Snuggie, the blanket with sociocultural subtext
Perhaps it’s the sense that you can have a Snuggie or a sex life, but you can’t have both. Or maybe it’s just the general lack of dignity inherent to the item. Given the choice between having a dignified countenance and exposing a small amount of flesh to the air for a moment while you change the channel, the former is going to go every time for a large chunk of my fellow citizens. If you own a Snuggie, the odds that you wear a fanny pack strike me as extremely high. It conjures up the depressing image of someone sitting on their couch, remote in hand, flipping back and forth between a rerun of “Friends” and Rachel Ray’s show.
An astonishing 350 comments ensued, either to praise or bury the Snuggie, and many of them accusing Amanda’s rant of being anti-poor, anti-feminist, anti-cold climates and anti-people looking like tools if they damn well want to.
If you don’t own a television, and thus haven’t been subjected to the commercial for it every ten minutes or so since before Thanksgiving, the Snuggie is a blanket…with sleeves! While the ad pushes it as the most innovative invention since the salad spinner, it’s nothing more than a fleece choir robe. Like pretty much everything else that is advertised as “not sold in stores,” there is no reason for this product to exist. Any purpose it serves could be duplicated by something you already have in your home, such as a sweater or an extra pair of socks. It is a ridiculous object that makes people look ridiculous while wearing it, despite the fact that it may keep them warm.
Amanda may occasionally represent the worst qualities of white, liberal, privileged snobbery, but the defensiveness her post caused is baffling. It’s a bit of a reach to say the least that by criticizing the Snuggie she’s also criticizing poor people who have no other way of keeping warm. Snuggies aren’t being bought by poor people, they’re being bought by people who get suckered into believing they’re a more convenient alternative to a blanket. The commercial speaks for itself: it essentially says that using a blanket is difficult, particularly when it comes to the complicated task of answering a telephone. The look of distraught frustration on the actress’s face suggests that she’s trying to extricate herself from a straightjacket, while hanging upside down and surrounded by starving pit bulls.
Most products of this ilk are marketed in such a manner, on the notion that simple household chores are really much more complex than we realize, thank goodness now there’s something to make it so much easier. The Big City Slider Station, shilled by Billy Mays, who shouts everything at a volume level that makes me wonder if he used to be a roadie for Iron Maiden at some point, is a mold/cooker specifically designed for miniature hamburger patties. The difficulty in cooking hamburgers the old-fashioned way is demonstrated by someone actually flipping a patty right out of the pan and onto the stove, like something you’d see in a sketch on I Love Lucy. Even better than that is the commercial for Pasta ‘n’ More, a microwave pasta cooker. In the “before” scene, a woman is shown hobbling laboriously to a counter carrying what appears to be the entire contents of a kitchen drawer. These are supposedly all the tools necessary to boil spaghetti in a pot, when really I can only think of four right off the top of my head, and that’s counting water. She’s later shown burning herself while testing the spaghetti for doneness, something she wouldn’t need to worry about if she had the Pasta ‘n’ More. But this is the thing: she didn’t burn herself because cooking spaghetti on a stove is hard, it’s because she touched something that just came out of boiling hot water. This, like the Snuggie, is a product for people who couldn’t possibly be as incompetent as its commercials make them seem.
I suppose if I understood what would compel someone to buy an item of clothing that makes them look like Obi-Wan Kenobi, and not for the purposes of wearing it to a sci-fi convention, I’d probably be in the advertising business instead of doing this for free. You can bet that a goodly amount of Snuggie purchases, possibly as many as half, are for the kitschy, pop culture value of it, either given as gag gifts or so you can prominently display one in your home, just for the opportunity to have a guest point at it and say “Oh my God, is that a Snuggie? How droll!” I know that of which I speak, having owned several items, including a velvet Elvis painting, a Dukes of Hazzard board game and a set of highball glasses with artwork inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ on them, that served no other purpose but to show how hip and ironic I am.
The other half of the purchases, I really don’t know, and the fact that people do buy them does not negate the fact that they are ridiculous, or above criticism. If the fact that a lot of people put money towards something automatically renders it “good,” Nickelback would be as big as the Beatles and Paul Blart, Mall Cop would be the movie to beat at next year’s Academy Awards. I reiterate, Snuggies aren’t meant for poor people as an alternative to insurmountable heating bills. The commercial doesn’t suggest that in any way, being that it shows Snuggie users doing stuff like working on laptops and going to football games, neither of which poor people get to do terribly often. It’s for middle class people who are still lucky enough to have money burning holes in their pockets and who still get convinced by the man in the magic box that they can’t live without certain items, such as a blanket with sleeves, or a microwave hot dog that already comes packaged in a bun, so you can save yourself the ten seconds or so it would take to put it in a bun yourself. If that’s not worthy of a little derision, then I don’t know what is.