Creative Generalist points us to a sadly accurate article that says lots of interesting things about subcultures, inside jokes, and why Discordians are needed more now than ever. That’s not what I want to rant about here, though. No, my dandruff blizzard was caused by something completely different.
It’s spring of 1949, and a husband absentmindedly flips through The Saturday Evening Post. He stops at the headline, “We Love to Catch Them on a Springmaid Sheet.” It’s an ad for a fabric company, which is not something men in this particular era (or our own) care much about. But the woman being rescued is showing a bit of garter as she leaps to safety, her skirt flapping as she lands on a blanket stretched taut by four handsome firefighters.
This is The Tease in action, and believe it or not, there is more here than meets the eye.
It’s spring of 2005, and you are staring at the back cover of Vice magazine, where Melissa, the winner of an unofficial American Apparel wet T-shirt contest, is apprising us of her skill set. Here is the Spring Mills of the 21st century, a high-profile cotton company that relies on sex to sell its products. But founder Dov Charney, who helps write his own ads, has no use for the wink. Proud to call himself a pervert, chuffed when porn stars wear his clothes, Charney prefers to build his brand around the single entendre, sleaze without Tease. Jaime Wolf, writing in the New York Times Magazine this April, noted that, “Charney is pushing boundaries, and knowingly so, and he maintains that your response to his boundary-pushing determines whether you count as a young person or an old person in today’s society.”
Well now, that’s just mean. I admit that being over 40 puts me outside of the “young” category, but Mr. Charney’s packed the fudge a little too tight here. I, too, have been bemoaning the death of the double entendre for many years. It’s a selfish thing for me. Most of my personal humor consists of deadpan deliveries of double meanings (and intentionally mixed metaphors, but that’s a horse of a different drummer.) As the years go by, fewer and fewer people are noticing them. I know this can’t be because I’m growing less funny. Not in my world.
However, Mr. Charney — and, I fear, a majority of people who still have to wipe down their bathroom ceilings every day — seems to feel that I am saddened by the abandonment of The Tease because I’m a prude. They’ll have to take my word for it, but if there’s one thing I’m not, that’s it. I am, in fact, the exact opposite. If age affects my opinions on this stuff at all, it’s that it has given me a great appreciation of the importance of the art of things.
My objection is not that they’re violating taboos or “pushing boundaries.” Quite the opposite. I object that they’re pulling them in. They are restricting the use of sex in popular culture to the pornographic. I love porn as much as the next guy, but without The Tease, it’s all just sweaty grunting bodies and only stays interesting for the eight minutes until orgasm. Yawn. Every stripper in the universe knows that a naked woman is not quite as sexy as a woman who is getting naked. Jessica Rabbit gave wood to millions of men (and, ahem, women) around the world, and she never even flashed a boob, was human, or existed.
Go ahead and tell me that within six months of buying your crap I’ll have to become a hermit because everywhere I go women will riot to worship my enormous gold-plated member. Just don’t do it in those words. Flirt with me, dammit.
Unfortunately the art of flirting has been waning along with the art of the double entendre. They’ve always been stuck together like dogs in the street, so that’s no real surprise. Remember when people thought of flirting as purposeful innuendo rather than blatant proposition? When it wasn’t necessarily an offer or request? When it was a kind of chaste foreplay? Remember when bushes liked it if you beat around them a little first? The Tease amps up desire. It pumps up an atmosphere of promise without guarantee, and when something is a Sure Thing, it’s not quite as much fun. The threat of the take-away, of rejection, means you’re taking a risk. Risk is a tasty spice.
Really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I cast a worried eye over the cultural landscape as a whole and see this change, this loss of art, everywhere. Witness the decline of news headlines. Some newspapers have even gone so far as to ban puns. Puns don’t kill people, pullets do.
It occurs to me that when I was young in the prime marketing demographic, I thought the older generations were pretty naive and prude, too. Now I wonder. My parental generation was in their 20s in the ’60s… could it be that nothing really changes? Nonono, never mind. I’m not going there. A man can only take so much enlightenment in one lifetime, and my mother is a virgin regardless of what my brat sister says.