So there’s this advert at the moment for a chewing gum where a cute boy sees a cute girl on public transport. This seems to be a bit of a recurring theme, since there was also an advert in 1991 where two blonde kids were delayed by a combine harvester (yes, seriously) and shared a stick of spearmint gum, all to the soundtrack of Alright Now by Paul Rogers. Here’s what the advert looked like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02FlYl3sLWs. It’s all very burnished nineties, and as such has a standard rock anthem in the background, lots of beach-bleached hair, and is a prime example of that decade’s minor obsession with Let’s-Put-A-Hick-On-A-Porch-Into-Every-Advert.
This being 2017, even the adverts get remakes, and as usual, the new version isn’t nearly as great as the original. For a start, this one looks like it’s set in South London rather than the deep South, and the commentary – dreaming about knights in shining armour seems a bit retrograde. But the basic premise: make sure your breath doesn’t smell just in case you bump into a really hot guy on the bus is basically sound, considering it’s a chewing gum advert. There is a fundamental problem with the advert, however, which might be invisible to the casual viewer. Or maybe not. See what you think: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf4TwInnsSk.
It’s not just me, is it? It’s an almost completely empty bus, and the dude sits down RIGHT NEXT TO HER. In an empty bus. What the hell is he doing? I mean, I’m aware that they’ve directed the advert to make it totally clear that the woman is genuinely attracted to the guy, which softens it slightly, but still. The point of the advert, clear even without dialogue, is that they don’t know one another. And even if she is instantly attracted to him: he’s still the sort of guy who interprets a smile from a cute woman as an invitation to sit right next to her in an otherwise empty bus.
I’m acutely aware that I might be coming across as slightly sensitive (snowflakes and all), but I don’t think so. It’s an invisible culture that leads to commercials like this, largely created by middle-aged white men, and I can’t believe that anyone who has had to deal with some random dude sitting next to them could have come up with this advert, and certainly nobody who’s ever been told to ‘smile, love, it might never happen.’ It’s certainly the sort of culture that allows a guy to interpret a sixteen year old’s friendly smiling service at a coffee bar as flirting, and apparently not understand that your behaviour is so disturbing that a police officer is required to stop you at the door the next day. When we’re still in a world where dudes on twitter can with equal ferocity tell you YOU LOST GET OVER IT with the same passion they can scream THE WIMMIN DESTROYED GHOSTBUSTERS, we clearly have a long way to go.
Obviously this advert is very far from the most offensive we’ve had to endure. But the fact that this is our baseline of mundanity means that we’re still not paying enough attention.