The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 9, 2010

All’s Fair in Love and Merchandising: Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup 2010

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:00 am

Once again, it’s that time of year, when a young man’s fancy turns to love, and a retailer’s fancy turns to the prospects of painting everything pink and making a boatload of money out of the whole deal.  Yes, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner once again, and once again the shelves of the local shops are crammed with all sorts of pink heart-shaped merchandise, whole aisles filled with stuffed animals, and all of the supplies needed for a happy Valentine’s day (well OK, maybe not all of them, that stuff falls outside the scope of this Blog.)  And, as usual, the aisles of Valentine’s Day stuff at your friendly neighborhood megamarts contain no  shortage of odd, questionable, or downright regrettable selections of merchandise guaranteed to fill your Valentine’s day with awkward silence and vaguely threatening glares.   Sure, there’s plenty of odd and otherwise offbeat merchandise that accompanies all the other big candy selling holidays, but Easter, Halloween or even Christmas don’t come with anywhere near the sheer quantity of peril that can arise from the wrong Valentine’s Day gift.  In continuing with one of the very few traditions I’ve been able to establish on this Blog and actually follow up on every once in a while, I present this year’s Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup.  Hopefully in the process I might manage to actually save someone somewhere from making a huge mistake.  That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.  Without further ado, the roundup may be found after the jump.

You can find the previous two Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup posts here:

Once again, we start with the obligatory heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, the longstanding staple of kitschy Valentine’s Day gift-giving.  For the most part, there isn’t a whole lot of innovation (dubious or otherwise) happening in this particular field, although this is mostly because by now they’ve already covered most of the relatively cheap methods one can employ to turn a mundane box of chocolates into an obnoxious one.  Since the miracles of modern technology have provided ample opportunities to add staticky snippets of sappy old Motown hits to just about anything you can possibly think of (seriously, I think it’s just a matter of time before the dog walks into the room with twelve seconds of some moldy oldie emanating from its nether regions,) it was just a matter of time before the candy hearts got the lo-fi music treatment.

Normally I’d be tempted to rehash the tired old “make love not war” cliché, but since that would be way too easy, I think I’ll…  Wait, what’s that?  Dang it… Oh well, never mind.  Still not quite sure how a buck managed to turn into $1.29 for about half a nanosecond before getting knocked back to the “sale” price of a buck though…

On the gratuitously licensed merchandise front, it seems that Twilight has taken a rather prominent spot on the shelves this year.  For those of you out there fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with Twilight, it’s basically a story about a girl who meets a sparkly vampire who is allegedly 53% less evil than the leading brand, and falls madly in love with him before being rudely interrupted by the sudden realization 3/4 of the way through the book/movie that there’s supposed to be some sort of plot to these things.   Don’t ask why I know any of this…  well OK, I watched the movie a few weeks ago, but it was under duress.  And yes, I have already turned in my Man Card to the appropriate authorities.

To be honest, it’s not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with Twilight in and of itself, but for some reason, a whole bunch of the single ladies I know around here (and yes, if you happen to be one of them reading this, consider this your long-overdue guilt trip) can’t seem to get enough of this stuff.  It’s already tough enough being single and male around these parts  WITHOUT some fictitious angst-riddled sparkly vampire teenager stealing away the hearts of just about anything with two X chromosomes.  At this point, I’m starting to think that the only way I’m ever going to manage to find myself a date is to stay out of the sun for a few months and act gloomy.  In my opinion, any guy out there unfortunate enough to receive one of these ill-conceived packages of candy hearts is perfectly justified in adding wooden stakes and garlic to their shopping lists and putting in a call to Belmont Pest Control.

And a note to manufacturers of vaguely Biscotti-like products:  Putting your stuff into a plain old box and labelling it with the words “heart shape box” in quotation marks doesn’t actually do anything.  Except make it look like you haven’t got a clue what you’re supposed to do with quotation marks, that is.  Oh, and you’ll probably also make that spokeslady you stuck on the label glare menacingly.

In the “faddish designer labels nobody had ever heard of a year ago” we’ve got this Ed Hardy stuff.  Since the whole “Love kills slowly” bit which seems to be the standard motif for Ed Hardy products isn’t exactly well-suited to Valentine’s merchandise (although that hasn’t stopped it from showing up on some of the other products being offered here) there’s this slightly toned-down version. 

Moving down the aisle, we come to the obligatory pile of noncommittal children’s Valentine’s cards, replete with all manner of currently popular licensed characters, most of which will have found their way to the dustbin of history in a year.  Unless someone happens to have stumbled on an ingenious method of bringing the lucrative world of contextual advertising to second graders, I’m thinking there might be some sort of trademark infringement going on here.

Elsewhere on the shelf, we find these so-called “eco friendly” cards.  These ones dispense with even the flimsiest pretense of  token platonic Valentine’s Day greetings, opting instead for straight-up eco-preaching guilt trips.  The organic soy-based vaguely candy-like substances to be included with these cards are, presumably, sold separately.

For many people, appropriate attire is an essential part of the whole Valentine’s Day experience.  Since a single guy wandering around the lingerie aisle with a camera sounds like a good way to earn a (well deserved) trip to jail, most of the clothing traditionally associated with the holiday falls outside the scope of what’s being covered here.  On the other hand, if your kid needs something to proclaim their undying love and devotion to, there’s always the puppy (although the puppy might tend to think otherwise.)

For the guys, cartoon-encrusted boxer shorts seem to have become a popular item as of late.  Although someone who’s been raised on a steady diet of junky cereal and Saturday Morning schlock could probably be convinced that wearing something like this to a bed presently occupied by an actual woman isn’t entirely a bad idea, I suspect that it is highly unlikely that said woman would be so easily persuaded in this instance.  Your mileage, of course, may vary, but somehow I suspect it probably won’t.  But feel free to send an e-mail from the couch and let me know how it went…

Based on what’s on the shelves at the various stores around here, most of this stuff is covered with various allegedly seductive images of such romantic icons as Homer Simpson and Stewie from Family Guy (after all, what female can resist those two?)  But among all the toons working the Boxer Short circuit these days, there seems to be a suspiciously large quantity of boxers with Spongebob Squarepants on them. 

And as you might expect, most of the images fall somewhere on the spectrum between “Vaguely Disturbing” and “Downright Creepy”.

In fact, I’m reasonably certain that just about anything that combines Spongebob Squarepants and Valentine’s Day has the potential to induce nightmares in small children.  And maybe even not-so-small ones.

Moving along, there’s the obligatory shelves full of various stuffed animals.  This particular bear should probably get those spots looked at.  Sure they might be kind of cute on Valentine’s Day, but the other 364 days out of the year might present a bit of a problem…

If you have a Valentine who is inclined to such things, there are plenty of cute-looking options out there.  Sure, a few of them might have accidentally managed to turn evil along the way, but what are a few little demonic horns among friends?

And yes, they come in all shapes and sizes.  I think these two, seen in a display window a couple of doors over from the place I’m working currently (I’ve been meaning to do a post on that, there’s some really interesting history here) might be the biggest ones I’ve seen.  I hear he can be a real bear in the morning when he wakes up though…

And since it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without cheesy animatronics (at least that’s what the company that keeps churning all this stuff out would like you to believe) there’s plenty of those as well.  I haven’t quite figured out how a pugilistic tiger in heart-covered boxer shorts is supposed to be romantic, but I suppose it’s easier than trying to brand one of the things for Easter, right?

And finally, there’s this guy.  Because nothing sets the tone for a romantic Valentine’s Evening quite like libidinous animatronic hellspawn. 

As usual, have a happy and safe (or otherwise, should you choose to give some of the items above as gifts) Valentine’s Day, and remember that love is a battlefield.  One covered in heart-shaped landmines and candy-coated peril, but a battlefield nonetheless.  Also, on an unrelated note, this happens to be the 400th post on this Blog.  Thanks to everyone who keeps reading and keeps this Blog going in spite of my recent slacking off, and I hope you will continue to stick around.

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1 Comment »

  1. You gotta love Valentine’s Day. Seriously, it’s awesome. No point other than I am sure Brooks doesn’t love me if he doesn’t acknowledge it. It’s genius. Women must have invented this holiday.

    Comment by Heather Lively — February 9, 2010 @ 1:18 am


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