Hallucinating housewives

I’m amazed/disturbed by the shear (sheer?) number of advertisemens for household products that feature housewives interacting with non-existant critters. Nothing like holding a conversation with Mr. Clean after he magically wipes your counters shiny clean. Or taking advice from the Arm & Hammer Ampersand regarding how to make things smell nice. Or vaccuums (sp?) that talk to you, or smile, or some other such audio-visual hallucination. Are these sly throwbacks to some unforunate side effects of Mother’s Little Helpers? Or simply an effort to create a Fantasia out of housework? I guess on one hand the actual effects of cleaner X vs. Cleaner Y are really boring, and so having some sort of character spices things up. But compared to other industries, there seems to be a preponderance of hallucinatory critters selling their services to housewives. At least in children’s toy advertising, there’s often a ‘snap-back’ scene where we see that the kids are playing with a real toy, imagining the wondrous adventures of whomever. But advertising that seems targeted to housewives never gets that. It’s simply a given that TV housewives see imaginary critters, and don’t question that they’re real.

10 Replies to “Hallucinating housewives”

  1. Whatever happened to that great ad where the housewives get together and have vaccum cleaner races in a basement? It had the dubious honor of containing this line: “It’s the perfect marriage of woman and machine. It can be a beautiful thing.” Of course, taken out of context that sounds like it’s advertising some *ahem* other product, but as a play on typical NASCAR interviews, that’s pretty excellent…

  2. Whatever happened to that great ad where the housewives get together and have vaccum cleaner races in a basement? It had the dubious honor of containing this line: “It’s the perfect marriage of woman and machine. It can be a beautiful thing.” Of course, taken out of context that sounds like it’s advertising some *ahem* other product, but as a play on typical NASCAR interviews, that’s pretty excellent…

  3. Sorry boys, I know that you all are liberal types who, by no means, think that a woman’s place is in the home cooking, cleaning and raising babies, but I am much more concerned that even today home-focused advertising is still targeted at women.

    I think that after all day working, driving the kids around, figuring out what’s for dinner, making it, etc they’re so goddamned happy to get some help with or minor recognition for household chores they’re willing to suspend reality a little and interact with something they know can’t really be there.

    Or maybe not, this may just be my knee-jerk feminist reaction to men discussing housewives (a word that I particularly abhor).

  4. Sorry boys, I know that you all are liberal types who, by no means, think that a woman’s place is in the home cooking, cleaning and raising babies, but I am much more concerned that even today home-focused advertising is still targeted at women.

    I think that after all day working, driving the kids around, figuring out what’s for dinner, making it, etc they’re so goddamned happy to get some help with or minor recognition for household chores they’re willing to suspend reality a little and interact with something they know can’t really be there.

    Or maybe not, this may just be my knee-jerk feminist reaction to men discussing housewives (a word that I particularly abhor).

  5. Yeah – I decided that the whole targeting housewives was somewhat hors sujet for this little rant. However, I did specifically use the word housewives to indicate the distaste I feel for the advertising. But you have a valid point there, m’dear. What’s really humorous and gross is that in the few adverts where the husband does something, he could like pick up a candy wrapper, and his wife praises him to no end. Also, many pre-prepared meals target men who have to survive when their wife’s not there to feed them – she’s working late, or away, or somesuch. So still feeding on the same principles. There was an ad for Pine Fresh, or something, that had a guy doing the cleaning, without reference to his wife’s pride, but that’s the only one I can think of.

  6. Yeah – I decided that the whole targeting housewives was somewhat hors sujet for this little rant. However, I did specifically use the word housewives to indicate the distaste I feel for the advertising. But you have a valid point there, m’dear. What’s really humorous and gross is that in the few adverts where the husband does something, he could like pick up a candy wrapper, and his wife praises him to no end. Also, many pre-prepared meals target men who have to survive when their wife’s not there to feed them – she’s working late, or away, or somesuch. So still feeding on the same principles. There was an ad for Pine Fresh, or something, that had a guy doing the cleaning, without reference to his wife’s pride, but that’s the only one I can think of.

  7. I think there’s even worse lying beneath the surface of those ads. At the risk of getting all uber-feministy, have you noticed that the little helper products are all male? So despite everything we’ve been through, here in the 21st century there is still a Given that women spend their days cleaning up after hubby and kids, that her priorities are with spots and germs, that she’s either a little simple or hopped up on prescription drugs, and her persistent fantasies are that she will get a little guidance from her male helper, the cleaning product. Gee, Betty doesn’t know what to do about those spots, but big strong Mr. Clean has all the answers, and he can help her not only do her duty, but enjoy doing it as well.

    The thing is that advertisers don’t consciouly think about this when they’re writing the ads. They just make assumptions, the same way they would to make the sky blue or give the archetypal home a pointed roof. That’s why it’s so insidious: they don’t think about it and most of the time, neither does the public.

    Now I’m going to get really ranty, and say that this is what really pisses me off about the failure of the feminist movement, and in many ways it did fail. The things you can say and represent about women would be considered completely reprehensible if said or represented about a black person. Imagine those ads where the woman is always black and the helper is always white. I think people would fuckin notice. I’m not saying that there’s not still a huge amount of colour discrimination in the entertainment media, just that there’s way more outdated assumptions made about women and people just accept it.

  8. I think there’s even worse lying beneath the surface of those ads. At the risk of getting all uber-feministy, have you noticed that the little helper products are all male? So despite everything we’ve been through, here in the 21st century there is still a Given that women spend their days cleaning up after hubby and kids, that her priorities are with spots and germs, that she’s either a little simple or hopped up on prescription drugs, and her persistent fantasies are that she will get a little guidance from her male helper, the cleaning product. Gee, Betty doesn’t know what to do about those spots, but big strong Mr. Clean has all the answers, and he can help her not only do her duty, but enjoy doing it as well.

    The thing is that advertisers don’t consciouly think about this when they’re writing the ads. They just make assumptions, the same way they would to make the sky blue or give the archetypal home a pointed roof. That’s why it’s so insidious: they don’t think about it and most of the time, neither does the public.

    Now I’m going to get really ranty, and say that this is what really pisses me off about the failure of the feminist movement, and in many ways it did fail. The things you can say and represent about women would be considered completely reprehensible if said or represented about a black person. Imagine those ads where the woman is always black and the helper is always white. I think people would fuckin notice. I’m not saying that there’s not still a huge amount of colour discrimination in the entertainment media, just that there’s way more outdated assumptions made about women and people just accept it.

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