Thursday, September 25, 2008

Extensive stupidity

Once upon a time, when WB senior staff were just kids, magazines ran tacky but titillating ads for a contraption called the Mark Eden Bust Developer — two pink plastic pads connected by a spring. As you can see by the ad at left, the company promised that, by pushing the two pads together a few times each day, women could see dramatic "bustline" changes in just weeks. There was even an old jump-rope chant (not created by Mark Eden) that went well with the push-in routine:

We must! We must! We must increase the bust!
The bigger the better, the tighter the sweater!
The boys are depending on us!

As good proto-feminists even then, we remember thinking that the Mark Eden ads stressed women's physical "inadequacies" and created, then exploited, a negative body image for profit. (Actually, since we were only kids, we just thought: That's really weird.) And we were convinced that the really weirdest thing about it all was that the same kinds of products and pressures would never, ever focus on men's "inadequacies." Those were off limits as topics for public discourse, and always would be. So why pick on women?

One millennium-rollover later, anyone watching TV after 11:30 at night is punished by a thick swarm of commercials for ExtenZe, the notorious "male enhancement" wonder pill sold at GNC and Amazon as well as on telly. With a long trail of complaints that (a) the product doesn't work (SURPRISE!) and (b) the company doesn't really refund customers' money as promised (SHOCKING!), ExtenZe has grown from enormously pathetic 60-second commercials — starring some doctor from Tampa (he's real) and some nameless blinking woman largely unendowed of any onscreen talent — to a massively unbearable infomercial starring former Playmates and disguised as a lengthy "talk show" called Sex Talk.

And because the pills have been so hugely successful in shrinking men's wallets, an ExtenZe drink has been added to the lineup:

Yes, he's doing it all for her. He'll probably blow out his heart from all of the yohimbe, ginseng, nettles, licorice, and cayenne exploding through his system at once, but hey, if it means bedding a stunning smile like this, who wouldn't be willing to take that risk?

ExtenZe and its ads have already been thoroughly reviewed (i.e. trashed) at Infomercial Hell and DVD Panache, so we'll simply add that researching this product and company can lead to eruptions of laughter. Running a WhoIs probe of the product's web site domain shows that it's registered, logically enough, by a graphics design firm out of California — which has no web site of its own. Inserting the name "Biotab Nutraceuticals," the alleged manufacturer, results in complaints and court cases, but no web site. A link to Alteril, an infomercial-peddled sleeping pill, says that Biotab is owned by Alteril; clicking the "Contact" link gives you a 404 error.

California keeps popping up in search results, yet the alleged inventor of the product, Dr. Daniel S. Stein, runs the world's cheesiest-looking medical center in Florida. Stein's image appears all over the web under various guises, with photos showing him sometimes gray and bald, sometimes wearing a brown toupee, and always looking like a consummate con artist.

It's also interesting to see to what lengths whoever's really behind the product has gone to never really say what the herbal concoction does. No specific body part is ever named; while some blog commentators have suggested that this is because penises are a prickly topic to raise when huge fines from a Bush-led FCC are no small matter, we think it's a brilliant stroke of business sense that allows the company to just offer a tiny shrug for complaining customers and say, "Who told you it was going to enhance that?"

Given this kind of limp research trail, WB concludes that ExtenZe is definitely the real thing as an icon for the first decade of the 21st century. With a growing clientele of men who are happy to buy scientific medical formulas from untraceable graphic designers, and who see nothing wrong with women on the infomercials saying that they will instantly pull out of relationships with their husbands or boyfriends if they don't stay on a rigid regimen of the penis pills, ExtenZe is a perfect comeuppance for the men behind the Mark Eden Bust Developer and every other "too small" product and ideology flung at women for so long. Don't take all of this "inadequate" attention too hard, guys; you made what you're getting back in equal measure.

1 comment:

Extenze said...

As good proto feminists even then, we remember thinking that the Mark Eden ads stressed women's physical "inadequacies" and created, then exploited, a negative body image for profit.