There is no better way I can open here other than to show you the most blatantly absurd of these ads.
Wow, right? So much to unpack here. I’m legitimately impressed that they managed to make the audience that uncomfortable in a fifteen-second spot. But how?
This clip should shoot up some red flags in your internal “this is icky for some reason” radar, but let’s analyze why, because I know why: it’s the eye contact. To her credit, the actress in these ads sells the hell out of whatever emotion they’re trying to evoke in her, and in us. She meets your own eyeline much the way you would if somebody walked in on you masturbating and you wanted them to know you were enjoying this situation.
I’m not crazy, right? This is sexual. It’s not sexual in any way recognizable to human beings, but you do get the idea that some alien entity or autoerotic asphyxiator recognizes this as erotic. It really glistens their flaps. (Not to kinkshame extradimensional terrors, or choke-jackers for that matter. Just use the buddy system.) It just also happens to deliberately evoke child abuse.
A stern, motherly woman smashing something with a thick book while calmly stating, twice, that what she’s doing is for your own good. I get that spanking is a sexy button for a lot of people. (Not to kinkshame spanking fetishists or button enthusiasts.) But this is less evocative of playful smacks on the rear by your partner and more your actual parent taking a 2×4 to your bruised, bleeding ass. The object being “spanked” is fucking obliterated. That’s not even getting into the warped psychology of why a phrase like “for your own good” is something you might hear while being beaten by your lover, I mean mother.
Which brings us to the actress again. I can’t begin to speculate how old this woman is. I could accept her being 32 or 67 or anywhere between. But her outfit and haircut and general demeanor of detached but superficially loving authority paints her as a strangely maternal figure. That I feel is a defensible statement. More importantly, she’s using this tone with the viewer directly. She practically ignores anybody but you, in fact, to a clearly deliberate extent that’s actually kind of strange. Which means she isn’t just some mother, she is your mother.
What’s harder to articulate is how they sexualize her. They are doing that, right? Again, is it just me?
I’m not saying she’s attractive or unattractive. Let’s say “uneasily alluring,” because it is my contention, again, that she’s being dressed up, literally and metaphorically, as a motherly figure, just your mother if you had a weird compulsion to fuck her.
Putting aside the spanking imagery from the first ad, let’s look at this one. Oh, by the way? There’s a lot of these.
The fucking eye contact. Her contrapposto stance. That weird tongue thing she does in her mouth in the close-up. You’re all seeing this, right? The guitar-playing swagger is obviously meant to be a juxtaposition with her stern, motherly demeanor, but honestly by the time I saw this ad that barely even read as a contrast. She’s such a bizarre entity, this character.
Seriously, there’s a lot of these.
This is just outright sinister in a way only the “For Your Own Good” ad was previously. Is her left eye always doing that? That perpetual half-wink? Listen to the way she purrs the word “satisfied,” like she’s Bernadette Peters in those old Bryer’s commercials. Jesus Christ. Also, she knows how to hotwire a car, and she’s hidden your keys. I liked Bates Motel but this might be a better prequel to Psycho.
She maintains eye contact while looking up and pointing to a word in the dictionary. That’s the level of dedication she maintains here.
I swear to God, I forgot this last one even existed before I started writing this, but with its conviction that pretzels are a godly entity that will be around to bury humanity in its tomb, it might actually be more terrifying than the one that makes you want to whack off while a smirking but disapproving woman beats you senseless:
This is it, America. Mother’s uncomfortably delicious smashed pretzel chunks are here to free us all from the tedium of our lives. Give her a kiss. For flavor. Snyder’s and their ninety layers of parent companies love you so, so much.
[image and videos property of Snyder’s of Hanover]