Commentary

Listerine Fumbles With 'America's Healthiest Heroes'

There have been two instances in which I took direct orders from Mouthwash. The first came in the manic wake of a sleepless weekend, while the second followed the unwitting consumption of Guatemalan insanity peppers. In both cases, the ensuing psychotic break left few long-term scars. In fact, my breath was minty-fresh for days on end. Who says that nonsentient objects can’t provide valuable counsel?

So when Mouthwash talks, I listen. Happily, Mouthwash takes its responsibilities to germophobes and the overmedicated very seriously. You almost never hear about Mouthwash having complicity in a series of convenience-store robberies, or advising your daughter to drop out of school and accompany her yoga instructor on a tour of South America’s grandest plantations.

It is thus incumbent upon us, both as Americans and connoisseurs of aromatically pleasing mouth vapors, to line up behind Mouthwash - in this case, market leader Listerine - as it flashes before us a vision of our better selves. I’m talking, of course, about Mouthwash’s new series of “America’s Healthiest Heroes” brand videos, in which Mouthwash makes a persuasive case for fruit-eating, hand-washing, geoclimatically apropos hydration and other home-based healthy habits.

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Our host/Yoda is Ian Ziering of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame, whose main qualification for the gig is his empathy. He’s a father of two daughters, which renders him uniquely able to introduce and segue between user-submitted clips of kids doing kid things, like demanding a specific number of stories at tuck-in and refusing to negotiate. Other peoples’ children: NEVER NOT ADORABLE.

Mouthwash, however, appears not to have thought this thing through. It’s so taken with its America’s Funniest Home Videos-meets-YouTube concept that it never bothers to settle on a default tone and ‘tude. One minute, Ziering professes sincere love and admiration for his family. The next, he cracks jokes that, in certain jurisdictions, are punishable by clubbing (“when I was a kid, the web was just a place where spiders went!”). Too, at the end of each clip, we’re treated to a rare glimpse of Ziering’s improvisational genius, which includes mispronouncing words and imitating what appears to be either Gollum or Harvey Fierstein.

And while I recognize that Mouthwash is less eager here to pass along handy advice than it is to stage a precociousness pageant, the “Healthiest Heroes” bits serve no particular purpose. Is it useful to learn that one mom conditions sharing the WiFi password upon the completion of household tasks? Does a Batman mask convey a certain gravitas upon the individual attempting to get his kid to cover his mouth when he coughs? Should one wrap one’s bananas and give them to one’s child as one would a birthday present? Mouthwash can’t control what’s in the user-submitted clips, but it certainly could’ve put on its editor cap (true fact: Mouthwash moonlit as a TV production intern during its post-grad years) and weeded out some of the less essential contributions.

Also: I didn’t hear the word “floss” one time during more than ten minutes of “Healthiest Heroes” content. Is Floss the Auburn to Mouthwash’s Alabama, the Morrissey to Mouthwash’s Johnny Marr? The link between good oral hygiene and good health is pretty well established at this point; leaving floss out of the equation reeks of the brand-first blindness we usually associate with fizzy drinks or cell-phone carriers. You’re better than that, Mouthwash.

Or maybe I just missed the parts about floss. Whatever. Anyway, just as it did from the great licorice-flavored-rinse scourge of Aught-Six and the unfortunate alternate product usage showcased on Intervention, Mouthwash shall recover from this rare misstep. Stay gold, Mouthwash. Stay gold.

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