Firstly, I should start this story with a little background information. Some of you may remember a post from around Christmastime a couple of years ago (e-mail me for the password) regarding my family situation – my parents had separated a few years prior, and sadly, my relationship with my mother had subsequently dissolved. A few things happened throughout the years between us; things were said and tears were shed, and I spent a long time trying to maintain the relationship before finally, following lots of kind words and advice from the blogosphere, deciding to temporarily opt out – with the hopes that one day, we’d both be on the same page again. Going through Christmases, and especially wedding planning without my mum was hard – but something I’ve learned in recent years is that you can keep holding the door open, but one must make the choice intrinsically to walk through it. And now, I’m thrilled to tell you that since a few days before the wedding, she’s back in my life. In the grand scheme of things, holding onto past hurts isn’t going to pave the way for a positive future, and after receiving a lengthy letter composed of the words I’d always hoped to hear, I decided to let go, run back to that door, and welcome her in with open arms. The feeling was finally mutual, and we’ve been getting together every week or two for the last few months, talking for hours, sharing coffee, music, going shopping, and doing all the mother-daughter things I’ve been wishing for for such a long time. 🙂
So last week, I met her at Starbucks, and about two minutes into the conversation her eyes widened, and she excitedly exclaimed “I know what I was going to tell you!!” She proceeded to tell me how she’d just come from causing “a rumpus” in the local chemist’s. Oh dear, I thought, quietly counting my blessings I hadn’t been there. She’d been in a queue at the postal counter, when she noticed a big display over in the makeup aisle – a giant advertisement for a new mascara from L’Oréal Paris, displaying an attractive lady looking awfully happy about the fact that she was flipping her photographer off. My mum pulled out her phone, eager to show me the evidence she’d snapped, and my jaw hit the floor. There it was, in all its glory: The V-sign. And worse, the brand is holding a vlogging contest – entitled “Show Us Your V-Moment!”
Now, some of you may be wondering what the kerfuffle is all about. In England, flipping the V (with palm facing inward) is equivalent of giving someone the middle finger. The origin is said to have come from the gestures of longbowmen fighting in the English army at the Battle of Agincourt (1415), during the Hundred Years’ War. According to the story, the French claimed they would cut off the arrow-shooting fingers of all the English longbowmen after they’d won the battle, however, (naturally) the English came out victorious, and displayed the sign showing their two fingers intact as an insult to the French. Several headlines involving the Vs include a front-page tabloid proclaiming “Up Yours, Delors” with a large hand, flipping the Vs, superimposed over a Union Jack; a show-jumper being disqualified from competition over a televised V-sign at the judges; Liam Gallagher famously giving the Vs regularly to paparazzi; the opening credits of Buffy showing a British character insulting another character with the Vs; footballers being permanently banned from the national team, and comically, George Bush attempting to give the peace sign to a group of Australian farmers (where the sign means much the same as in the UK) – and instead telling them to f*** off. Check out The Mirror‘s top ten celebrity V-flickers here.
My mother explained the significance to the lady at the postal counter, who immediately got on the phone to her manager, saying things like “customer complaining about a display with a profanity on it” and “yes, I think we should too…” before informing my mum they’d be pulling it from the shop floor. “It’s funny,” the clerk said, “L’Oréal’s a French company. Do you think they’re subtly sticking it to the Brits?” My jaw, once again, came within grazing distance of the floor, and I quickly pulled out my phone to see if there was a European version of the ad. Sure enough, there was – with the palm facing the other way, displaying an innocent V for Victory. I couldn’t help but laugh, and we both decided that now we have different surnames, we could get away with writing in and complaining, and hoping for some free schwag!
What do you reckon? Are L’Oréal deliberately taking part in a less-than-subliminal advertising message – or is this a hilarious, innocent mistake? I feel bad for all the girls entering the contest – you might “become a YouTube star” for “showing your V”, but perhaps not quite for the reasons you were hoping.