called a “vaginal mesh,” and that meshes can also be installed for bladders, and other things.

And these devices have had a tendency to fail or to call complications, so you want to contact the lawyers involved and see if you qualify as a member of the “class” and are therefore due compensation.

The commercial then provides you with explicit details of what can happen to your vagina or your bladder, with text blocks and sometimes diagrams just so that you won’t mistake what’s going on here.

In fact, as it turns out, a lot of things can happen to your vagina that I never knew were possible, and there is no time of the day or night when somebody doesn’t want to inform you of them.

In detail.

With a voiceover by an announcer who sounds like a refugee from an AIP Vincent Price movie.

I am definitely nostalgic for the days when you couldn’t say “vagina” on TV, or “penis” either. 

I know the baby boom is getting older–but I’m part of the baby boom, I’m smack in the middle of it in fact, and I am not old enough to be obsessed with my internal organs and private parts in this way. 

I will admit that it never occurred to me that the end of censorship would mean the end of being able to watch any commercial TV without blanching.

And no, I don’t think I’m advocating censorship here.  I don’t want the FCC to lower the boom. 

I want a return to a societywide consensus that

d) something things just shouldn’t be said in public.

The social equivalent of the human plumbing commercials on television is the tendency of everybody and anybody to say anything at all, no matter how private.

And with that has come the assumption that if you want privacy, you must be doing something wrong–after all, if you aren’t doing something wrong, why would you care if anybody knew what you were doing?

There is some little resistance to this among people and organizations–the ACLU is one of them–who oppose things like red light camera stops or searches by the TSA.

That resistance rarely extends to things like “oversight” by teachers and workplaces designed to “promote diversity.”   The left is happy to have your privacy invaded in aid of promoting “tolerance.” 

The right seems to be happy to have your privacy invaded in aid of anything else at all.

But all of that bothers me a lot less than the simple assumption of people on the street that we are all supposed to tell everybody everything at all times.  When we don’t want to do this, we are being snobbish, or standoffish–or maybe just generally suspect, because we must be hiding something.

And this assumption colors things like police investigations and jury findings.  How many times have you heard a cop say on one of those true crime programs “she showed no emotion at all”–as if that had to mean she was guilty.

Juries do the same thing.

I come from a long line of people who consider showing one’s emotions in public to be a very Bad Thing, the sign of someone whose emotions are very shallow or faked altogether.

I only have to hope that I’m never on trial for murder.

And this spills over into psychology, too, at least to that practiced by psychologists in schools and other institutions:  if you’re the kind of person who prefers to read on your own rather than play tag at recess, there must be something wrong, it’s a “red flag” and you’re probably either being abused at home or mentally ill.

I was born, I think, just in time–at the beginning of the societal insistance that we all expose all of ourselves all of the time to everybody, but before it got any legal teeth.

Now I’d just like to return to an era when I not only had a “right to privacy” in some esoteric realm, but when people actually respected my privacy and accepted that it was perfectly normal for me to demand it in real life.

Written by janeh

April 23rd, 2012 at 9:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Something Borrowed–The Commercial'

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  1. It won’t help society any, but it might help you: Don’t watch commercial TV unless it has been recorded and you can skip commercials.

    I don’t watch commercial TV or listen to commercial radio, and I was happily unaware of everything you are complaining about.

    As for the other, I am at least training MY school psychologist students to understand and accept introverts and gifted kids and whatnot as normal….

    Cathy F


    23 Apr 12 at 11:20 am

  2. Cathy has a point about the recording. We’ve had DVRs for all our TVs for at least 6 years, it’s the only thing that got us through the last presidential campaign sane. We don’t watch ANY TV that isn’t recorded, even if we have to go away for 20 minutes to record & watch something we stumble across. Just came back from a 2 week vacation, and that was the most dreadful part, commercials! But still, ads are so ubiquitous, you can’t avoid some of them….

    As to the icky content of current commercials, there are in fact still some verboten subjects. Male contraception, for example. It’s okay to talk about getting it hard, but not about keeping it safe. STDs, apart from the occasional herpes treatment, which ads have inexplicably gone away lately.

    To some extent, I blame the increasing ick factor in ads to the changes in our viewing habits. We used to watch TV in company with our parents or children, as a family. You don’t want to be sitting next to your teenage son when a feminine hygiene product ad comes on… or next to your mom when a condom ad airs.

    Now, most people are, I think, watching alone. Of course, some of those ads (like the bladder mesh ones) you don’t even want to know about when you’re alone. But the advertisers seem to think that it’s safe to air gross-out health crap, I guess we’re all suddenly 80 years old and obsessed with our illnesses.


    23 Apr 12 at 3:33 pm

  3. I have to agree with Lymaree abour recorders, I ywatch anything live. And I fast forward through the commercials.

    Australia must be different. I’ve never heard of bladder mesh! My personal dislike is ads for funeral plans. Must be my age showing.


    23 Apr 12 at 5:51 pm

  4. Hmmm. Gave up the satellite dish in spring 2003, when too many programs ended with cliffhangers. Since then, if I want a TV show, I wait for the DVD. Doesn’t sound as though I’m missing anything.

    As I’ve said in other contexts, the vulgarians have won. Oh, the censors will be back. You can no more get rid of censors permanently than you can get rid of thieves, politicians and tax collectors. But they’re not coming back soon, and when they come, they’ll probably censor something I’d rather they didn’t.

    But before I blamed the banality of 50’s and 60’s TV on the censors, I’d take a good look at movies. In writing for adults, Hollywood really seems to have done better with the Hayes office in place than they’ve done since. Not everything that goes wrong is the fault of the official villains.

    I think I’d also ask whether 77 SUNSET STRIP, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE ADDAMS FAMILY and Classic STAR TREK were really more “banal” than DANCING WITH THE STARS, THE AMAZING RACE and SURVIVOR.


    23 Apr 12 at 7:41 pm

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