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Guest blogger Elizabeth Kuster: You know, that Electrolux washer and dryer commercial starring Kelly Ripa really puts my panties in a twist. Have you seen it?

Kelly Ripa

It starts with Kelly strolling into an immaculate and palatial laundry room in high heels and putting in a load of laundry while her voiceover chirps, "Now that I have my Electrolux washer and perfect steam dryer, I can juggle more things in my day!" Then the theme from Bewitched starts playing, and we see Kelly putting away folded clothes as if she were a Stepford Wife on speed. (Her eyes are glazed, and she has a dumb grin on her face.) She proceeds to feed the dog from afar via a flick of her heel, then puts shirts on three equally robotic little girls without touching them. (The girls, who are sitting stiffly on a couch in a suspiciously adult-looking den, barely acknowledge her presence.) Then Kelly (in voiceover again) exults, "With the Electrolux washer and perfect steam dryer, you can remove wrinkles and wash and dry clothes in just 36 minutes! So you can be [dramatic pause] even more amazing." And with that, she tosses three cookies in the air, which the girls catch without looking--the implication being that Kelly made the cookies from scratch in the time she'd saved doing laundry.

Sigh. Haven't we gotten long past the view that "amazing" mothers must keep themselves and their homes looking perfect at all times, bake everything from scratch, and do laundry in their heels--all without thanks or appreciation of any kind? I'd thought so, but apparently I was wrong. To the Electrolux people, at least, "being more amazing" still means fitting as much housework as you possibly can into every single day. If you're a woman, that is. If you're a man, you evidently have other options. At one point in the commercial, Kelly takes a man's white shirt out of the dryer and regards it fondly; the absent husband, apparently, is out in the world somewhere doing "man's work."

At best, the ad (with its '60s music and equally '60s Susie-Homemaker theme) is a flash to the not-so-great past. At worst, it's an attempt to resurrect the harmful stereotype that a woman's place is in the home. But it's not just the antiquated view of women here that ticks me off. It's also the fact that the ad reinforces the cult of busy-ness that, in my view, is ruining lots of women's lives. The ad's clear message is, "Any time saved on chores should be spent doing other chores." Important bulletin: The more time you spend every day cooking and cleaning and running errands, the more of your life will be spent cooking and cleaning and running errands. Do you really want to look back from your death bed and think, "Well, I didn't hug my kids enough, but at least their clothes weren't wrinkled"? Of course not. But if you consistently prioritize never-ending chores over human relationships, that's exactly what could happen. I find it significant that none of the players in this ad interact with each other in any meaningful way. "Mom" Kelly and the three girls are detached and unaffectionate; they hardly look at--let alone touch--each other. No one even pets the dog. To me, the commercial is an allegory of the isolation that results from too much technology and the belief that busy-ness equals value.

Hey, go ahead and buy the Electrolux washer and dryer if you want to. But if they save you any time at all, please don't fill those precious found minutes with yet more busy work. Instead, take the kids (and the dog) out in the fresh air and do something that feeds your souls, such as cloud-watching or kite-flying. Enjoy the moment and each other. Share your love. Because in the end, that's truly time well spent.

Brooklyn-based writer and humorist Elizabeth Kuster is the author of the popular self-help/humor book Exorcising Your Ex and has held editor positions at Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen and CosmoGIRL! magazines.

next: My Miscarriage is None of Your F'ing Business!
24 comments so far | Post a comment now
CC February 6, 2009, 9:09 AM

I think Kelly Ripa is a cyborg manufactured by the Electrolux corporation. Hopefully the T-1000 will come back from the future and battle it/her before the borgs begin taking over.

a.s. February 6, 2009, 9:12 AM

Yes, I remember “back then” and now I have many regrets for all of those missed opportunities with my babies.
KR’s commerical protrays a perfect Stepford wife…. blah!

ame i. February 6, 2009, 9:42 AM

I find her annoying in general.

Leslie February 6, 2009, 9:52 AM

Elizabeth—your comments are right on. Reminds me why I don’t even bother having a television, the sort of daily drek like this commercial with faux “everywoman” Kelly Ripa. Man alive, is she ever creepy. Thanks Elizabeth for reminding me to do something totally fun with my daughter this week-end—I’m gonna take her ice skating and leave the dirty cloths in the hamper.

Sunil February 6, 2009, 10:06 AM

Hey Bethster - don’t have a TV - so most of it went over my head! Good to hear from you tho - and see that you’re out there making trouble as usual. - Sunil.

susan February 6, 2009, 11:53 AM

great headline for the story too!

emma February 6, 2009, 1:51 PM

i think youre reading way too much into this commercial.

Brooke February 6, 2009, 3:43 PM

You certainly are sensitive; in case you didn’t notice, sitting down on the couch with her kids is hardly doing ‘more housework’.

Krista February 6, 2009, 5:00 PM

Great article! I enjoy Kelly’s sense of humor…but yea…I hardly do the laundry in my high heels!!! I loved the article!!!!

arksdesigner February 6, 2009, 5:24 PM

Well, I’ve never seen the commercial, but from what I read, the ad certainly does not promote a lot of forward thinking…you think they would have tried to promote a “now” or even better “future” lifestyle!!

JB February 6, 2009, 9:39 PM

Love the appliances, don’t care for Kelly. She’s the epitome of bronzed artificial American women. I am African-American and have friends of every hue. I love the beauty of true skin color ranging from porcelain to olive to deep dark, mocha brown.
Kelly back away from the lamp and let the roots grow out, your not a bad looking lady.

AK February 7, 2009, 10:01 AM

Not so sure of Kelly, little over the top. Appliances look great, wonder if they work as good as Kelly does? My Mom used a ringer type washer, once she even put her poor arm through the ringer(true story). Loved the writing Beth, and love you. AK

Laura February 7, 2009, 7:02 PM

Right with ya girlfriend! Annoying as h***!! Who even owns high heels? Why bake from scratch - that’s why they have bakeries! Come to my house - laundry room is in the basement so no one sees the piles - but then I’m NEVER home for visitors because I’M ALWAYS OUT RUNNING AND HAVING FUN WITH THE KIDS!!!! Love the article!

Lynne February 7, 2009, 9:13 PM

You have got to be kidding me! Are you that insecure in who you are? It is a joke about the past with the love for today in it. I would love being able to complete a load of laundry in 36 minutes so I would have more time to spend with my family. Yes, it is perky Kelly Ripa but isn’t the commercial for the washer and dryer not the actors. I can’t wait to get my new machines!!

Jenny February 7, 2009, 11:25 PM

Maybe someone needs to do a little more cleaning because it seems there is too much idle time if you are picking apart a commercial that much lol. Seriously, laugh and move on ,it’s a commercial. There are plenty of other commericals, TV shows and movie that show the “forward” thinking that you are speaking of. Don’t let just one get your panties in a bunch.


Lighten Up! February 9, 2009, 3:21 AM

RELAX! I like Kelly alot. She’s fun and cheers me up every morning. She’s a regular girl that made it big. At least she admits that she couldn’t do most things without help. She freezes her mother-in-law’s spaghetti sauce and makes pumpkin pie recipes unashamedly OFF THE CAN! It’s just a commercial for crying out loud. It’s not like she’s parading around in a bra like Uncle Ben’s latest purple bra rice catastrophy. She’s just working and not doing tacky nude movies! If you need to measure your life by a TV ad, then the good Lord help us all! Hey those of us with chronic pain will take any little humorous moment eagerly!!!

Anyways, you’ll notice if you take the time to listen to Kelly, she’s actually VERY plugged into her kids. So give her a break. Measure yourself by your own standards not what you see on tv. Actually the electrolux ads are pretty much tongue and cheek, but you’ve got to have a sense of humor to spot it.

Lighten up. Now go fly a kite!!! :)

Lighten Up! February 9, 2009, 3:31 AM

“Love the appliances, don’t care for Kelly. She’s the epitome of bronzed artificial American women. I am African-American and have friends of every hue. I love the beauty of true skin color ranging from porcelain to olive to deep dark, mocha brown. Kelly back away from the lamp and let the roots grow out, your not a bad looking lady.”
- JB

JB JB JB. Who cares if you’re purple or orange for crying out loud. You deflate your shallow argument by criticizing Kelly’s appearance. How tacky is that? Kelly sports a tan in the summer because she loves the sun. She’s naturally fair like many blondes whose hair tends to go darker over time.
Now JB, you don’t get your hair done? What JB, you don’t wear ANY makeup? She’s on TV for pity’s sake! Her makeup artist actually keeps her makeup on the classy, lighter side.

From one curly girl to another RELAX! Stop focusing on the shallow and get a little deeper. Okay let’s all be happy.

TC February 9, 2009, 6:05 PM

I always want to ask Kelly to slow down and eat something, anything.

Roby February 16, 2009, 10:09 PM

I agree with you that any time saved should be used wisely, as time truly is the most precious commodity that we spend. Once gone, it never comes back. I always have to remind myself that these adds that get thrown at us are just that; adds getting thrown at us. It does make a person wonder who really falls for these types of adds and what their view of the world is. As far as high heels are concerned, I’ve never understood how anybody could wear high heels, let alone do household chores in them. I dressed in drag for a Halloween party one time and wore heels. I about broke my ankle a couple of times. It seems to me that high heels must have been initially developed as a form of torture.

Ju February 26, 2009, 10:44 PM

I would kill for a washer that could do my laundry in 36 minutes and not wrinkle my stuff to death. Korean washer/dryers are nightmares unless you get an expensive one. Haven’t seen the commercial, though, so can’t comment on the rest of it. I agree the high heels part is a bit ridiculous. All I can say is OUCH. Oh, men invented those torture devices.

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