Got an Unmentionable Problem? The TV Hucksters Have All the Answers
by Burton S. Blumert by Burton S. Blumert
The Hollywood of my youth didn’t contaminate their product with four-letter words.
But it was the 1960s, and I was at the movies with my mother.
And there it was: THE dreaded four-letter word coming from the screen, resonating around the theatre.
I don’t recall the film, but it was a horrid moment, THAT profane word in a movie, and my mother sitting right next to me.
Panicked, I felt like sliding under the seat — did she hear it? Maybe she heard it, but didn’t know what the word meant. After all, this pure creature was my mother.
I admit it. I come from a different time. All aspects of sexuality were governed by, "Don’t ask…don’t tell… don’t talk about it. Don’t even think about it."
Not only were those of "deviant" sexuality confined to a closet, almost every male 11 to 17 had his own version of a closet.
My first sexual text was a dog-eared National Geographic Magazine featuring photos of bare-breasted tribal women, which passed from one sub-teen to another.
My parents would sooner discuss the insane uncle who lived in our attic than the specifics of procreation.
I don’t recall the word "sex" uttered in a classroom until high-school biology, and then the reproduction they covered was confined mostly to the plants of the planet.
The bright kids, however, began to uncover wondrous excerpts about the taboo subject from "banned" books like God’s Little Acre and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, but those of us who grew up in the 30s and 40s were generally so ignorant on the subject that had it not been for the power of the human sex drive, the species might have died out — at least in my neighborhood.
By now, you’ve got the picture. I’m a prude, or worse. The so-called Sexual Revolution of the 1960s didn’t even budge me. I remain unnerved by the way sex is dealt with in the schoolroom, and the boardroom. The only place it belongs is in the bedroom and even then, don’t provide me with the details.
I squirm when I witness sexuality in film or theatre, especially when it’s designed to shock or arouse. I’ll admit to sharing an off-color joke now and then, but never with eroticism as the theme.
No, you won’t find me on any picket lines. I state my position by flipping the dial or not buying a ticket — but I’ll join you on the barricades if you’re fighting government censorship.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new assault on our sensibilities.
It all began with Viagra, and Bob Dole on network TV, often in prime time.
Most of us laughed, some were repelled, and others too uncomfortable to even discuss it. The Leno and Letterman writers had a field day, and I suspect that the supposedly staid Midwesterner Dole was the subject of a million jokes at water-coolers around the nation.
Soon the chuckles faded and the commercials became more graphic. Words we never read in print became "household" in TV sitcoms.
Here was the same old tactic: repeat the four-letter word often enough and it no longer shocks. Thoughts once private and personal become obscene. What was sacred becomes profane.
A desensitized herd is easier to corral, but don’t get me started on that subject.
Back to Bob Dole, the new sex symbol, and the TV ads. They implied the nation was in the midst of an epidemic. Actually, two epidemics. "Male impotency" was the first, a problem solved by science. The consumer has the choice: chemicals requiring prescriptions or over-the-counter natural compounds.
The second "epidemic" is based on the "myth" that "size doesn’t matter." In one TV ad, a deli clerk eyes a beautiful waitress, then turns to the camera, picks up a large salami, and tells you, the viewer, that size DOES matter and that just one dose a day will change your life. (Initially, their claims for "male enhancement" seemed based on hocus pocus, but lately, they, too, suggest that "science" plays a role in their remedy.)
The variety of brands fill a counter at Walgreens: Viagra, Vigorex, Cialis, Levitra, Enzyte, to name a few.
Enzyte produced a cartoon-like series of TV commercials featuring real people, including their own, "Bob." Since discovering the wonders of Enzyte, Bob has a grin frozen on his face. His matronly wife stands in the background of each episode gazing adoringly at the new Bob. His friends and associates are consumed with envy.
Cialis, the latest entry in the impotence drug market, runs the most graphic ads. Promoted by the biotech company ICOS and drug giant Eli Lilly, Cialis was late in coming to market. (Viagra had a five-year head start.)
The FDA requires that all negative side-effects for all drugs be listed in advertising. The listed side-effects for Cialis are predictable and boring: Headaches, upset stomach, nasal congestion, backache, muscle ache AND then comes the shocker: The voice over warns YOU about the possibility of suffering a FOUR-HOUR erection.
Although a rare event, the Voice advises, you’d better seek immediate medical attention.
"Did he say four-hour erections?" I asked my wife.
"Blumert, why don’t you switch to C-Span? I always worry when you get interested in commercials."
It isn’t often that I’m visited by my muse. She shows up so infrequently these days that I can hardly claim her as my own. I don’t think she likes my politics.
But this time, she magically appeared and swept me away to the Emergency Room at the County Hospital. She was at my side through the following encounter.
(If Editor Rockwell deems this final scene too vulgar for LRC readers and my essay ends abruptly here, e-mail me and I’ll forward the tasteless conclusion to you. If not, read on.)
Scene: Time: 2 AM, Emergency Room, Mills Hospital, San Mateo.
ERD (Emergency Room Doc): "What seems to be your problem, Blumert? The Admissions Clerk says you are suffering the side effects of Cialis. Is that correct?"
Blumert: "Yes, Doc. I took one Cialis tablet 24 hours ago and I’ve got a pressing problem."
ERD: "Let’s see, the PDA says the side effects could range from a headache to nasal congestion. Which symptom is yours?"
Blumert: "None of those, I fear. For the past 3 hours, I’ve had an…Doc, could you please ask the nurse to leave the room. Uh, well, since about 11 PM I’ve got an…
ERD: “Stop mumbling. You mean, ‘an erection’. How interesting. I haven’t seen that reaction to Cialis as yet. Face the table, please, and hold this tray. Let’s take a look.”
Blumert: "What are you doing with that fork, Doc?"
ERD: "Fork? I was having lunch when you came in and I was about to sample the coleslaw. Don’t panic, please. Here, I’m putting the fork away."
Blumert: "What do I do? I have important people to meet with tomorrow. This could be an awful embarrassment."
ERD: "The way I size things up, Blumert, nobody would even notice. Go home and take a cold bath."
Humiliated, my muse and I slink away. That Doc was certainly unsympathetic and rude. I hope he needs a gold coin some day.