At the Primal Scene

A late middle-aged mom is having tea with her adult daughter in the parents’ living room. We glimpse the father for a second, walking awkwardly.

The daughter asks, “what’s wrong with dad?”

The mom replies, “he threw his back out yesterday.”

“I think it’s time you and dad moved to a smaller place. I bet it was the stairs.”

“It wasn’t the stairs. Actually, we love the stairs.”

After a pause, a look of disgust crosses the daughter’s face.

Then – as what I’m describing is a commercial now airing on Canadian television – an unseen narrator says “retire in the home you love with a Chip reverse mortgage.”

Got it?

If you haven’t sussed out the meaning of the commercial, watch it on YouTube. Even if you think you have sussed it out, watch to see how two skilled actors communicate a deeper layer of meaning with facial expressions instead of words.

I prefer the subtlety of this narrative-based commercial to straight-forward expositions of the benefits of reverse mortgages delivered by former Olympian Kurt Browning in Canada and Burt Reynolds and Joe Namath in the US.

At a deeper level, the ad refers to what psychoanalysis refers to as the primal scene, a child witnessing or imagining their parents having sex. If the commercial appeals to the desire of boomers to stay active, in every sense of the term, then it perhaps it is unsettling or cringe-worthy to their Gen-X children because it evokes the primal scene.

This commercial reminds me of two Canadian ads for Cialis shown a decade ago that also impressed me with their subtlety. The ads were shown during baseball games after 9 p.m. One of my kids, then prepubescent, was a fan, and I had to explain them to him.

Happy Family Day Weekend.

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