February 10, 2008
What the hell, JCPenney?
I don’t mind admitting that I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. It’s a holiday that’s centered around generic ideas of romance, of courtly love, of The Way Your Romantic Life Is Supposed To Be, and so it bothers me on a number of levels. Still, I’ll be happy come February 14th, because the arrival of the day itself means that the aggressive marketing for flowers, candy, and jewelry that comes with the holiday will cease, and we will — in theory, anyway — get a bit of a break before the aggressive marketing for flowers, candy, and jewelry for Mother’s Day begins.
Today, however, I came across the worst TV commercial for Valentine’s Day jewelry I’ve ever seen. It was comparable to the Family Guy diamonds commercial, and was perhaps worse because it was longer, and it was actually a serious commercial, put out by JCPenney. (I couldn’t find the ad on YouTube, but for the time being, anyway, you can see it on their website; it’s linked in the right-hand column.) It shows two or three men holding up heart-shaped pendants, then swinging them back and forth in the style of a hypnotist. In soothing voices, they give the recipients of the necklaces what are at least meant to seem like post-hypnotic suggestions: “You love how it looks. You think I’m the perfect man,” and “You are very happy with me right now.”
And then it ends with the line “Today’s the day everyone gets what they want” written on the screen.
The implications of this commercial made me exceptionally uncomfortable. On the one hand we have the idea of men hypnotizing their significant others to make the latter appreciate the former more. On the other hand we have men buying jewelry (a bribe, anyone?) for their significant others for the same purpose. Either idea would bother me, but together, they’re so much worse. And I wonder, who thought this was a good idea for a commercial? It doesn’t paint a flattering portrait of people who enjoy Valentine’s Day and celebrate it in traditional ways. “Everyone gets what they want”: women get a piece of inexpensive jewelry, and men get women whose esteem can be bought with a piece of inexpensive jewelry. So, ultimately: what the hell, JCPenney?