There’s a new ad on TV for an acne medicine that shows one of the most stunning young women I’ve ever seen complaining about her acne.
Let me be absolutely, perfectly clear about this. She does not have acne. She’s never had acne. She is flawless, spotless, unblemished. She has no bumps, no pits, no scars — just acres of china-doll skin. It’s obvious that what she knows about acne could fit in a thimble with room left over for a finger. The only thing comparable to watching her talk about the horrors of acne would be watching Donald Trump complain about hair loss.
She is also, I’m guessing, about 22. Her hair and makeup are perfect. It probably took 10 professional hair and makeup artists 18 hours to make it look like she is wearing no makeup at all and like her hair is falling naturally the way it does when she gets out of bed in the morning, highlights and back-lighting included. In short, she is exactly what your 14-year-old wishes she looked like, down to the pouty, slightly bee-stung lips.
The trouble is, except for the pout, your 14-year-old will never look like the woman in this ad, unless she is a pop star or the girlfriend of a Russian mobster. It is not possible for there to be two women who look like this on one little planet.
But your teen does not know that. She thinks there are millions of other teens in high schools all across the country who look just like the woman in the commercial because their parents aren’t holding them back the way you are holding her back. The girl in the commercial is beautiful and acne-free because (pick one or more of the following reasons):
• Her parents let her date, and not just date. They let her date anybody she wants, no matter how undesirable.
• Her parents bought her a brand-new (name of expensive car here).
• Her parents make much more money than you do because they love her enough to work two jobs, if that’s what it takes.
• She lives in (name of fancy town or neighborhood) instead of the sticks.
The disconnect between the model and the product being sold is so great that I have to ask myself, what is the commercial really selling? Using someone without acne to sell acne medicine seems a little odd, like using a cowboy to sell fish sticks or talking frogs to sell beer. Oh, wait, they really did that. Because if anyone knows anything about beer, it’s frogs.
Still, you’d think if you wanted to sell the cure for acne, maybe a doctor would be able to make a better pitch for it than a supermodel. Why not a medical professional who would say something like, “I am a dermatologist, and here’s what I recommend. And by the way, unlike a model, I know what I’m talking about.” But an ad like that wouldn’t make teens depressed and unhappy and vulnerable to a good sales pitch.
Why am I nattering on about this? Because there is something about hawking remedies and medicines on TV that has become disturbingly unseemly. Every time I see an ad for a prescription medicine that ends with the line, “Ask your doctor if such-and-such is right for you,” I wonder, how stupid do they think your doctor is? If you have to tell your doctor about the best medicine for your disease, why are you still going to him or her? If watching commercials on the nightly news is how he’s keeping up with the latest medical advances, I have some news for you: You’re gonna die.
Jim Mullen’s book “Now in Paperback” is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.