Axe not for whom the bell tolls

If I was a Christian publisher, I’d be getting nervous. The ASA (the much-vaunted Asinine Standards Authority) has decided that an advert for Axe deodorant has to be withdrawn because, basically, it exposes the flawed philosophical foundation upon which Christianity is built.

Well, they didn’t actually say that, but it’s what they mean. The ad shows a bunch of super-hot angels crashing to Earth, finding the sexy man using Axe Excite, and then breaking their halos violently on the ground — presumably a Catholic version of unsafe sex. A felix culpa indeed, at least if you’re a young atheist man willing to accept some angelic kneeling homage. The pay-off line is “Even angels will fall”.

It’s not a bad advert. After all, Axe research has proven that any woman turns into a raving slut when she gets a whiff of Axe, so why not angels? Some Axe ads are pretty funny, the lighter side of sexism, if you will.

The one for Axe Dry assures us that “Premature Perspiration can be controlled. What happens when sweat comes between you and women?” It would be a real killer sales pitch if they got the ugly old men the angels ignore to wear Axe. Now that would be convincing, if Axe could get a gorgeous angel to hump a decrepit old man. Frankly, the hot young stud in the ad could get laid even if he smelt of yesterday’s KFC bucket.

But I digress. The ASA issued the following edict: “The problem is not so much that angels are used in the commercial, but rather that the angels are seen to forfeit or perhaps forego their heavenly status for mortal desires. This is something that would likely offend Christians.”

Odd. Isn’t that part of the Christian myth, parallel to the fall of Lucifer and his buddies from heaven? Are we going to ban the Bible, that very effective advertising campaign for Christianity, because it says humanity is born of the Fall?

Genesis is, in other ways, a blueprint for the type of advertising that works for Axe. Genesis 6:2, for example, is all about the Axe effect: “The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. For they were wearing Axe.”

And there can be no better description of those desolation angels of the advertising world, than that found in Paradise Lost: “By falsities and lyes the greatest part Of Mankind they corrupted to forsake God thir Creator, and th’ invisible Glory of him that made them, to transform Oft to the Image of a Brute, adorn’d With gay Religions full of Pomp and Gold, And Devils to adore for Deities.”

If you’re going to ban an advert because it uses popular mythology, you’re on a slippery slope. And not the good kind of slippery that Axe produces in women. I trust that Christians don’t really think of angels as supermodels with great tits and some unfortunate feathery equivalent to unsightly body hair.

Chris Roper is the editor of Mail & Guardian Online

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