Heat pumps, mommy, and O magazine
A close read of a highly compelling commercial
This week’s WTF was sent to me from an In Pursuit community member, for which I’m so grateful. (I love every single one of your WTF noms - keep ‘em coming!)
I have zero opinions (or knowledge) about heat pumps, but I have some thoughts about this heat pump ad.
Before I share my thoughts though, allow me to recap this heat pump ad and highlight its various plot points.
The heat pump ad opens on a living room or maybe a family room. There’s a couch, a coffee table, and I guess a heat pump thing on the wall. I’m fairly sure the heat pump thing has been photoshopped into the scene, but I’m not a show-biz insider, so can’t be entirely sure. The heroine of our story is a serene white woman reclining on a couch. She is smiling, and she is reading Oprah’s O magazine. Her enjoyment of the Oprah magazine is the only thing we know about her.
A few seconds into the heat pump commercial, three children wearing winter coats, boots, and snowpants enter the house. Their boots are bone-dry and they seem to be embarrassed about entering what I can only presume is their home. They look straight ahead with barely concealed smirks and seem bent on walking past the reclining woman without attracting her attention.
The woman is deeply absorbed in her issue of O and doesn’t look up upon the children’s entrance. No words between the children and the woman are exchanged but presumably everyone is happy about the temperature of the room. Because, heat pump.
In the next scene, we know time has passed because the three children from the prior scene enter the house in the same manner as before, except this time, they’re wearing shorts and t-shirts and toting frisbees and tennis rackets to indicate that they’ve been having “summer fun.”
After entering through the front door, the children walk into the same family room featured in the winter scene, and yes, dear reader, the very same reclining woman is on the very same couch. She is smiling that same sanguine smile as before, leading us to believe that perhaps she is simply an always-happy, eternally-relaxed type of person.
As in the winter scene, the three children more or less tiptoe past the reclining woman and the woman, true to form, doesn’t look up from her issue of O magazine, which must be a singularly captivating issue because it’s the very same issue of O she was enjoying last winter! In fact, this issue of O must be the type of literature that improves upon subsequent readings, because in this scene, the director of the heat pump ad zooms in on the reclining woman’s face to reveal to us (the audience) the reclining woman’s Mona Lisa smile transform into an honest-to-goodness giggle and open-mouthed grin. She fucking loves this issue of Oprah magazine, which features articles entitled “New Year’s Evolution” and “From My Farm to Your Table.”
And now my thoughts.
Thought #1 - Maybe I need a subscription to O.
Thought #2 - Maybe I need a heat pump.
Thought #3 - According to the ethos of this heat pump ad, children are quiet, clean, orderly, and most importantly, invisible to the adults who live alongside them.
Thought #4 - I wonder how comfortable that couch is.
Thought #5 - I wonder how much the actors starring in this heat pump ad were paid. I wonder how rigorous and competitive the audition process was.
Thought #6 - I wonder how many heat pumps were sold thanks to this ad.
Thought #7 - Maybe all of the characters in this ad are doing some sort of vow of silence. Or maybe they’re part of sociological experiment intended to discover what happens if the children of a home never make eye contact or speak to their adult roommates?
Final Thought - According to the worldview of this heat pump ad, stay-at-home parenting is not highly specific, highly skilled labor; it is an eternal reading (and rereading) of O magazine on the couch with one’s feet up.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Sara, relax, it’s just a low-budget heat pump commercial.” To which I say, yeah, it is just a low-budget heat pump commercial. But this low-budget heat pump commercial is operating under some assumed norms about motherhood, domesticity, and childhood that bear examination. We’ll never know the various storylines, actors, and concepts left behind on the cutting room floor (alas!), but when tasked with creating a relatable portrayal of family life, the cracker-jack creative team behind this heat pump ad landed on a scene featuring a mom at ease at home. Not only does a heat pump keep this home perfectly cool and perfectly warm according to seasonal needs, but we know it’s a good home because mom is within it. Mom is marketing shorthand for home. And not only is mom shorthand for home, but a mom’s natural place is in the home, and her time spent in the home certainly shouldn’t be supported, compensated, or even be the subject of any curiosity since, if we’re to buy into the worldview of this heat pump ad, parenting and housekeeping are as simple as an afternoon on the couch spent in deep perusal of O magazine.