“Wholesome Families”

Earlier today, a friend of mine posted a link to a commercial made by Honey Maid that features several different families goofing around while sentimental music played in the background. What made this commercial stand out to so many people was the purposeful use of diverse types of families: there’s an interracial family, a family that features a tattooed, “punk rock” looking father, a single dad, and a gay couple. The marketing slogan for the commercial is “This is wholesome”. Over the sentimental soundtrack, the voice over says “No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will.” And then after that, it advertises “wholesome snacks for wholesome families”.

I really liked the video, aside from the obviousness of it. It may seem like such an obvious, easy thing to do, to incorporate families that aren’t completely white and heterosexual and heteronormative in other ways, but Cheerios released a similar commercial about a year ago and received, amongst the praise, a ton of backlash.

Something that I can’t stop thinking about is the choice to use the word “wholesome”. Honey Maid is a large, successful company, and I have no doubt that they have the means to employ experienced advertisement and public relations workers to help brand their new campaign. We can assume the word choice here is very deliberate. So why “wholesome”? What does that word evoke that Honey Maid really wanted to capitalize on?

To me, it may have been a very intentional dig at the way non-traditional (those who are not white, heterosexual, Christian, etc) families or individuals are portrayed or stereotyped. Some of the common derogatory insults thrown at those who identify as LGBTQ, or who are a person of color, or are an individual involved in an interracial relationship are words that evoke barbaric or immoral associations. “That’s not normal” is one that is, while simple, incredibly damaging. “Wholesome” is a very loaded word. It makes me think of a white, heterosexual family with a mom, a dad, a son, a daughter and a golden retriever in the 1950’s, sitting down in their suburban home to watch “I Love Lucy”. It brings up this sense of normalcy, of rationality, which is exactly what opponents of what Honey Maid’s video stands for would argue is missing from these diverse families.

Do you guys agree? Do you think the choice of “wholesome” is successful? Honey Maid never explicitly comes out and says “these families are diverse. They are families of different races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and sexual orientation”. Does this lack of an explicit explanation of the video further the message, or leave something to be desired? Is it enough to simply show, and not tell?

5 thoughts on ““Wholesome Families”

  1. I think that Honey Maid had good intentions when designing this commercial. I think they were trying to incorporate diverse depictions of the modern family. And i think using the word wholesome in this case was in an attempt to redefine what the word means to people. I think it shows that a wholesome family does not necessarily mean the white heteronormative family that we would normally think of. The wholesome family can look very different. I think the commercial was making an attempt at change in the right direction, and i don’t think that “wholesome” was a dig at diverse families lacking something wholesome. Lauren’s comment was very interesting that Honeymaid was trying to show how the world is evolving, and families are too, and think that is more the message the general public will take from this commercial.

  2. Agreed that there might be better word choices then “wholesome” but at the same time I think we have to pick and choose our battles. I think because of the class we are in and context we watched the video, we might look at it with a closer eye than most people who just see it on TV. I think it is definitely sending a progressive message, showing that all different types of families are in fact okay. I was also searching around on the youtube channel for Honeymaid and saw another video they made about the comments and reactions they received to the Wholesome commercial. They said something which I thought was very interesting- they wanted to show how the meaning of family has evolved over the past 90 years ( I think since their company started) and they wanted to show the world how they have been evolving too.

  3. I agree, that word didn’t quite sit well with me either at first. I think “wholesome” connotes that nothing is missing, which means that a wholesome family has everything they could possibly desire. Having everything makes me think of a wealthy family that has the means to buy anything they want. I know class is very different than race, but a large portion of wealthy people in America are White. The word just makes me think that a family that is “missing” a mother or money or a single-family home (or anything else) is not “whole.” But if the commercial is saying that these families ARE whole, that they don’t have to look like the nuclear White family in order to be fulfilling, then isn’t that a good message? I feel like the commercial actually is challenging the connotation of “wholesome” and stating that lots of different kinds of families are “whole” and complete. I’d consider that a somewhat progressive message, no?

  4. Emily, I totally agree. You articulated what I was trying to get at, but couldn’t figure out how to say, so thanks! I knew I didn’t like the word “wholesome”, but it was difficult to explain why. Why do we want to be wholesome, anyway? Why is that an idea to strive towards? I think a word that implies more progressiveness would’ve sit better with me. Wholesome kind of feels like a step backwards, if that makes any sense.

  5. I liked the video. At this point anything is better then those awful Cadillac commercials (they made even more of them!). At the same time, I worry that companies are portraying “diverse” families more as a marketing strategy then out of a genuine sense of representing many different families. That is, they know that creating an ad like this will generate excitement and people will watch it (they just got me to watch it). On the other hand, I kind of object to the term “wholesome”. Like you said, it is a loaded word with distinct connotation. I feel like instead of trying to map everyone onto that term, or show how other families are just as wholesome as those nice White clean-cut heterosexual families, we should be trying to deconstruct it. The commercial is just playing into what society already believes in, in that regard. Does that make sense?

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