If I told you that I stood naked in my bathroom this morning, studying an invitation that reads “Check out what all the girls are talking about at skintimatebonus.com”, I suspect you’d get the wrong idea. This potentially erotic come-on is, alas, nothing more orgy-riffic than a promotional gimmick printed on my wife’s free sample can of Raspberry Rain shaving cream.
I’ve been struck recently by the realization that practically every utilitarian object in my home boasts an invitation to visit its website. Does someone, somewhere find these invitations stirring? Are there forums where pleased consumers come together to share their contentment about lip balm and adhesive bandages?
I always maintained that the ad campaign for Venus razors and shaving gels was too lofty and ambitious when it suggested that the products in question could help “bring out the goddess in you”, but maybe there are legions of female consumers who know something I don’t? (Incidentally, for all the feminist resurrection of various goddess myths, there is clearly still a theological glass ceiling to contend with, in that patriarchal deities have yet to be reduced to feel-good advertising mascots; I do not anticipate an ad campaign suggesting that a men’s shaving gel or razor can “bring out the god” in me. Admittedly, if such an ad campaign does come to pass, I’ll definitely buy the product in question.)
Few of these invitations adhere to the less-is-more philosophy. My deodorant does not stop at asking me to visit its website. Instead, it suggests that I “experience www.speedstick.com.” I have learned, through nothing more than a hasty Google search to ensure that I was spelling “Gillette” correctly (I wasn’t; I’d only typed one L), that for some people, the official experience is not enough, and must indeed be supplemented with souvenirs in the way of additional web pages. To wit: my Google search for “gilette mach 3” turned up the company-produced page one would expect, promising “information and tips on shaving, skin care and body wash,” calling to mind Wonko the Sane from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, who gave up all hope for humanity when he noticed that his packet of toothpicks included directions. Yet in this case, the search also resulted in a Wikipedia page.
Let me say that again: there is a Wikipedia page for Gillette Mach3.
Humiliatingly, the teaser blurb’s claim of “$750 million in research and development costs” was sufficiently intriguing to convince me to click on the link, this despite the painfully glacial pace of our Internet access. Worse still, the teaser’s note that the razor was introduced in 1998 actually left me nodding appreciatively; am I impressed by Gillette’s razor? Lord help me, am I nostalgic?
Whatever the case, I read the damn page, which notes “the recent release of the Gillette Fusion with 5 blades,” proving The Onion prescient once again with its 2004 editorial (ostensibly penned by James M. Kilts, Gillette CEO and President): “Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades”. Here is a highlight from this article:
Would someone tell me how this happened? We were the fucking vanguard of shaving in this country. The Gillette Mach3 was the razor to own. Then the other guy came out with a three-blade razor. Were we scared? Hell, no. Because we hit back with a little thing called the Mach3Turbo. That’s three blades and an aloe strip. For moisture. But you know what happened next? Shut up, I’m telling you what happened—the bastards went to four blades. Now we’re standing around with our cocks in our hands, selling three blades and a strip. Moisture or no, suddenly we’re the chumps. Well, fuck it. We’re going to five blades.
Other websites advertised in my medicine cabinet include not only www.aquafresh.com, but also www.aquafresh.co.uk, ‘cause I’m such a sexy globetrotting bastard. Brainstorming at work this morning, I thought it’d be funny to check out the website for Axe deodorant, but alas, “To view the full Axe Effect experience you must have Flash Player version 9 or greater.” (How’s this for degrading: even the Pepperidge Farm website requires “Adobe® Flash® Player 8+ to view.” Apparently, I need to move out of Africa.) Then there’s that word again: experience. Not “visit the website to choose which deodorant suits you” or even “visit our website to order some of our product,” but rather, “view the full Axe Effect experience”.
Hell, I even found a review of Axe. Not a consumer review at Amazon, mind you, but a full-on blog entry by Nicholas Roussos dedicated to critiquing a deodorant. (Review: Axe Deodorant – Blogcritics Culture.) Much to my embarrassment, the deodorant review is not only well-written, but arguably (probably) more engaging and funny than anything I’ve written in recent weeks, including this essay. (Christ, its reply count stands at 25. I’ve only provoked 20-some replies two times in my three or four years at PopMatters, in essays dedicated to God and wrestler Bret Hart, respectively. Who is this Nicholas Roussos, and why is his deodorant review so disarmingly charming? A quick glance at his blog reveals that he recently ruined his iPod Shuffle by washing it with his laundry; is it petty for me to be pleased?)
The Internet’s staggering uselessness doesn’t stop at toiletries (though I do feel compelled to note, before we move on, that the Charmin website invites consumers to “Explore the Charmin forest to find the toilet paper products that are right for your family”). Bananas in Pajamas has enough of a web presence that you can also visit sites dedicated to its European spelling, Bananas in Pyjamas. Fruity Islands cereal, discontinued after a year or so back in the mid-’80s, has a web presence. You might reasonably expect something as popular as the Power Rangers to boast a considerable web presence, but I like nothing more than to make my readership feel old, and so it pleases me to note that a Google search for “Power Rangers nostalgia” yields 163,000 hits.
Former professional wrestler turned homophobic motivational speaker the Ultimate Warrior has a website. So does tone-deaf, famous-for-15-minutes William Hung. Surprisingly, Puck from Real World San Francisco does not seem to have his own dedicated website, though he does have quite a web presence, ranging from the obligatory Wikipedia entry to news pieces about his recent car crash.
Turbo Teen does not have an official site to its name, but its profiles at sites like Retrojunk and TV.com are plentiful, as are similar tributes to other profoundly forgettable ‘80s animated series ranging from Paw-Paw Bears and The Littles to The Wuzzles and Kissyfur. (Full disclosure: I wrote a loving essay about Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears for this very column in June of 2009 (“Footnotes in the Great Book of Gummi”). Sure, I’m part of the problem, but you can bugger off, ‘cause Gummi Bears was a kickass show.)
Rockstar Energy Drink has a website. So does the macarena dance. Young MC has a MySpace page and a profile at thecelebritycafe.com, and another at VH-1’s website. The rock group Green Jellÿ has a website, and in their concert promotions on MySpace, they occasionally revert to the original spelling of their name, Green Jell-O. Subversive!
There are webpages dedicated to Christian Slater’s seminal cinematic masterpiece, Gleaming the Cube, and I’m reasonably certain that the Suicidal Tendencies video for “Possessed to Skate” should be available on YouTube. There, I’ve exhausted my knowledge of skate culture.
Tone-Loc has a website. So do New Kids on the Block, whose music still inspires oxymoronic responses like “powerfully mediocre”. Readers, not only are there websites (plural) dedicated to Rubik’s Cube, there are also sites dedicated to the short-lived but astoundingly unlikely animated series based on Rubik’s Cube: Rubik, the Amazing Cube.
If Lowbrow Literati were a work of fiction, the highlight of my career would be coming up with the idea of an animated series featuring an anthropomorphic puzzle cube with superpowers that teams up with three Latino children to stop villainy, but alas, I am not making this up, and so I cannot take credit for Rubik, the Amazing Cube. I can, however, sing its praises… literally; the show was canceled in 1984, but dear people, I swear to you that I remember its theme song.
No wonder that I do: according to Wikipedia, Menudo recorded the theme! (Promotional aside: I have opted not to link to most of the sites I’ve mentioned in this essay, ‘cause I like to think that PopMatters is more worthy of your browsing time than Tone Loc’s self-promotion or reflective reminiscence about bygone breakfast foodstuffs. However, at the risk of editorial wrath, I urge you all to abandon this essay right now and YouTube some Rubik, the Amazing Cube. It’ll be the closest you get to the experience of dropping acid, I guarantee it.)
Wow. What a run. I think we’ve all learned a lot today. I now envision our planet reduced to post-apocalyptic rubble, then visited by aliens who manage to resurrect our feeble technology in order to explore humanity’s virtual culture, including skintimatebonus.com and What Would Tyler Durden Do and nutellausa.com and websites filled with nostalgic, wistful tributes to Domino’s Pizza’s “Avoid the Noid” ad campaign and Jump the Shark and the official website of Tampax and geek haven Topless Robot, which has offered such nonsensical and unnecessary contributions to the cultural conversation as its list of the most implausible vehicles and playsets from the ’80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy series. (Oh, wait. I wrote that list.)
What a noble anthropological enterprise!