The Beverley

Bad decisions when lawyers aren’t in the room

The Beverley

I saw a Gary Larson “Far Side” cartoon the other day. For those who love Larson’s sardonic sense of humour, like I do, his cartoons usually involve cavemen, cows, or other animals. This particular one was called “Early Business Failures” and one of the cavemen was selling a new product to another caveman called “Porcupine on a Stick.” This begs the question: how do some products or services get to market in the first place? And who names them?

Have you seen ads for the “Sexy Mr. Rogers Halloween costume?” Who on earth came up with the idea that there was a market for a risqué Mr. Rogers costume? There’s another one called “Diet Water,” which markets itself as a beverage with no calories. But it’s just water. If you’re looking for an example of Le Déclin de l’empire Américain, there’s a product called the “Goldfish Walker” that allows you to take your goldfish for a walk. Do you still have the ashes of a cremated relative? Well, you can now have an urn made in the shape of your loved one’s head for those ashes. And of course, for people with their parent’s money to burn, there’s a device that allows you to spray champagne at parties on all of your uber-wealthy friends.

In one of my columns for the Globe a few years ago, I wrote about a meal replacement company called Soylent that markets soy products, including one called “Soylent Green.” For anyone who’s ever seen the dystopian 1973 Charlton Heston B-movie: “Soylent Green,” the only food that human beings eat in a futuristic 2022 (yes, 2022!) was called Soylent Green, which was secretly made from processed human flesh, causing Heston to scream at the end “Soylent Green is people!” Soylent claims the flavour of their Soylent Green is “unique and mysterious for the complex taste of humanity” and perhaps it’s a joke now. But early marketing wasn’t so tongue-in-cheek. Maybe they didn’t know.

But here’s another doozy. Because I’m told my columns should have some sort of “legal relevance,” I’m going to talk about bras. You might remember a few years ago, the Montréal fashion brand Simons marketed a line of brassieres named in honour of famous Canadian women, including Chief Justice Beverley McLachlan, and the bra that bore her name was called was called “The Beverley.” Of course, she was not asked for consent for the use of her name for this scanty piece of lingerie. So, after the collective jaws of the entire Canadian legal community stopped dropping, Simons had to apologize. Where were the lawyers when these branding decisions were made who might’ve said “are you idiots insane?

Former Chief Justice McLachlan wasn’t the only inspirational Canadian to have a bra named after her. There was a wireless bra called “The Nellie” named in honour of social activist, author, and feminist Nellie McClung. The ad said, “Nellie fought for women to receive ‘qualified persons’ status in Canada.” There was another one called the “Gabrielle Plunge Bra” in honour of Québec author Gabriel Roy and the ad read “she was a celebrated author whose words had a lasting influence on Québec culture.” And then there was the “Stella Push-Up Bra,” which I gather was named after Nova Scotia antipoverty advocate Stella Lord.

Simons sheepishly de-fended themselves by saying they had created a line of women’s bras in honour of “inspirational Canadian women who have made a historic contribution to our country.” And truly, what better way of respecting and honouring these famous and inspiring Canadian women than with deep cleavage plunge bras and bralettes bearing their names, modeled by half naked 20-year-olds. But why stop at plunge bras? Why didn’t they name a thong, a G-String, or a Brazilian Tanga after Margaret Atwood or Joni Mitchell? And, in the spirit of reductio ad absurdum, why didn’t they consider a line of men’s briefs in honour of judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, the BC Court of Appeal, and the BC Supreme Court?

Sometimes, somebody has to put up their hand and say: “this is a really stupid idea.” It might as well be from the lawyers.

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