Stupid Tuesday questions, Cottonelle edition

I love picture books.  I love the sense of whimsy and wonder and humor that you can often find in them.  I love Maurice Sendak and Mo Willems and Kevin Henkes.  I remember one especially magical story from when I was a child, and was delighted to find it again as an adult and share it with my son.  Of the myriad joys that come with raising a child of my own, one of the accessory pleasures has been getting to read with him and seeing all the great books there are for small children out there.

Of course we have accumulated lots of Dr. Seuss as part of our son’s library.  He knows about Thidwick and the Cat in the Hat and green eggs and ham.  (That last has actually been somewhat helpful in getting him to try a few bites of food in his pickier moments.)  And one of his favorites is “The Lorax.”  He goes through phases where he wants to read one book over and over, and “The Lorax” has gone through heavy rotation more than once.

If you’re not familiar with the book, it has a decidedly elegiac tone.  It has moments of subtle humor, and ends on a hopeful (though certainly not exuberant) note.  But from start to finish, it is a book about loss, specifically a loss brought about by greed and thoughtless consumption.  Thus it was with unmitigated contempt that I greeted the candy-coated, slapstick animated version that came out last year.  Since the estimable Mr. Kain has already written about it, I don’t need to reinvent that wheel.

What I find especially galling is that the central character of a mournful allegory about consumerism has since been made into just another advertisement, giving his ersatz seal of approval to products that are “environmentally friendly.”  (I’m not the only one who feels this way.)  So offensive is that notion to me that I refuse to buy any product with the bastardized Lorax gazing out of its label, even for products I would otherwise purchase.  While I realize that the people at Seventh Generation couldn’t care less about one schmuck‘s refusal to buy their dish soap, it makes me happy to know my money won’t be implicitly endorsing their subversion of a cherished literary legacy.

There is one other product I refuse to buy because I find their ad campaign so impossibly obnoxious.  I refer to Charmin, and its animated characters the Ass-wiping Bears.  (I defy you to come up with a more fitting name for them.)  These ursine abominations are shown in commercials repairing to the woods to void their bowels, then using the product in question for anal cleansing.  Usually the shot cuts to the bear’s visage as it dissolves into an expression of bliss, evincing a kind of comfort that nobody on earth needs to see expressed on the face of another, even if it’s a goddamned animated bear.  Further assaults on the eyes of viewers include ads touting the product’s resistance to adhering in little pills to one’s hindquarters, the real-life equivalent of which is no less revolting to contemplate when sublimated ineptly in cartoon form.

So long as those frigging bears are on the shrink wrap, I’m buying different toilet paper.

Which brings us to this week’s Question — is there a product or service you refuse to buy based solely on how it is advertised?  Have you been so put off by a commercial that it made you less inclined to purchase what it’s selling?  Has there been a Madison Avenue fail large enough to permanently poison your pocketbook?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Carl’s Jr. anything since they started the, “if it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face” campaign.

    Yes. Americans are all sloppy toddlers who can’t handle a fishing spoon.

    • After a visit to Montreal last year, I came back home and, among the exotic sights I’d seen, I told Jason about this totally fished-up commercial about bears and their hairy asses. “Do Quebecois have universally hairy asses, that this is an effective advertisement for this company?” I asked.

      So, apparently they’ve immigrated. Do they still speak French?

  2. In a similar vein, I found it very difficult to quit smoking and relinquish the joy of pissing off the neo-Puritans.

  3. The ass-wiping bears make the best toilet paper anywhere. Sorry, but they do.

    • Quite possibly. (Pity my family the gulag-like existence into which I have thrust them.) But there comes a time when a man has to draw a line in the sand and say “This far, and no farther!” My line is drawn somewhere short of watching the post-defecatory joys of a bunch of cartoon bears.

    • “The ass-wiping bears make the best toilet paper anywhere. Sorry, but they do.”

      Yeah, but being animals, do they have the right to strike for higher wages?

    • I actually kind of love the ass-wiping bears. It’s as close as major television ever gets to owning the fact that people’s bodies do horrific things and that’s okay. Every time I see those bears dissolve into joy, I think, “You know what? Sometimes that’s what taking a shit feels like. God bless you, bears.” /tmi

      Well, the bears and basically every single commercial about feminine hygiene products.

      • I am wholly at peace with having certain aspect of human existence absent from televisual depiction, among them the facial expressions associated with satisfactorily tidying one’s gluteal cleft.

  4. I feel like I’ve had this reaction in the past, but truthfully I think it’s been in reaction to products I wouldn’t be buying anyway. I frequently tend not to notice what product is being advertised anyway. I usually have a book or the iPad in my lap, and it pops up as soon as the ads come on. Some ads catch my attention because they amuse me, but I tend to remember the ad but not the product. For example the ad a few years back with the guy driving in his car where the birds fly in and start singing, then a wolf jumps in and swallows one of the birds. The look on the guy’s face is awesome, so I enjoyed watching that commercial as a comedic short. I’m not sure I ever knew what the product was.

  5. Heh, is this the wrong time to say that I refuse to purchase Apple products, based on an encounter with Steve Jobs cirka 2000?

    • It is. Because at least one person here will mock your Latin.

    • If Apple were judged by what a fishhole Jobs was, it would be as successful as Data General.(and Edson de Castro was no prize either.)

  6. If you don’t happen to have a copy of Yertle the Turtle floating around, it would be remiss of me to not say something crazy about how it is to Libertarianism as The Lorax is to Conservation.

    The lessons about the absurdities of political power and the importance of burping are lessons that I try to keep close to my heart.

    • And Thidwick shows what drastic measures are required to dismantle the nanny state.

      • The first time I read Thidwick to the Critter, I was somewhat aghast to discover that Seuss blithely depicts all of the antagonists dead at the end. Given that the book I link to in the OP actually has some kind of scary pictures and as mentioned we love Sendak, I figured it was best to accept the macabre and roll with it.

  7. I don’t recall exactly when everything started with the “EXTREME!!!!!!1!!!1!!11!” tag, but anything bearing it became product non gratis.

  8. I’m not really a “body spray” kinda guy so I don’t know if this counts but the whole “Men May Be Stupid But Women Are Stupider” thing that Axe has going on there never fails to raise my gorge.

  9. The screen shot features here bothers me to no end. Other people not being bothered bothers me even more. That being said, if Cottonelle is the best option based on a complicated metric using quality and price, I’d buy it. I don’t think it ever is. So mich advertising is so bad that I can’t stand to be so bothered to not buy the product.

  10. I finally stopped going to Taco Bell when I realized their food was so unappetizing they couldn’t even make it appetizing in their commercials.

    • Or, for most adults:

      I finally stopped going to Taco Bell when I realized no amount of weed I smoked was going to make Taco Bell seem like a good choice.

      • I love Taco Bell, and I’ll defend them on pure utilitarian grounds. You don’t make billions of dollars by selling a food product that people think tastes bad. Fast food snobbery is so weird to me, because the one indisputable fact about junk food of all kinds is that it’s delicious.

        • The food at Del Taco is atrocious, but they have incedibly delicious iced tea.

        • In my experience, most fast food is delicious for the first 40-60% of the meal, at which point it undergoes a hideous, abrupt transformation into something repellant.

          • In my experience, it’s delicious all the way through, and then an hour later I become the ass-wiping bear.

        • I do confess a custom for Taco Bell, not so much for it’s taste as for the fact that it’s the closest thing to quasi-vegetarian that I can get while travelling.

          • This is actually a really interesting fact I learned recently. I was driving back from my bachelor party weekend with a bunch of guys, and we decided to stop at Taco Bell for lunch and to round out the vileness of the weekend. After ordering and sitting down, I realized that one guy was a vegetarian and we hadn’t bothered to consult him. He told us that he hadn’t complained because Taco Bell was the best possible fast food option for him. I would never have guessed.

          • You didn’t think that stuff was actually ground beef, did you?

          • I have the same vegetarian issue. Luckily we have Burgerville which has two vegetarian burgers on their menu and all of their food is awesome. when I’m out of the area, I have to settle for Taco Bell. Super easy to make their crap vegetarian friendly.

          • This “it’s not really meat” argument has always struck me as kind of weird. It would be awesome if it weren’t meat! Meat is terrible, inefficient, environmentally disastrous, and immoral. The only thing meat has going for it is that we’re totally incapable of creating a non-meat product that is as delicious as meat. If Taco Bell has succeeded at that, they deserve a Nobel Prize.

        • I wasn’t referring to the taste. Taco Bell tastes just fine given the tier of restaurants in which Taco Bell competes.

          No, I was referring to another biological phenomenon which you have previously addressed, and which, in a way, lies at the root of the OP.

          At some point, no amount of weed one smokes overcomes the overwhelming accumulation of cause and effect.

  11. I think what irks me more about it isn’t the bears shitting, but rather the “check” implied. I can’t imagine that any parent is actually eyeballing their kid’s bunghole for paper scraps like that. Really, in my mind the moment they’re potty trained you should be completely finished with anything having to do with your child’s sphincter barring very serious illness.

    • Unless you’re the one doing the laundry. Then it becomes your task to point out to the young boys in your care what happens to their underwear if they don’t properly deploy the Cottonelle after…”visiting the woods,” shall we say.

      • My son is 4 and on occasion I can tell if he’s missed a spot after using the toilet because he’s doing the ‘itchy’ dance and picking at his rear. Then it’s a case of, “Come on, let’s go out to the toilet and check” because, as the person doing the laundry, I really dislike brown on my whites, if you get my meaning.

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