"Get mommed"? Get real, Kleenex

A new advertising campaign offers grown men their choice of "mothers" to help them endure the dreaded common cold

By Kate Harding
Published October 23, 2009 6:24PM (UTC)
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Perhaps you've seen the new Kleenex ad (below) in which a sniffly 20-something dude goes door to door looking for the perfect mother to help him through his cold -- eventually rejecting each one for somehow screwing up his fantasy of perfectly coddled convalescence. (One serves unappetizing-looking greens, one spits on her finger and tries to wipe his face, one seems to want a hug.) And perhaps it's made you, like me,  want to punch your TV screen.


But have you seen the companion Web site, GetMommed.com, yet? Because if not, you might want to reserve that screen-punching energy.

The Web site offers grown men (and women, I guess, although the ad tells us who the real market is) their choice of eight  different nurturers, each of whom will deploy maternal wisdom and Kleenex tissues in her own special, stereotypical way. Click on a mom, and hear her campaign speech for the honor of being your caregiver this cold and flu season!

 "True southern girl" (never mind that she's middle-aged) Magnolia -- the spinach-server from the commercial -- wants to spoil you if she's "lucky enough to be your mama." Phyllis, patterned on Dustin Hoffman's Tootsie and a thousand Jewish mother jokes, loves, "cooking, laundry and buying presents, because if you're happy, I'm happy." East Asian mom Sue will make sure you still get to work during your cold, because she has watched enough sitcoms to understand that "tough love" is what East Asian moms do best. "I don't put up with excuses, procrastination, or being a baby. Not even from babies!" Since there is no South Asian mom option, you'll have to make do with hippyish Amber's appropriation of key concepts like karma, chanting, balance, orange silk accessories, and distrust of newfangled Western medicine. ("The only modern thing you need is a Kleenex tissue!") Ana Maria offers wise Latina advice gleaned from -- what else? -- having an enormous family! Dozens and dozens of aunts, uncles and cousins, who are apparently the only thing she ever thinks about, apart from tending to strange young white men who show up at her door unable to cope with the common cold.


By this point, I was wincing as I clicked on track-suited African-American mom Lisa, just waiting to count the head snaps. She was a bit of a surprise in that her shtick is all about being handy with a glue gun and power tools, as opposed to a sharp tongue and a wagging finger. Nevertheless, her pitch to be your fake mom manages to hit the sassy, preternaturally strong, and happy-go-lucky stereotypes all at once. "They call me supermom!" she chuckles -- but that title really belongs to Veronica, the oldest of the bunch and only one who hints at having a job outside the home. (Her vitals are written out for us on what looks like a business card, rather than what looks like a grocery list.) Veronica is the efficient multitasker, the Martha Stewart on crack, who can make you soup, tuck you into bed, plan a dinner party for eight, close a million-dollar deal and redecorate the living room all before lunch. Because, of course, the only way a woman can work outside the home and remain a good mom (to perfect strangers) is if she puts 110 percent effort into everything, including all of the expected domestic duties, thereby "having it all." All except a free moment to herself, ever.

But wait, don't punch that screen yet! I haven't even gotten to the worst one. That would have to be Jessica, the semi-fashionable blonde who looks about five years older than the dude in the commercial, max. The Kleenex folks don't come right out and say "MILF," just that "Jessica is more like a friend than a mom," wants you to call her by her first name, "likes to do the same stuff you do" and "can remind you of what you need to do without being a nag." Translation: Jocasta Jessica is more like a girlfriend than a mom. And yet, still fully committed to mothering you! It's the best of all possible worlds, if you're a stunted adolescent with a lot of Freudian shit to work out.

Look, the underlying premise here is both relatable and not terribly objectionable: No matter how old we are, we all want our mommies when we get sick. (And, apparently, when we're on "Fresh Air.") But there's a crucial difference between wanting our own mommies and wanting some idealized caricature of motherhood who can be exchanged for a more pleasing caricature the moment she does something irritating. One is human nature, the other is dehumanizing, sexist crap. I understand I'm not the target market here, and that a Man Cold is a far more severe illness than my lady brain can even fathom (see below), but I'd like this campaign a whole lot more if it offered at least one remotely realistic mom. Like the kind who takes one look at this guy, rolls her eyes and says, "You're 25 years old, are you kidding me? Take a decongestant and suck it up!"


(Via Shakesville.)


Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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