there’s something fishy here

first, some comments about the Joe Boxer commercial with the black guy doing a goofy dance in his, what else, boxers:

“On the first viewing, I was just uncomfortable watching it.” – Jason

“I am seeing a smiling and dancing black man in his boxers, and I am feeling … shame.” – George

and so i thought i’d share with you a commercial (don’t think they are running these anymore, but they were very popular in my adolescence) that used to make me wish i could crawl in a hole and die of embarrassment. i’m talking about the FDS commercials. Feminine Deoderant Spray. the commercial would usually be a mom and daughter, walking on the beach, having ‘the talk’, and it went a little like this (i’ve repressed these memories, so the dialogue may be paraphrased):

daughter: mommy? does your coochie ever reek like eau de low tide?
mommy: take a bath, you skank! naah, i’m just kidding, sweetheart. of course it does! all coochies stink. when i find i am odiferous in the crotchal region, i just spray some of this down there (holds up aerosol can with pictures of flowers on it).

if this commercial came on while there were males present, the humiliation i would feel on behalf of myself and my gender was overwhelming. i would tend to do something stupid and foolish and loud in the other direction so that no one would see the commercial and start sniffing around me to see if i, too, had ‘intimate odor problems’.

and i always felt ever so bad for the actresses. i mean, who wants to be the poster girl for that? have people recognize you on the street and start snickering as they back away slowly?

this isn’t to minimize any of the discomfort and anger that you guys felt watching Vaughn do his dance. i’m not trying to compare my experience with yours, or say mine’s anything like it at all except that it’s related to watching a commercial, please don’t yell at me. is it time for my pills yet?

45 thoughts on “there’s something fishy here

  1. What’s worse is that everytime we cringe at a commercial yet remember the product, someone in marketing feels that they have won.
    Hey, I’m not happy about it.
    Just not sure what to do except not buy the product.
    But it’s worse because I remember the product. It’s in my head.
    *sigh*

  2. or what about the ‘feminine protection’ commercial “ever have to leave a party with your jacket tied around your waist?” um, thanks for reminding me of some of my life’s most traumatic moments (when i was a teenager and not so good at planning for that stuff).

    and yes, when we cringe, we remember, and they win. eep.

  3. Try white pants while sitting in the middle of a classroom, and being told by someone else. Then having to get up in front of the class to ask for permission to be excused with no jacket for cover-up and remnants left in the desk chair. I’m still traumatized.

  4. ew. ew ew ew. my granny used to use that FDS stuff. on her DOG. she would run around after this nasty smelling bulldog and squirt it on him. ick. i wish she had just given him a BATH… gawd i would have DIED if any of my friends had seen her doing that…, at least when i was old enough to know what it was. for a while, i thought it was Fancy Dog Spray, i kid you NOT.

  5. personally, i think that that commercial spawned a whole generation of men who thought there was something WRONG with the way a cootchie smells. you know … “i’m not going down THERE and doing THAT, it smells bad!”
    yeah. right. like the taste of FDS would be SO much better…

  6. yes, the implication was, women are smelly disgusting creatures, with filth you can’t just wash away.

    and yeah, i bet it tasted just horrible.

  7. I somehow don’t remember the commercial going that way, kd.
    I would have been on the floor laughing my ass off. Now why is this boxer commercial such a big deal, when Tom Cruise did a similar thing in “Risky Business” and yet that film is a classic?

  8. it’s because the dance he does has been perceived by some as a cultural stereotype, a kind of stepin-fetchit thing. they were embarrassed for the guy.

    there are different reactions from different demographics — anyone likely to describe the actor as “cute” or “hot” is less likely to be offended. straight black males are the most likely to feel it’s an embarrassing portrayal.

    we all react to these things differently. it just reminded me of being embarrassed by commercials myself.

    i hope no one says anything minimizing or dismissing the opinions i’ve just mentioned. i really, really do.

  9. I totally cringed the two times I’ve seen the Joe Boxer commercial (actually changed the channel the second time), and I entirely agree about FDS, and also about commercials for douches and other products that rely on the supposedly “common” knowledge that women’s private parts are offensive without some sort of artificial fix.

    The thing is that I think the commercials tap into deep fears that women already have about their bodies–I don’t think the commercials create the fear, they just exploit it.

  10. Are you kidding? the boxer guy dancing in the commercial cracks me up every time I see it.. He looks so geeky happy I can’t help but smile with him. I used to watch the reruns of “Fresh Prince” and when Carlton used to do his geeky dance I cracked up over that too. Now.. if you ever saw me in the privacy of my own living room dancing in my underwear I’m sure you would all die of embarrassment for me. Me? I’d be smiling because for that moment I was who ever I was pretending to be.

    I swear I never saw anything but a geeky person – no color in that commercial. But then that just may be me. If I did I would scream about it. I have a very low bigotry tolerance.

  11. and lots of people reacted to it that way, too. a wide variety of responses, and a big win for the marketing folks, either way.

    i do think the ad is aimed at women — most ads are, and most boxers bought at Kmart are probably bought by women (i don’t see that as a single guy shopping place at all). so the Kmart ad focus groups would most likely have been primarily women, and that may explain a lot of this.

  12. 1. I love the “Most Embarassing Moments” in ym magazine, especially when the girl writes in about her period. I know, it’s awful, but it’s awfully funny.
    2. I spit out my orange juice when I read about ratty’s grandmother and her bulldog. Damn fresh-squeezed expensive juice has all gone to waste.
    3. I forgot my original point.
    4. Oh yeah.
    5. Those FDS commercials never made any sense to me. Why would a mother and daughter walk down a beach together to discuss feminine hygiene? Why not just sit in a car during a rainstorm and wait for a red light before…hey, wait…
    6. My friend Jen in college was a slob. If her Pepsi spilled on the floor, her cigarette ashes would be there to soak it up. Seriously, she was the only female I ever knew that washed herself less than any man alive. Which wasn’t a positive quality when she barely washed the same boxers she wore all the time. Yeah. So finally I had to yell at her to douche because none of us could take the smell anymore and I was the only one (a stretch, but go figure) brave enough to point out the crotch rot.
    7. True story.

  13. sorry jhaaaames. i’ll squeeze you somemore 🙂

    and after smelling that stuff on a DOG all my life, you KNOW i’d never even THINK to use it on myself…

    2 words.

    dog pussy.

    oy.

  14. Re: Carlton and his dance.

    When black people watch it, at least for me, when I watch it, we are laughing at Carlton and not with him. We understand that, especially in the beginning of the show before the character had time to grow and expand, he is the epitome of an Uncle Tom wanting desperately to be white, to fit in, to wipe away his blackness. That dance and his love of things like Tom Jones (the kind of person that would care enough to go see him in Vegas) is a giant sign that reads “sell-out”

    That’s what makes it funny. It helps that Alfonso Ribeiro is a great dancer but even when Eddie Murphy did his poor “White Folks” dancing in RAW it got huge raves.

    From all shades of the color line…probably for completely different reasons.

  15. 2 more things…

    1. It isn’t just a hetero man phenomenon. Thebrotherlove is openly not hetero.

    2. KD, I think your reaction to the FDS commercial is incredibly relevant to this discussion. Because maybe this isn’t really a conversation about race but rather a conversation about media and imagery.

  16. From I was a child, I had always wondered why they had to bother to make commercials about things like sanitary napkins and tampons. The ones where they show how much more absorbent one is than another, being ‘leakproof’ etc…. I mean, don’t these damn things sell anyway?

    I’m not familiar with the Joe Boxer ad, so I can’t commment there.

  17. I always used to laugh at the feminine hygiene commercials. Like… sure, I can just see someone pulling this big-ass can out of their evening bag to help out their friend that needs a touch-up.

    Come ON!!!

  18. How about the “maxi pad” type of commercials that spill BLUE water on the pad to show it hold the “flow”…
    BLUE????.
    The Joe Boxer guy is cute, looks happy and apparently having a good time-what’s wrong with that?
    My Pet Peeve–fall tv shows ad nauseum!!! Poor John Ritter calling his daughters underwear “dental floss” ,and doesn’t know the difference between a retainer holder and a birth control case.
    Yeah, this is going to be high in the ratings…..for shame, John…

  19. Now see what you’ve stated kd?

    If they had shown that Joe Boxer/K-mart commercial during the early days of tv. Vaughn would have been wearing tap shoes, and working for less than scale.

    Today, he’s acting silly, and making more money than most of the white guys watching it, and being embarrased by it.
    I think it’s great.

    But, now…..I’m on my way to the drug store, to see if I can get some Viagra, and that new “male enhancement” drug, and see if I can make my penis explode.

  20. Sorry…..just me again.
    I forgot to mention that those “feminine hygiene” products, are actually really good for removing the smell from a dog that’s been sprayed by a skunk.
    Honest!

  21. Try having your shorts catch on the desk and rip off when you stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Yeah it was relevant a dozen comments ago.

  22. melly, you mooned the pledge of allegiance? that’s so cool.

    “Because maybe this isn’t really a conversation about race but rather a conversation about media and imagery.” — i think it’s both, really. however i am often struck by how the advertising industry manages to get to us like this. if the account execs and creative directors were reading these threads, they’d be chortling with glee. because after the initial reactions fade, they’ve left their brand imprinted in our minds.

    all in all, the Joe Boxer campaign seems to be a raging success.

  23. omg. I’m CRYING with laughter over kd’s version of the FDS commercial dialogue! *snorfle*

    And, for the record, I’m in agreement that this issue is probably a combination of things: media exploitation of images, racism, and ad execs playing on the fears and prejudices of the buying public to elicit a reaction, positive, negative, or simply a purchasing inclination.

    For my part, each of the approximately 3 times I’ve seen the Joe Boxer ad, I wondered … why? As happy as the guy seems, I don’t see how this sells underwear. And I *think* I’d feel that way no matter what color the actor’s skin might be, but the fact that he’s black, dancing, and looking so darned goofy makes an unfortunate statement and leaves a lingering bad taste in my mouth. Feh.

  24. well! my granny was ahead of her time with that Fancy Dog Spray!

    now, let’s talk about that sexy guy dancing in the loose (gap??) jeans commercial… yum. he’s so tasty that i can’t even remember whose jeans he’s selling. BAD ADVERTISING… 🙂

  25. According to US Weekly (which I *do not* subscribe to. I’ll never cop to it)…

    Will Kemp, 26

    A notoriously edgy British Ballet star nicknamed the James Dean of Dance.

    He will play an FBI trainee in the 2003 thriller Mindhunters.

    He’s dancing to Quincy Jones’ Stuff Like that (which is probably why I enjoy the ad).

    But I enjoy The Taryn Manning one and the Djimon Honsou one better.

    And I love all of the Gap Ads but not the Joe Boxer one…what’s that all about?

  26. um. pants? things are much less awkward when wearing pants. some of my worst dreams (not exactly nightmares but…) were of me finding myself back in school, not knowing where anything was, and having forgotten to wear pants.

    always remember the pants.

  27. Reality television?

    Reality advertising: White counter top with an electric can opener sitting on it. Elegantly French manicured hand with some tasteful gold finger rings comes from the right with a 12 oz can of stewed tomatoes. Opens the can. The woman walks over to the table and the camera follows. It�s a white Formica table-top where there is one of those stupid toy Santa�s that swivel their hips to Elvis songs during the holidays. He is wearing white cotton bikini underpants and the outline of a maxi pad with wings. One elegantly French manicured index finger tugs the front of the underpants open while the opposite hand dumps the contents of the can in. The same elegantly French manicured finger flips the toys switch to on, and it begins to shimmy. Nothing drips out onto to the immaculate tabletop.
    Fades to a white screen with black writing and the sound of the tinny Elvis song in the back ground. The writing reads: Could your brand stand up to this test?

  28. re: reality television?

    umm…you’ve got to be kidding me. is that real? is that a real ad? no, seriously…did you make that up?

    This discussion is hilarious. I know it wasn’t funny when you saw it, but I can’t stop laughing at your remake of the FDS ad. But to reiterate what Jason said, it’s very relevant to this discussion. I definitely think it has more to do with the media’s exploitation of certain images than it has to do with race.

  29. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought he was checking to make sure that he could dance all night and not worry about “anything falling out of place” so to speak.

  30. ‘I’m happy! My scrotum is held snugly in place by my boxer briefs, and yet I am able to enjoy the comfort and freedom of movement afforded to me by boxers! I’m so happy! Crazy, dancing man!’

    Mmm. Maybe not.

    The first time I saw the commercial I was vaguely confused. The second time I watched it, I was stoned, so I giggled a lot. The third time I saw it, I sort of glanced to the side, squinted, then looked back at the computer. I’m still confused.

    Happy dancing! Scrotum safe and tucked away! Happy happy!

    Meh.

  31. hey guys i absolutely love that GAP commercial with taryn manning singing!!!!1 does anyone know what that song is called? email me!!! thanks guys
    ~~jamie~*

  32. i think that the joe boxer commercial is very interesting and funny. hell, it made me want to go to k-mart and by a pair for my man, not to mention it put a smile on my face whenever i watch it. i hope that they make alot more commercial like this. no one says anything about those silly ass calvin klein commercials that no one hardly ever seems to get.

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