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Counter-Currents Valentine’s Day Special 
The Vermont Teddy Bear is a Giant Phallus

bhl_largeImage_2_201301141,650 words

Last night I was so bored I actually turned on Fox News. I do this now and then, with the same sort of feeling I get when I pass a roadside accident and, against my better judgment, turn briefly to glimpse the carnage. It was around 10:30, so the execrable Sean Hannity was on. After a minute or so of the usual Obamacare coverage they went to a commercial. It was then that I received the revelation, and my life changed forever.

The commercial began with a tarty-looking young woman holding a ruler in a suggestive fashion and grinning lasciviously at the camera. Then a male voice intones: “Guys, this Valentine’s Day size really does matter.” The camera pulls back to reveal a four-and-a-half foot tall teddy bear. The Vermont Teddy Bear – specifically the “Big Hunka Love Bear” model. Available for Valentine’s Day at the very reasonable price of ninety-nine dollars. “Score big,” the narrator advises male viewers.

We see a tall, hunky guy entering what is presumably his house, handing the Big Hunka Love Bear to what is presumably his wife. “This guy is a four-and-a-half foot pile of awesomeness,” the voice-over proclaims. (I’m not kidding you.) Presumably, he means the stuffed bear, because the guy looks like he’s about six feet tall. But maybe something else about him measures only 4 ½ (more about this later). By the way, at this point in the commercial, a big, pink upward-thrusting, fat arrow appears on the screen, over which is superimposed “4 ½ FEET TALL.”

The hunky guy’s pretty, redheaded wife embraces him and the bear. Over his shoulder, we see her grin in a peculiarly self-satisfied way – as if she and the bear share some secret to which the husband is not privy. We are then informed that the Big Hunka Love Bear is a much better Valentine’s gift than flowers or chocolates. And in one shot, we see a brunette dumping out her box of chocolates. The suggestion is that they will make her feel fat. But something else is going on here. We’ve all heard that women crave chocolate because there’s some sort of hormonal thing involved, right? The message we are getting, in fact, is that the Big Hunka Love Bear is better than chocolate as a sex substitute. He is like a great, big, cuddly dildo for a woman’s heart.

This analysis is confirmed moments later when we see what appears to be the same brunette leaping onto her sofa and into the warm, hairy arms of her Big Hunka Love Bear, where she no doubt feels safe, secure, and affirmed. And this bear is not going to leave her, no matter what. Because the ad informs us that it is “GUARANTEED FOR LIFE.” As she lies in the arms of her prodigiously-endowed bear watching the Lifetime channel, she can enjoy the fact it gives every outward indication of wanting to be there just for her. It will not try to initiate sex when she’s not in the mood. It will not change the channel when she gets up to make herself a cup of soothing chamomile tea.

We next see a blonde executrix entering her tastefully-appointed office only to find, to her squealing delight, the Big Hunka Love Bear sitting at the desk. This bear, you see, is for powerful women too, not just housewives. He is big, strong-looking, and dependable. He will make her feel safe – while never actually displaying any genuine masculine assertiveness. The best of both worlds, in short. The Big Hunka Love Bear is actually empowering, because although it is like a big pacifier the woman is in control of the bear at all times.

Then we glimpse the same blonde, now wearing a sexy, slinky red dress, jumping into bed with the bear and giving us a “come hither” look. The voice-over promises us that the bear will “keep her thinking about you.” But I’m not so sure about this. Another scene shows a different husband surprising his wife in the kitchen with the Big Hunka Love Bear. Again, she hugs him and the bear ecstatically. He grins at the camera with a look that can only mean one thing: “Oh boy, I’m going to get some tonight.” To confirm this, the narrator now tells us “It’s a great gift for her. It’s sure to pay off for you.” But, again, I’m not so sure.

In case it’s not already obvious, this commercial suggests very deliberately that the bear is a giant phallus – in a way that’s so sick and weird it’s actually tough to describe. In a different Vermont Teddy Bear commercial, a woman working in an office is thrilled when her bear is delivered by special courier. “He’s much bigger than I thought!” she exclaims. “I could just kiss it and kiss it!” Meanwhile, the guy who (it seems) sent the gift is in the next cubicle watching the scene furtively, like an impotent voyeur spying on his wife’s sex tryst with another man. This is then followed by a succession of really dumb guys practically drooling over the (very probably mistaken) idea that this stupid bear is going to get them laid.

But they are all living in a fool’s paradise – for this stuffed bear spells their doom, their obsolescence.

Several years ago I watched the Coen brothers film Burn After Reading with my parents. Everything was going well, until we got to the scene where George Clooney presents his wife with a present he’s been building for her in his spare time: a peddle-driven dildo machine. I wanted to crawl under my seat. My parents had no reaction – either because they didn’t understand what was happening, or they were too embarrassed to acknowledge that they did.

The scene was funny on multiple levels. It was a perfect, and perfectly extreme parody of men’s often shocking ineptitude and insensitivity when it comes to selecting gifts for their wives and girlfriends. It was also a hilarious sendup of that semi-autistic, Aspergerish quality in most men: their fascination with machines and with tinkering. But one also has to ask, what self-respecting man would give his woman a penis substitute as a gift? I’m reminded of the scene in Fight Club where Tyler notices the dildo on Marla’s dresser and she says “Don’t worry. It’s not a threat to you.” But only Tyler Durden would accept an answer like that.

Giving your wife or girlfriend a dildo as a gift would be a stunning admission of inadequacy – of not being up to the job, so to speak. But I don’t see how giving her the Big Hunka Love Bear is fundamentally different. It’s like you’re saying “I know I’m not big enough, strong enough, stable enough, mature enough, or dependable enough. I know I’m just a weak, modern, emotionally-stunted, overgrown boy. I know I can’t make you feel safe when I hold you in my arms. Sorry, but it’s time for us both to admit I’m just not man enough. So, here, I’m giving you this giant stuffed bear as a man-substitute. And he’s hairier than me, too.” These commercials very deliberately play on men’s anxiety that perhaps they just don’t “measure up” – in all sorts of ways. Whispered, nay shouted solution: buy her the bear, buy her the bear, buy her the bear . . . In a perfect world, these Vermont Teddy Bear spots would be followed by ads for Enzyte.

Of course, the real solution is to be a man. And this, gentlemen, is what you should give your wives and girlfriends for Valentine’s Day. Yes, give the traditional flowers and chocolate – and give her the gift of male strength. (But for God’s sake don’t tell her you are doing this! Just do it.) Don’t create a vacuum that she needs a stuffed bear – or, uh, anything else – to fill.

I feel I should end this essay here, but I know many of you will be curious about the cynical, twisted minds behind the Vermont Teddy Bear. This company is indeed based in Vermont – in Burlington, to be exact. They are one of the world’s largest manufacturers of teddy bears, around 500,000 a year. If you go on their site, you will find they even offer magical, Wonka-like tours of their factory. But, given what I now know, I think it would be best if you left the kids at home.

In another example of the company’s good taste, a few years ago they marketed a “Crazy For You” bear wearing a strait jacket. It even came with its own “commitment papers.” Mental health advocacy groups and even the governor of Vermont protested, but the company kept selling the item until they ran out of stock (it’s not been offered again). As a result of the controversy, company head Elizabeth Robert was forced to resign from the board of Vermont’s largest hospital.

It’s no accident that these ads appear on the Fox News Channel, by the way. The Vermont Teddy Bear Company’s radio ads have been carried by Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck shows. I’ve even heard that the Vermont Teddy Bear people marketed a “Rush Limbaugh for President” bear, but I’ve not been able to confirm this. What is it with the taste of these Republicans? Imagine: once you’ve gifted your special lady a Big Hunka Love Bear you can curl up with her in your Snuggies and watch Fox News, or listen to Rush on your Bose Wave Radio. While drinking Snapple, of course – or, better yet, smoking cigars.

Do you need further proof that we are living in the Kali Yuga? Okay, how about the fact that when I typed “awesomeness” above, my computer recognized this as an actual word.


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  1. WG
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Creepy. Valentine’s Day gifts like this are one giant sh*t test. Don’t fall for it. Stay strong, guys. Maintain frame.

  2. Harold
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    An ‘executrix’ is a woman named in the will and appointed by the courts to administer the testate estate of a dead person. An executor is a man named in the will and appointed by the courts to administer the testate estate of a dead person. I think you meant executive.

    But otherwise an interesting read.

    • Coenradt
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      I think the intention was to combine the words executive and dominatrix.

      Many years ago, I lived in Burlington and used to pass Vermont Teddy Bear regularly. At the time, their products were marketed toward upmarket clientele. Think the American Girl line of products, but with overpriced Teddy Bears instead of Victorian dolls. So this comes as a bit of a shock. But a predilection for Rush Limbaugh and Fox News in the liberal SWPL paradise of Burlington? That’s the biggest surprise of all.

  3. April Gaede
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I SAW that and had to wonder what the fuck was up. I dont know a single woman who would like to receive that from the man in her life. Not only is it insanely childish and not useful, it would take up too much space.

    To add to the insanity and to give you a better picture of how insane the world has become let me tell you about what happened at my local library. Basically all the local libraries in our county, and I assume in counties all across the US, have changed their name to “ImagineIf”. It is like something out of some weird futuristic novel.

    “With our eagerness to make
    a mark on the communities in which we reside, we
    move forward with an eye to discovery, community, and self
    fulfillment, both personally and for our users. ImagineIF Libraries are a place of life, a place of discovery, a launching pad for dreams.”

    It gets crazier, check this out:

    Above is the link to the “strategic plan” which is some sort of feel good idea to make our library ” experience driven” and that somehow the library was not able to accomplish these basic goals without changing their name. The 100+ year old antique lightposts are literally rotting into the dirt in front of the library, and they dont have the money to repaint them ( I have offered to do it myself) but they have the money to change the name of the library on all the local libraries and print out new materials reflecting that new name.

    Read this crap and tell me I am not nuts for thinking it is way strange and somehow malevolent.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I actually think many women would be totally put off by this stupid bear. Notice that the commercials are pitched to males, and play on male insecurities.
      As to your library — I think libraries are getting desperate to get people to use them. This “rebranding” B.S. is really everywhere today. It reflects the modern American preoccupation with surface appearances. So they think that if they change the name and then spew forth a lot of high-minded blather they will suddenly start attracting more people. Even universities are doing this now.

    Posted February 5, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    An entertaining read, lol

  5. Ty
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Good God. What an amazingly awful society. I don’t know what to do except sigh.

  6. Randy Crowley
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Reading about tv is worse than watching it.

  7. Petronius
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Fox News: Glenn Beck, one of the lowest lifeforms on this planet, recently announced that he is standing firmly with GLAAD against “Russia’s Hetero-Fascism”. Now that’s what classifies as “right-wing” or “conservative” today.

    • Posted February 6, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Expecting exit from closet in 3…2…1…

    • Palerider1861
      Posted February 12, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Petronius, I knew he was anti-Southern White people, but did not realize he was also anti-Heterosexual … what a creepy little guy!

      Ain’t it incredible what filth passes for conservative thought these days. Sad but true!!

  8. Bruce
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Another good example of why we need Fascism.

  9. Posted February 6, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I happened to see this commercial just before reading this. I was particularly struck by the denigration of chocolate and flowers. The idea that flowers are just an expensive waste — while true! — while the bear is much more, what, practical? economic? –demonstrates a total lack of understanding of female psychology and, indeed the function of “gifts” in general. This is actually one step down from giving your wife a vacuum cleaner (which at least would be useful — WTF needs a giant bear?). The target audience must be dense beyond belief.

    As Walter Neff says in Double Indemnity, you don’t make your sale by slamming the other guy’s product.

  10. Jim
    Posted February 12, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    The infantilization of the women in the ad is what struck me. Your girlfriend/wife may be a high-powered exec, but she is still really a squeeling little girl inside. Another laughable ad I saw once (I forget what exactly for, something for the “ladies”) played up how easy this purchase was going to be, just pick up the phone and use your charge card, she’ll think you spent hours finding this present. But wait….what if “she” sees this same ad? Won’t the game be given away?

    You have to feel a little sorry for these poor devils who are put through this kind of thing for all the commercially exploited “holidays” and “occasions” we have every year.

  11. Ted Miller
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I love posts like this, I needed a good laugh. Has anyone mentioned the woman in the radio ads that talks like she’s attempting to be sexy while she tells all the poor men how they have to buy this idiotic bear for the woman in his life. For some reason Bruce Jenner pops into my head. I watch Fox all the time and couldn’t agree more, these ads must go. On behalf of the men we aren’t this dumb. These dust collectors are clearly for the desperate guy who hasn’t got the brains to buy a dozen roses. More poor and seriously creepy advertising.

  12. Elisabeth
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Insightful essay. These ads make my skin crawl. Barf! Btw, I have seen them on CNN multiple times, so the libtards have been invaded, too. Vermont Teddywhatever is not just for Republicans anymore. Or maybe you missed it on CNN, or maybe you saw it there and just forgot to mention it, because then the whole second to last paragraph would be moot, and we would have missed out on more funniness. (Spellcheck actually recognized that one,too, go figure).

  13. Ron Choma
    Posted February 5, 2016 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    All politics aside, any male who is dumb enough to fall for this creepy ad and buys this for his wife or girlfriend for Valentine’s Day practically deserves what will ultimately come from it’s purchase. The commercial announcer’s seedy voice tries to convince village idiots that this is the way his woman’s heart and the smiling excited actresses try to visually impress those feelings on the viewer. There are much better gifts that are flat out desirable and then there is the “big hunk of junk bear”. You know, and I know that this is a garage sale bear, just waiting to happen only the giver, most likely, won’t be around for that sale. (Initially $100.00 bucks, now 99 cents!) If anyone thinks that this bear is going to allow them to get lucky and “score”, they are seriously mistaken. They’ll be out and trolling the dating sites very soon.

  14. Teresa
    Posted February 9, 2016 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m sad to say that I am the recipient of said bear. I was gobsmacked. Until I saw the commercial. NOW I understand. Unfortunately my admirer is an insecure masoginist. Seriously I’m 56 years old! WTF?! Needless to say the bear will be rehomed, the admirer will be kicked to the curb and I will have a great story to share for most inappropriate gift I ever received. I’m almost laughing. Maybe tomorrow.

    • Teresa
      Posted February 10, 2016 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Yes I realize I misspelled misogynist. Sorry I didn’t proof my voice to text.

  15. Erik
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Unless your girlfriend or wife is 6……why would you get her this stupid thing. Like “here….find a fucking spot for this”….. Get her a braclette or ring….something you won’t have to vacuum around…

  16. Stephen
    Posted February 12, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I thought when I first saw this ad that it represented the phenomenon of turning non-children into children substitutes. I have met plenty of couples who have no children and who have effectively turned pets into substitute children (“pet parenthood”). Likewise, I interpreted this commercial as an attempt by the bear producing company to convince couples to transform the woman of the pair into a child substitute. The bear looks ok but I think it is something an 8 year old girl appreciate and this makes the ad feel really perverse in my eyes.

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