It’s been a while since an ad sent me into a tailspin of fury, driving me to the internets to vent my annoyance. Perhaps this is because my stress level has been such that all I can spare is the clenched jaw and squinty eye of profound disapproval. But I’m back, baby!

Yes. I’ve had it with NuvaRing, and only the internet can soothe my affronted sensibilities. Thank you, internet, for passively accepting my rage into your limitless void.

So. NuvaRing. A form of birth control that purports to catapult a woman from the stale, monochromatic  retrodom of daily pill popping to a contemporary, yellow bikini-ed (yet curiously sexless) life of leisure. Look at those women in the soaking pool, carefully spaced in such a way as to negate any Sapphic connotations (and of course arranged in a ring…a NUVA ring, one might say). No cabana boys here, no sir! These are good girls.

The NuvaRing commercial that’s really rubbing me the wrong way is the new one, in which a group of ladies hang out in a living room together. The synchronized swimming version of the ad comes on TV. “Oh!” the woman closest to the tube exclaims. “I love this commercial!” Then she actually lip-synchs to the maddeningly catchy little tune (“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…”) before defaulting to the role of NuvaDrone, extolling the product’s virtues to her submissive audience.

Birth control marketers, like marketers of “feminine products,” struggle to find compelling ways to sell their products. I can’t recall having ever seen an ad for hormone-based birth control that demonstrates what the product actually does (in contrast to condom marketing). The pill’s been around now for 50 years. Has birth control’s purpose become irrelevant to its marketing? NuvaRing and its competitors focus instead on differentiating their products by hyping incremental innovations in required frequency or method of use or positive incidental side effects, such as reduction of acne or relief from premenstrual dysphoric disorder. They don’t touch sex. Why? Could it be…THIS? Talk about irony.

Anyhoo, what I really wanted to write about is the ad’s irritating solipsism. To me, solipsism is a form of metacommentary, which is in itself a peculiar phenomenon of our time. David Foster Wallace exhaustively (of course) documented the phenomenon in his essay E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction, from A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. The extent to which metacommentary infiltrates our pop culture is surprising and strange, and often dictates the extent to which we find something – say a children’s film, like the inexplicably resurrected Shrek franchise  – amusing.

What does this say about us? Perhaps it’s somehow tied to a kind of cultural tribalism, in which those who get the in-joke self-select into a particular niche.

NuvaRing, though. That’s an in-joke no one wants to get.


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