Are We Really Still Doing This?

I don’t know why I’m surprised, but I am.

Since the beginning of the year, Head & Shoulders shampoo has been running a pair of commercials promoting their product as giving you confidence to pursue your dreams.

Said dreams seem to be of smooching.

And I’ve got no problem with that. Other people, however, find the commercials offensive. See, for example, this blog post from somebody who finds the spot featuring a couple with mixed loyalties–Steelers and Patriots–to be highly unrealistic.

More serious, though, is the reaction to the other commercial. Because–oh, the horror; oh, the humanity; won’t somebody think of the children–the ad features a pair of young women.

Who kiss.

On camera.

Oh, woe!

Predictably, the commentary has been horrified. On one blog–which I won’t link to, because why would I want to give it any publicity?–the comments are running 15-1 against the commercial.

As I said, that was predictable. I expected as much. What did surprise me was the nature of the complaints:

Procter & Gamble shouldn’t be politicizing commercials and I’m never going to buy their products again.

What does shampoo have to do with lesbians? Fire whoever approved the ad!

Sex has nothing to do with shampoo.

Gay couples kissing on TV should only be allowed after 8pm! And certainly not during a Disney movie!

And–my personal favorite–If I ran a commercial featuring Christian values, I would be harassed and mistreated!

All these years of homophobic mistreatment and marginalization, and nobody has managed to come up with a new complaint? That is what really surprised me.

I’m not going to bother with a line by line refutation. If you’re reading this blog, you know the counterarguments at least as well as I do.

But it doesn’t speak well of the mental acuity of the complainers that they don’t know the counterarguments and see no reason to find new reasons to object. Another triumph of imagination over reality, I suppose.

Anyway, you may be expecting me to offer P&G kudos for not pulling the ad. I do, but only to a limited extent. See, there’s a message in this pair of commercials that I don’t think P&G intended. At least, I hope the didn’t intend it.

Consider: In both commercials, it’s a woman who’s nervous about smooching the object of her affection. A kind of nervousness that can only be cured by Head & Shoulders.

And yes, okay, it can be read as “We’re all the same under the skin, LGBT or not, we all have the same fears and desires.”

But something in the way the spots play out come off a little differently to me. I’m reading them as “Only women are so unsure of themselves that they need to take refuge in a bottle.”

Does anyone else remember when H&S was marketed exclusively to men? Maybe I’m watching the wrong shows, but I can’t remember the last time I saw it pitched to men as a confidence crutch. (I’d love to be proved wrong–let me know if you’ve seen H&S ads aimed at men recently.)

For that matter, the ads I remember pushed the shampoo as a cure for what was standing between you and the job of your dreams. Not the love of your life (or your casual hookup at the football game).

It’s an interesting shift of emphasis. Does P&G think women don’t want to be upwardly mobile in the office?

Anyway, if you want to see this hideously offensive ad for yourself, try here. Just don’t let your kids see it before 8pm, or they might turn into lesbians. Or, worse yet, Democrats.

5 thoughts on “Are We Really Still Doing This?

  1. This is hilarious. I haven’t owned a television for thirty years, so I haven’t seen the ad or any others for this product in a long time. I assume the lesbian couple were clothed, not tying each other up on camera, or whatever. The pearl clutchers are always going to come out of the woodwork.

    For reference, when I was a sprout and this product was fairly new, my recollection was that the ads mostly featured men who were worried about dander falling on the shoulders of their dark suits, and would at least briefly show the otherwise toothsome and buff gentleman in the shower lathering up. But I suppose the obligatory workday suit is less of a thing these days, and you’re right, most personal care advertising capitalizes on the enormous pressure placed on women to be flawless, implying that there is no middle ground — you’re flawless or you’re repellent.

    Young males, on the other hand, are sold Axe body spray, which is the olfactory equivalent of an electric fence. Go figure.


    • I’m not sure hilarious is quite the right word in this context. But to answer your assumptions, there’s the traditional brief shot of the ad’s victim in the shower (showing only her [ahem] head and shoulders, naturally) and they do smooch at the end of the spot. Fully clothed, in the middle of the dance floor.

      Your description of the early ads matches my memories. Because who can support the embarrassment of going for a three martini lunch with white flakes on their shoulders?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I guess the persistent presence of bigots like this isn’t hilarious from many angles, but when they start this nonsense I can barely suppress the urge to laugh at them. They are so predictable and absurd.

        Someday I will tell the story of my public spats with a local gay-hater who also felt called on to warn that the ability of young people to access porn on the library computer would result in “rug damage.” Their is no limit to the obsessive fantasies of their feverish little minds.


        • Well, it does give some hope that rational people can win in the end. Assuming they can ever get past the urge to keep using the same counter-arguments and try something different. Be rational, in other words.

          Rug damage? [snicker] I look forward to hearing the tale some day.


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