IVP - Strangely Dim - The Devil Is in the Deodorant

April 1, 2009

The Devil Is in the Deodorant

I tend to think of myself as a connoisseur of deodorant. I won't get into the whys and wherefores, but I have been around the block a few times with a variety of brands and formulas, and I like to think I've learned a thing or two along the way. That being said, one of the main things that attracts me to particular products is not their effectiveness but their packaging.

For whatever reason, for example, deodorant manufacturers like stickers--stickers that conveniently peel off the product without tearing, stickers that communicate messages that make no sense whatsoever out of the context of their product. I've blogged about such stickers before, actually (a sticker that read "The Unscented Leader" shaped my understanding of what it means to offer leadership to a group without succumbing to self-congratulation). Some stickers aren't so insightful but are entertaining nonetheless. I currently have the sticker "Powered by Baking Soda" affixed to my phone, and it makes me laugh every time I look at it. Like now--ha ha.

Mitchum is my default deodorant--or should I say the deodorant my wife encourages me to use. We assign different values to Mitchum. She thinks it makes me smell less repulsive, while I find its identity crisis entertaining: the container says one thing; the cap, another.

My current Mitchum cap reads, "If your favorite vegetable is a corn dog, you're a Mitchum(R) man." Who could say no to that? Someone went to the trouble of coming up with something nonsensical and macho as an acknowledgment that many men make purchasing decisions the way I do: they're looking for a laugh wherever they can find one.

(More humorous to me than the joke itself, incidentally, is its context. I associate such silliness with certain themes--the colors and characters, say, of a Captain Morgan rum bottle--not with the austere green and silver, the strong lines and magisterial fonts of a Mitchum container. If Mitchum really wants to win over the unrepentant juvenile, it needs to worry less about creating online armpit orchestras and more about redesigning its logo and signature product. But I digress.)

In my research, I've noticed that if you want to get to know Mitchum, you'd better put on your reading glasses first. They're pretty wordy over there. My current Mitchum product--Smart Solid(TM)--brags about its formula: "With the maximum level of active ingredient." Seven words tucked between the formula name and the scent. Add that to the corn dog joke on the cap and you very nearly run out of fingers and toes to count words with. I suppose, in Mitchum's defense, it's fair to say that if you entertain yourself by doing word counts of deodorant containers, you're probably not a Mitchum man.

Nevertheless, the converse is true: if you're a Mitchum man, you probably don't want to have to read a lot before donning your deodorant. Mitchum, I'd like to suggest, needs an editor. So, how to whittle away at that word count? And how to match the tone on the container that they achieve on their cap?

Here's what I might do. By "maximum level" they probably mean that higher levels would require a prescription, that they would no longer be able to sell their product over the counter if they went any higher, that adding any more active ingredient would violate some law on the books. I can think of two words that communicate that message in significantly edgier terms: "Barely legal."

Titillating, no? I certainly hope that Mitchum doesn't take my advice, but I fear that they might. Nothing captures the unrepentant juvenile imagination quite like the offer of something that is technically not forbidden but the spirit of which clearly is. If I'm reading the powers that be at Mitchum correctly, I suspect they'd agree: if you like being titillated, you're a Mitchum man.

"Barely legal" hardly seems like a value that a Christian sweater such as myself ought to embrace. Really, though, where else could I turn for my hygienic needs? I heard a joke once about a Christian deodorant: "Aglow--the Holy Roll-on." With Aglow you could raise your hands in worship without causing your pewmate to mutter "Pee-ewww." Ha ha. But just using Christian nomenclature doesn't make roll-on holy any more than using the maximum active ingredient makes Mitchum borderline contraband. I think the deodorant that is truly Christian would be distinctly distinct: a Christian deodorant would live in the truth, wouldn't encourage such inane self-identification ("I love corn dogs; this must be the deodorant for me") or make arcane, extreme pronouncements about itself ("Oooh, barely legal; I gotta smear this on my pits"). A truly Christian deodorant would let its "Yes" be "Yes" and its "No" be "No." Any other deodorant is from the devil.

***

Of course I know deodorant is soulless and so can't be Christian. And I'm not making any pronouncements. It's a joke, people. Ha ha. Oh, and congratulations to Mark Eddy Smith for winning this month's "Rabbit" competition, honoring his craft, and acknowledging April Fool's Day all in one pop. You can read his poem at the Rabbit Uber Alles! Facebook group.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at April 1, 2009 5:24 AM Bookmark and Share

Comments

Now available wherever fine deodorant is sold: "Docetique--Be human, smell divine."

Comment by: Dave at April 3, 2009 1:41 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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