From bad words to ad words

Let’s play word association (football). What links a sixties comedian, driven to an early grave by rigid social mores and american intolerance, actress julia roberts, chemical self-abuse (and stimulation), bees and oh-so-clever-clever edgy modern branding?

Half naked mother puckerAllow me to introduce you to “super-colour sexy Mother Pucker™ Half naked” lip plumping gloss.

OK. A bit of a mouthful. In more ways than one. But also an intriguing illustration of cultural shift – at least on THIS side of the atlantic. Whether the same shift has also taken place back in the good old US of A, i am not so sure.

Let’s rewind, because i probably have you all pretty much confused by now. A week or two back, attending church with the boy (which means doing the sunday school thing, as opposed to church proper) i was temporarily distracted, as one is, by one of the other mums showing off a new lip gloss product. Its most interesting feature, as far as i was concerned, alongside the glossy wetlook effect common to all such product was that it also tingled.

This, it transpired, was deliberate. Its aim is to irritate the lips ever so slightly, causing them to swell, giving you a fuller, poutier lippy look. I loved it. Not just the taste – which was ever so slightly reminiscent of a rather naughty lube-type product i sampled during a visit to SheSaid in Brighton – but the tingliness.

Chemical abuse

How does it do that? Pause for slight detour via Julia Roberts and chemical abuse. I was amused to find serendipity rearing its pretty head but a few days later, as i took the boy out to see “Mirror, mirror”, a somewhat knowing, deconstructive retelling of the Snow White story, released earlier this year.

A cameo scene, preparatory to the Queen’s wedding, involved a series of spoof beauty treatments. Slugs and snails (and possibly even puppy dog tails) were administered in a possibly superfluous effort to beautify Ms Roberts. In there, too, were bees, captured in a glass jar and applied to her lips to produce that (literal) bee-stung effect. Yum!

So is there any bee venom in the current batch of lippy products? I doubt it. Or maybe that’s double bluff. Cause if we are prepared to inject botox, itself derived from a serious neurotoxin in our quest for beautification, what else are we prepared to use?

Dunno. Still, my enthusiasm for the new lip gloss occasioned at least one stern lecture from a friend about the unwiseness of administering unknown chemicals to my body.

Obscenity over there – and over here

And then there’s the brand thing, which is really where we started. Mother pucker!

Almost half a century ago, driven to despair and drug addiction by a series of prosecutions for obscenity, US comedian Lenny Bruce died of a drug overdose in his hotel bathroom. Although the obscenity conviction was later to be over-turned (posthumously), Bruce, widely regarded as comedy genius, was increasingly unable to work, as clubs feared being targeted by the authorities – and this censorship undoubtedly contributed to his demise.

His crime? The use of a series of terms which, according to comedian George Carlin are the “seven dirty words” that can never be used on US television. These, as made clear from the public record of Bruce’s obscenity trial, included the utterly unutterable M-word: “motherfucker”.

Yep. Stateside, M-fucker is unsayable in public, at least not without instant police attention: back in Europe, a product branded M-pucker and clearly playinbg on the ambiguity in that term, is now mainstream.

How strange. I guess that’s all there is to say.

jane xx


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