This Skincare Ad With The Semi Naked Kid Makes Me Feel Icky

Most people think it is pure, sweet, wholesome and all around lovely.
Publish date:
April 12, 2013
beauty, advertisement, naked kids

The slogan is “Beauty doesn’t get any purer than this.”

Call me a cynic, but I say it doesn’t get any pukier than this. Because that’s what I wanted to do when I saw this ad. Puke.

You may have seen this picture in magazines the past few seasons. It’s a print advertisement for Josie Maran skincare. Most people think it is pure, sweet, wholesome and all around lovely.

So, why does it rub me the wrong way?

It comes down to two things: the kiss, and the partially naked kid in the tub.

The kiss is just too lingering for me. Of the women I polled (all of them happened to be parents) they were broken into two camps -– those who thought this was a “sweet, darling moment” and those who were icked out by lip-kissing.

“You don’t understand,” said one friend. “My daughter is so cute, I could literally eat her up. I smush her little face in and kiss her silly.” Another said on-the-lips kisses were one of the only moments she knows her kids are 100% focused on mom.

Still, others were not a fan of kissy lips. “There’s only one person I kiss on the lips, and I married him,” were the words of one such woman.

But, this doesn’t fully explain my instinctual objection. My family did kissy-lips growing up. Heck, sometimes we still do! (Though mine have become extra “fishy” –- that tight lipped squeezing in of cheekbones, to keep the kiss clearly on the outline of the lips. Wouldn’t want any accidental saliva contact! Eesh.)

Let’s go back to the kiss-too-lingering issue. It’s the way she’s holding the girl’s head. It certainly is a romantic photo, meaning “displaying love and affection, the idealizing of love or one’s beloved.” But, something about the dark lighting and the Polaroid effect make me worry that, in the wrong hands, this image could be bastardized into the pornographic realm. (There is something about the Polaroid that works against this ad: It’s well known that, for many years, Polaroids were the untraceable tool of choice for pedophiles who did not want to be discovered.)

The men I polled were a different story: At first, the spoken reaction was, “sweet.” I asked, “Is there anything about it that feels a bit off?”

“Whew,” said one, “I thought I was the only one who noticed.”

Another reaction: “I did feel uncomfortable but I trying to ignore it,” and “There’s something off because the photograph is subtly erotic. It’s not right.” Keep in mind: These were reactions from single men who had no children.

Does this reflect a general lack of male understanding of the mother-child bond? If so, am I secretly a man and no one’s told me? Are men so brainwashed by society, political correctness, and fear of false accusations to be paranoid of anything related to loving young children? Or are the men I questioned reflecting back a simple discomfort some of us, men or women, have with intimacy in general? As for the women who object, could this, at its core, reflect a fear of abuse, and with men, being suspected of it?

I fear that, like other campaigns featuring partially naked children, like the famous Coppertone ad, where a playful pup is pulling down a small child’s bikini bottoms, (although the intentions may be pure) they are just too easy to be used by pedophiles for their unconscionable pleasure.

It’s also easy to “adult-ize” the ad, as done by Carmen Electra in “Esquire,” among others, blurring the lines between adult and child, appropriate and not.

The girl in the Josie Maran ad isn’t entirely nude -– and what is shown as far as skin goes is absolutely no different from the oil paintings of Bouguereau featuring children-cherubs, or the young bathers of Mary Cassatt. The difference is they weren’t pedaling Argan Oil.

Something about the use of a young girl’s body -– in whatever context -- feels unseemly to me.

What do you think? Is it a celebration of the purity of maternal love? And/or is the use or suggestion of a child’s semi-nudity inappropriate for hocking commercial products?