Condoms, hypocrisy, and the Big Bang theory
Posted by metaphorical on 18 June 2007
“We always find it funny that you can use sex to sell jewelry and cars, but you can’t use sex to sell condoms,”
— Carol Carrozza, vice president of marketing for Ansell Healthcare, which makes LifeStyles condoms.
Fox and CBS have reached new heights or depths of hypocrisy in rejecting a commercial for Trojan condoms that the company will start running tonight on some tv networks that haven’t yet entirely lost their senses.
The NY Times reports today that the two networks refused to comment, but “in a written response to Trojan,”
Fox said that it had rejected the spot because, “Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.”
Does this image look like that of a network that thinks sex is only for procreation?
How about this “exclusive” first interview last year with the 2006 Playmate of the Year?
After first pretending this was a serious business story, the network swapped out the image of interviewer Neil Cavuto for B roll of the playmate, Kara Monaco, in a bustier, dancing as if she popped out of a wedding cake, and provocatively straddling a motorcycle. This is, after all, the network of Beverly Hills 90210 and Married… With Children.
Meanwhile CBS, the so-called Tiffany network, has always had a prudish streak, but that hasn’t kept it from running shows laden with sexual tension, from Dallas to Murphy Brown to Survivor. In fact, according to Slate, CBS’s best chance of a hit this fall is a show named “The Big Bang Theory.”
the show is sort of Beauty and the Geek meets Three’s Company, with the same jiggle-and-giggle tone of Two and a Half Men: Two nerdy geniuses with a hot babe across the hall.
As the Times reports,
In its rejection, CBS wrote, “while we understand and appreciate the humor of this creative, we do not find it appropriate for our network even with late-night-only restrictions.”
Yet it also noted that “Networks accept ads of a not-so-subtle sexual nature for erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra, often restricting them to the wee hours.”
“It’s so hypocritical for any network in this culture to go all puritanical on the subject of condom use when their programming is so salacious,” said Mark Crispin Miller, a media critic who teaches at New York University. “I mean, let’s get real here. Fox and CBS and all of them are in the business of nonstop soft porn, but God forbid we should use a condom in the pursuit of sexual pleasure.”
The Times article doesn’t describe the two networks’ motivations, except briefly:
A 2001 report about condom advertising by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that, “Some networks draw a strong line between messages about disease prevention — which may be allowed — and those about pregnancy prevention, which may be considered controversial for religious and moral reasons.”
In other words, Fox and CBS are afraid of a reaction on the part of the religious right. The problem, though, lies not just with the two networks; blame has to be shared by the rest of us. There’s a clear possibility of a penalty to showing the ad—general complaints about what Crispin called the business of nonstop soft porn might erupt into specific protests and boycotts.
There’s no penalty, except the small loss of revenue, to not showing them. By failing to penalize the networks, we make it easy for the crazies to have their way, and so they do, all too often.