Illustration: Nicholas Luchak
Boob Tube (GET IT?!) is a recurring feature in which we discuss, you guessed it, TV.
I watch a lot of TV. This means I see a lot of commercials. Some of them practically scream out to be mocked — like, for example, this commercial for Crest 3D White Arctic Fresh Toothpaste.
I usually enjoy critiquing advertising from a feminist perspective (yes I am a bit of a nerd) but this particular commercial just makes me mad. The more times I see it, the angrier I become. I have been known to yell at my TV when it’s on.
In case you’ve yet to encounter it, here’s a summary:
Set to a poignant piano soundtrack, it begins in a generic restaurant. We see a conventionally attractive brunette, white woman watch a conventionally attractive brunette, white man sit down at a nearby table with his male friends.
He makes eye contact and she averts her gaze for a moment before looking back, smiling coyly.
The narration begins: it’s a woman’s voice, speaking earnestly.
“He could be The One. Soul mate.”
The scene switches. Our two beautiful people are now walking through a picturesque urban neighbourhood, the man’s arm draped casually over the woman’s shoulders. Look closely — is that the Eiffel Tower in the background? Why yes it is! They’re walking in Paris BECAUSE LOVE AND ROMANCE.
The narration continues to describe all the ways this random dude in a restaurant is probably The One:
Here we see our happy couple embracing on a sun-kissed beach; the woman is wearing a subtle white veil and looks up at the man (he’s taller than her because OF COURSE) with a glazed expression of bliss.
“Loving father to your children.”
A quick shot of the woman’s hand rubbing her very-pregnant belly cuts away to a shot of the man smiling down at a young, male child.
It’s all so perfect. And it’s here, after this guided visualization of the couple’s perfect life together, that the narrator snaps us back to reality:
“But first, you’ve gotta get him to say hello.”
We’re back in the restaurant for this line. The woman plays with her hair and smiles at the man, who is staring back at her.
The commercial continues with some product shots while the narrator helpfully notes that Crest 3D White Arctic Fresh Toothpaste (JESUS CHRIST COULD THE NAME BE ANY LONGER) will whiten your teeth in just two days.
“What will a 3D White smile do for you?” we’re asked.
We watch as the man comes over and sits down at the woman’s table. Obviously delighted (YOU GUYS HE COULD BE THE ONE), she tilts her head and smiles broadly at him, presenting her beautiful white teeth.
Overtop this exciting development, the narrator delivers the tagline:
“New Crest 3D White Toothpaste. Life opens up when you do!”
Let’s explore all the ways this commercial is the worst, shall we?
First, there’s the implication that snagging a man, getting married to him and having children is the goal of a woman’s life. HETERONORMATIVE DOMESTIC BLISS A LA ’50S-ERA SITCOMS FOR THE WIN.
Next, there’s the implication that one’s happiness in life depends on one’s physical appearance.
Yellow teeth? YOU’RE A HIDEOUS PERSON WHO PROBABLY WILL NEVER FIND LOVE OR GO TO PARIS. (Sorry.)
Delving deeper into this idea, there’s also the suggestion that it’s not just one’s physical appearance that’s of utmost importance, per se, but rather how that appearance is received and understood by others.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if YOU think you’re beautiful and YOU feel comfortable in your skin and YOU think your teeth are of a satisfactory whiteness level; what matters is whether how you look lines up with OTHER PEOPLE’S expectations.
Really, though, the worst part of the entire 31-second spot has got to be the “first you’ve gotta get him to say hello” line.
Seriously? You have to “get” him to say hello by sitting quietly and smiling?
Couldn’t you, oh I don’t know, SAY HELLO TO HIM BECAUSE IT IS THE YEAR 2013 AND LAST I CHECKED THE AVERAGE WOMAN IS NOT MUTE LIKE ARIEL THE LITTLE MERMAID?
Also: the “Life opens up when you do!” tagline is totally incongruous with a commercial featuring a woman who appears unable to speak (which is usually what the phrase “opening up” means).
Pro tip to the Crest marketing team: in addition to being receptacles for pretty white teeth, mouths are also frequently used for verbal communication. Please stop insulting the intelligence of your potential customers.