Viagra and the Innocent Age


I do not consider myself a prude. I’ve seen and written about a plethora of offensive things over the years with a “damn the torpedoes” attitude toward anyone who might cringe in disgust. But even I find the new series of commercials for Viagra being shown during the American League Championship Series (i.e, baseball playoffs) to be embarrassing and odd.

The spots feature a blond cougar with a British accent chatting about how “plenty of guys” have trouble “getting an erection and keeping it.” There it is, on national television, the word erection. It’s nothing new. Viagra and Cialis have been using the word in their commercials for years, but it’s always uttered by some off-camera baritone fishing-buddy voice and stated in clinical terms as if it were a side-effect of a disease.

Now here was this blond British bombshell looking straight into the lens talking about erections with a tilt of a head and a come-hither look that clearly says “America, bring me your flaccid Willy,” as if ED were an “American problem” when everyone knows the British haven’t had a hard-on since WWII (Why do you think they call it The Big One?).

The media is reporting that drug maker Pfizer is targeting women with these new Viagra commercials, but if so, why would they make them look like late-night 1-800 phone sex ads? The message couldn’t be more in-your-face. There are no awkward metaphors to confuse the innocent, no middle-aged couples on Harleys riding down long, narrow blacktop roads, no playful hanky-panky between husband and wife while cleaning out the gutters, no bad white-guy blues music (Blues was the first casualty of ED advertising. It will now forever be associated with graying guys with limp dicks).

Maybe the most strange and confusing visual metaphor of all is the Cialis his-and-hers bathtubs, often placed in the strangest locations — on the beach or on a deck looking out over a mountain range. I always found this visual — which Cialis has crafted into a logo that will look great on a baseball cap — to be misplaced. If you’re feeling randy, wouldn’t you want to be in the same bathtub as your spouse rather than in separate tubs? Does this couple also sleep in separate beds? And how does one get hot water all the way out to those remote bathtubs? And what happens when it’s time to get out, presumably at full attention?

I assumed Cialis purposely made that duo-tub commercial confusing so parents could easily whisk away the inevitable questions from their children. “Mom, why are those people taking baths in the middle of a field?”

“Because they’ve been working all day and they want to be clean, honey, that’s why.”

But there’s no talking your way out of the questions with these new Viagra commercials. That horny mama, let’s call her Ms. Wiggins, is looking your 11-year-old square in the eyes while she breathily purrs about erections. How does that not generate robust, awkward discussion?

It’s a problem I’ll never have to face. And no, smart guy, I’m not talking about ED, I’m talking about explaining these ads to my kids, because I don’t have any. I’m left wondering how parents do it.

When Ms. Wiggins shows up between innings do parents have their thumbs cocked and ready over the mute button? Does someone yell “Ear muffs!” Maybe mom or dad loudly asks a question: “Hey Tommy, do you think they’ll pull the pitcher after the next inning?” or “Who wants ice cream?

More likely, everyone sits staring at the commercial in uncomfortable silence wondering what the other is thinking.

When I was a pre-teen during the days of only three networks and PBS, there wasn’t the slightest nuance about sex uttered on television. The most awkward moments were commercials for feminine hygiene products, and I had no idea what was going on. I figured Summer’s Eve (What a name!) was just another deodorant for girls, like Secret. I had no idea what Kotex was, but somehow knew better than to ask.

Something tells me Tommy also knows better than to ask. He keeps quiet. Just like when, during a football broadcast, Washington Redskins legend Joe Theismann comes on and starts barking about Super Beta Prostate.

Or maybe I’m being naive.

For me, all questions regarding sex were answered (correctly or not) on the blacktop parking lot where my grade-school buddies and I congregated during recess at St. James. Playboy was the only pornography, and was more of a rumor than a reality, as a copy of Hefner’s mag never crossed my path.

We didn’t have the internet to provide answers back then. Today any child can go online, and with a tap of keyboard and a click of a mouse can not only get answers to the most intimate of questions but also see the most graphic, lurid pornography imaginable, porn so vile that had it been produced in the ’70s Omaha citizens would have taken to the streets with pitchforks and torches to burn down any theater that dared screen it.

Yeah, I know there are online tools designed to prevent children from seeing porn, but kids know more about using a computer than their parents. I guess sex no longer is a mystery except for the very youngest in the room watching the Royals alongside us. But even then, Viagra has cued up the topic for discussion, whether we want it to be or not.

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com


Category: Art

Leave a Reply