By: Emily Bunn
Antacid brand, Tums, recently released a commercial for Tums Naturals which features two women camping in the woods. As they heat chili over their campfire, one of the women begins to feel some heartburn. Suddenly, a towering, ominous red pepper appears behind her menacingly. The pepper is noticeably phallic, and dominates the small woman. TUMS announces, “When heartburn takes you by surprise, fight back.” The woman shown suddenly dropping her chili and defenselessly being dragged across the forest floor. As she is hauled away, she flashes the pepper her container of TUMS–almost as if she is wielding off an attacker with pepper spray.
The commercial has stirred associations with sexual assault, as the woman is dragged off without consent from the phallic figure. Tums’ commercial is an insensitive and inappropriate representation of such serious matters. To equate having some temporary heartburn to being assaulted is a far cry, and comparing the two lessens the severity of experiencing life-long trauma from sexual misconduct. TUMs ineffable lapse of judgement in creating this disturbing commercial is unprofessional, and promotes rape culture through joking about assault and brushing off the severity of such.
The commercial represents the woman as an unknowing victim, painting her in the horror trope light of the ‘final girl.’ The final girl trope in horror movies represents the heroine left standing at the end of the movie who fights off the offending villain, the most ‘pure’ woman–oftentimes a virgin–whose obedience rewards her with life. This trope is rooted in misogyny, and is an outdated sentiment of the entertainment industry’s emphasis on the male gaze. Just like in horror movies, the woman in this commercial gets to escape–thanks to her handy Tums– but this resolution begs the question: without her Tums, what would have happened to this woman? What is it that the giant pepper is threatening her life with, and why did Tums find it appropriate to relate a life-or-death situation to mere heartburn? Some may say it’s for laughs, but when situations like this actually occur– not with a giant pepper, but instead with an aggressive abuser who aims to hurt women– it’s no laughing matter. Whereas in a fictitious horror movie–or Tums commercial– the final girl gets to escape with her life, women who experience sexual assault are forced to live every day with the real life horror of their trauma.