Rage against Mr. Clean

Posted by jdg | Thursday, September 25, 2008

He is known by many names throughout Europe. In Italy he is Mastro Lindo; in Germany, Meister Proper; in Spain, Don Limpio. In France he is Monsieur Propre. No matter where you go, this much is clear: he makes rooms spotless, and you must address him formally.

Last week, the European Parliament voted 504 to 110 to adopt a scathing nonbinding report that accuses the advertising industry of “sexual stereotyping,” singling out Mr. Clean and his muscular physique for the implication that only a mighty man is powerful enough to tackle dirt and stains.

Leave it to the Europeans to get it all wrong. To be fair, I have always felt that Mr. Clean was a somewhat-threatening figure, a self-assured, well-muscled, vaguely-middle-eastern man (or perhaps a buccaneer) that housewives everywhere are supposed to welcome into their homes to polish all their surfaces. It's all very subtle---not obvious schtick like those cleaning hunks. Mr. Clean's motives are far more nebulous. Maybe he just really likes to clean! He seems to have even been marketed to husbands at one time (I can just see Don Draper & co. hashing all this one out in a conference room---Mr. Clean was initially conceived in 1958) but for the past couple of years as my househusband duties have called for increased surface cleaning, I have noticed that Mr. Clean does only seem to be winking at the ladies. I have seen you winking at the ladies, Mr. Clean. I do not think that you will wink at me.

(But that earring gives me hope).

Yo, France: Monsieur Propre is not some statement about the feminine form's inability to exert elbow grease. Mr. Clean---much like Italy's own Fabio--- is a fantasy icon designed for women whose husbands would never rip their bodices or vigorously clean their kitchens. I am sure in real life, Fabio would hardly live up to all the hype: he probably brushes his hair a thousand strokes like Mary Ingalls before he falls asleep instead of breathlessly laying you down on a bed covered in rose petals. As much as I would like a visit from Mr. Clean myself, I'm sure the whole thing would be a little awkward. Thankfully, some people have gone to strange and extraordinary lengths to show us just what such a visit would be like in real life:

Thoughts running through my head while watching that video:

00.20 Okay, this smoke business just reinforces the false belief that Mr. Clean is some kind of magical cleaning genie who will come to your house and do your bidding. In fact the original Mr. Clean was just a sailor from Pensacola, Florida that some ad man handed a sawbuck in exchange for his likeness joining the pantheon of corporate mascot immortals alongside Aunt Jemima, Col. Sanders, Orville Redenbacher, Uncle Ben, Dr. Bronner, Mrs. Butterworth, and Paul Newman. True story.

00.25 Even though his hands are all over that housewife, I don't find this jolly version of Mr. Clean as threatening as the one in the real commercials.

00.28 Already this provides some much-needed support for my theory that there's just something not right about winking.

00.32 If a giant bald man with puffy cloud eyebrows appeared in my kitchen and started strenuously mopping the floor, I am pretty sure my daughter would have reacted differently from this little girl.

00.36 Mr. Clean ought to move to that town where John Lithgow forbids dancing. I'd like to see what would happen were he to energize the local disgruntled youths with those moves.

00.45 Stop humping the counter, Mr. Clean.

00.50 See my theory about winking, above.

00.59 I don't think this Mr. Clean is capable of shutting his jaw.

01:00 The image of a hefty, gap-toothed Mr. Clean holding a diamond engagement ring in a country kitchen is, I think, exactly what all your thirty-something single female friends partying and drinking all night in the big city think about when they get home in the wee hours of the morning and weep into the bathroom sink while counting the growing number of lines around their eyes.

01:10 Okay, Lennie, put the lady down. Don't stroke her hair, Lennie. She ain't one of them rabbits.

01:15 Maybe this is all supposed to be some weird hallucination the little girl is having from huffing that bottle of cleaning solution while some fat bald guy comes over to dip her mom.

So European Parliament with your nonbinding resolutions: Mr. Clean is not a corporate mascot designed to make women feel inferior about their cleaning skills. He's a corporate icon who will come into your home, swiftly remove all dirt and grime from every household surface, and then pick your wife up and swing her around while your children watch. Got it? As the world economy teeters on the brink of a massive depression, perhaps you should next set your sights on television repairmen and plumbers.

Or at least pass a nonbinding resolution that Mr. Clean should wink at househusbands, too.