January 06, 2012

Retro Ad: Enjoli


This was my favorite ad during my childhood. I loved it dearly when it first came out in 1978, and I've had the song (based on a Peggy Lee tune, I just found out) stuck in my head at some low simmering level for my entire existence since. I don't even know what the perfume smells like, and I don't care. My attraction for the ad was never about the perfume. I don't give a shit about perfume. In fact, I actively avoid smelling it. What the ad did was inculcate what I heard as rules for getting and keeping a man into my impressionable preteen gay boy brain.  

With one lyrical stanza.

You know it. Go ahead, sing along.
I can bring home the bacon,
fry it up in a pan,
and never, never let you forget you're a man.
Because I'm a woman.

There we have the supposed eternal triumvirate of how to please a male: working, cooking, and fucking. At least according to Madison Avenue in the 1970s. The message is both progressively feminist and retrograde paternalist simultaneously, and horrifically fabulous.

Of course I didn't consciously realize the effect this commercial had on me until years later, when I started attending a gay youth group (GLYNY) on Saturday mornings in NYC at the age of 16. One morning as we all sat around in a large circle in the gay community center, one skinny teen drag queen, apropos of nothing, suddenly stood up and slowly recited the lyrics. He was wearing a gold lame gown and a gold headband. We let him have his moment in the spotlight. The noise the surrounding group of young gays made was my first introduction to our communal gay gasp -- that sound of approving shock followed by a roar of laughter. The baby queen calmly sat down again, and I understood that we'd all been brainwashed and there was probably no undoing the damage.

It had been done.

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