October 2, 2005

Why so much tongue?

Don't ask!
Of course if you find anything slightly interesting, not to say titillating, about these images [of stuck-out tongues in ads], the marketers who use them will all but call you a pervert. Yahoo would not talk about the pictures of their tongue woman, though a publicist for the company made it clear she thought there was something a little creepy about being asked to explain it.

Responding to a phone message left at Fox, a spokeswoman who absolutely refused to give her name denied there was anything sexual whatsoever about the image in the "Thirteen" ads and said it was simply an accurate portrayal of the subject matter of the film, girls going wild.

It's not really a hard question though, is it? The stuck-out tongue reminds us of sex and at the same time expresses defiance -- cute defiance.

Now that it's the subject of a piece in the NYT Style pages, the stuck-out tongue is officially a cliché. The article -- I'm looking at the paper NYT -- features a lot of pictures of young women with their tongues out, but the teaser on the front page is that picture of Albert Einstein with his tongue out. The Einstein tongue-out picture is an even bigger cliché than the current mini-trend of young girls with their tongues out. I'll bet some of my readers have that Einstein picture within view right now. (Or is your Einstein poster more somber?) That Einstein photo is widely loved, and I'm sure it is used in plenty of ads too. But generally, the tongue ads favor young girls, not old men.

Bonus observation:
It's always the front of the tongue that is displayed, never the back (except for the minimalist display needed to symbolize "yummy"). The back of the tongue [i.e., the underside] , I note, is the ugliest part of the body one can easily display. Yet our gesture of contempt made by sticking out the tongue uses the more presentable top side. Strange, no? Or is the underside so ugly that we keep it hidden even when we're trying to be nasty?


Slocum said...

It wasn't long ago that the iconic tongue in pop culture was Michael Jordan's. Definitely no piercings, though.

Be said...

Just got through watching Kobayashi's
"Harakiri." The young samurai, being forced to commit seppuku with a bamboo sword, bites his tongue off during the act - further along in the story, the counsellor asks of this - was his action expedient or unseemly?

Be said...

By the way - I think tongue piercings to be second in nastiness to genital or breast piercings. I remember when my little brother (a body piercer in CA) got his tongue pierced - I made it a point to get him to pronounce as many /s/ es and /th/ es as possible. He knew what I was onto, of course.

XWL said...

Regarding Jordan, I seem to remember him saying that he regretted that habit since he worried that kids trying to be 'Like Mike' could severly injure their tongues in a collision with it hanging out like that.

And regarding the 'Thirteen' poster, the Fox people knew exactly what they were doing. There are different ways to stick out your tongue, and the manner suggests intent. The rigid tongue with pursed lips is clearly a playful insult, but the slack jawed presentation of the tongue (a la Evan Rachel Wood in the Thirteen poster) is more often associated with a sexual provocation rather than child-like insouciance (and performing oral sex on boys is shown as part of her character's descent into bad girl-ism in the film) .

They sold that film on two tracks, for mother's they sold it as a cautionary tale of children in trouble (sort of an ABC Afternoon Special on steroids), for dirty old men they sold it as a jail-bait girl's gone wild.

That poster is definitely from the girl's gone wild campaign, but Fox had to distance themselves from that interpretation since acknowledging any prurient nature of that film reduces it to near kiddie porn (and given the broad definition of what child pornography is, you could make a case (and lose) that this poster is sexual in nature and therefore prohibited).

gs said...

Now that you mention it, I've come across some of these images, and dismissed them. You can draw my attention to a product by including a degree of sexual attractiveness in the advertising, but afaic the tongue images are overly blatant. The reactions to the images are more interesting than the images themselves.

"Of course if you find anything slightly interesting, not to say titillating, about these images, the marketers who use them will all but call you a pervert." This reaction strikes me as twisted whereas the images are merely vulgar.

Hear a Truculent Pornographer: "Whazza matta wich ya? Da human body izza beaudiful ting." Compare to the well-groomed college grads speaking for Fox and Yahoo. Consider especially their (implied) disgust and moral indignation. Perhaps, just perhaps, somewhere old Screwtape is smiling.

vbspurs said...

What is the oldest memory you of your schooldays?

Me, I was in the equivalent of the US first grade, and I recall my "Science" teacher, with pointer in hand, telling us:

"The tongue is the most curious muscle in our body."

And whereupon she said that, I started feeling around my baby molars with my tongue.

Funny, these little childhood memories which never leave you, eh?


Simon Kenton said...


rolls of pasty flesh extruded and burgeoning over the top of torqued-on pants that never did fit and now are seam-splitting - 'muffin top.' This is not good.

heavily dimpled, deeply cellulitic popliteal region. This is not good.

Low-riding pants on a fat hairy man revealing deep butt-cleavage. This is the worst.

The back of the tongue, as far as I'm concerned, is a small reminder of once and future bliss, given and received. Compared to redneck-butt, it's hard to call it ugly.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Ruth Anne Adams said...
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vbspurs said...

Remember when Jenna Bush got in hot water for sticking out her tongue to the press corps last year on the campaign trail?

I thought that was young Master Jack Roberts?

I can't link it from here,

So of course I had to Google.

To my utter surprise, here's Jenna Bush giving another kind of tongue...yes, it's what you're thinking.


Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Simon: By "back" I meant the underside.

Eh Nonymous said...

The underside of the tongue is hard to expose.

Desmond Morris, it seems to me, wrote or narrated a show in which he explained that babies reject food by pushing it out with their tongue, and this action becomes a symbolic rejection of anything "distasteful." Makes sense to me - as in, we can see it playing out in the here and now.

vbspurs said...

We're hoping for a White House wedding soon.

We? Who is this we of whom you speak? Not the American public surely! ;)

Chelsea was too young. I think the last one was Tricia Nixon. We can do it up all royal and everything--tea towels and kitsch.

Hmm. I actually think there have been others since then.

Didn't Susan Ford get married in the White House?

Or one of the Carter boys? Chip?

I forget.

But in fact, you're right in saying that that the last one most people remember is Tricia Nixon's (also Julie being married to Ike Eisenhower's grandson, David).

Cheri Blair gave birth to the first child born to a sitting PM in 160 years.

Shame Mrs. Bush is past that age. :)

(Tangentially: Our new Chief Justice must be the first CJ in a long time, to have small children)


Diana Bozarth said...

There are men molesting children making kiddie porn or even adult porn every day and there are millions of other men watching that pron when they see young girls slicking their tongs out like the girls in the porn shows you are stimulating an image in their minds you do not want them to see in you. This is a sick world and even though you can't see it we.