Garfield's AdReview

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The scene is in Mom and Dad's living room, as they are meeting their daughter's boyfriend for the first time. The daughter pops a piece of Dentyne Fire into her mouth and soon rips off her blouse and jumps the boyfriend like an alley cat in heat. The parents are stunned, but Mom tries some gum, too, and promptly sexually assaults Dad.

Naturally, the Rev. Donald Wildmon wants this abomination off the air.

His American Family Association, when not busy curing homosexuality and flogging creationism, specializes in harassing businesses to toe the morality line or else. When P&G CEO A.G. Lafley made a personal contribution to a local Cincinnati civil-rights organization, AFA circulated a petition headlined as follows: "Crest, Tide, Pampers maker gives money, clout to repeal law forbidding special rights for Homosexuals."

The result so far: 361,890 moral crusaders beings have pledged to boycott P&G.

So, is Wildmon a small-minded zealot who has made an industry of inciting prigs and pinheads in the culture wars? Yes.

Do young people, in fact, make out, feeling each other up like outtakes from "Airport Security Gone Wild?" Yes.

Have they always done so, going back to Clyde Griffiths ("An American Tragedy"), Hester Prynne ("The Scarlet Letter") and even farther back to, like, the Eisenhower administration? Yes.

Has adolescent sex been de-stigmatized-at least as a moral issue-in popular culture and society at large? Yes.

Then it's settled! The commercial, from McCann Erickson, New York, should remain on the air ... Yes?

Well, not so fast.

For one thing, it's not very funny, not even as funny as the two-bit sitcoms whose lame sensibilities it mimics. Secondly, if it isn't irrelevant or dishonest (chewing gum is no aphrodisiac) it's much worse.

Let's just say market research showed that teenagers are especially self-conscious about their breath, and think that's what's suppressing their sex life. So here's the solution: Instead of getting your date to gag down a 16-ounce can of malt liquor, you slip her some gum and watch the inhibitions melt away.

That's obviously the literal message of the ad. But because chewing gum just as obviously isn't a date-rape drug, the defense is: Hyperbole! It's all tongue-in-cheek! Ha. Ha!

The problem is, that's her tongue in his cheek, and the de facto message beneath the hyperbolic one is this gum helps you get laid. Now, we've established that these urges have infected adolescents (and adults, and even evangelical Christians) forever and there's no point being in denial about it. Nor is there any reason to think that the society's defining of deviancy downward has increased gross hormonal output.

The fact remains, however, that underage sex has always been risky, physically and emotionally. Sure, we can laugh at its primal universality, but often enough the consequences are no laughing matter.

This has nothing to do with Bible thumping. It has to do with adult responsibility. Put morality aside and focus on the danger. Aren't we, as grownups, supposed not to be aiding and abetting in behaviors that lead to teen pregnancy and AIDS, broken hearts and broken lives? Should any institution, least of all a chewing gum brand, be sending the message "just let yourself go?" Answer:



McCann Erickson, New York

Ad Review Rating: 1 star

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