Norman Rockwell is one of the predominant artists for chronicling how Americans think of themselves. And though his work often took on a progressive, sociopolitical tinge, he's probably best known for his warm, homespun paintings of scenes of glorious Americana. Foremost among those is "Freedom from Want," part of the Four Freedoms series of paintings, inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 inaugural address.
Though if you know "Freedom from Want," you probably know it as "the painting with the family gathered to eat turkey." It's one of the most iconic images of the American family, but it's also a vision of that family as white, straight, and Protestant.
Now, Tylenol, as part of a holiday season campaign, is attempting to blow that up, with a series of ads recreating the painting, but featuring families who don't look like the family in the painting but still have enormous amounts of love to go around. Previous ads have featured a black and Asian-American family (consisting of grandparent immigrants and their children and grandchildren), but the latest features the biggest break from Rockwell's form, while maintaining the artist's spirit.
The ad, titled "Beser Carr Schneider Musich Family" features a lesbian couple, one of the two women's ex-husbands (and, it would seem, his new partner), and the children they all share. There's no animosity here, only attempts to build as healthy a home — or homes — for the children to grow up in. "We don't talk about halfs or steps," says the ex-husband. Instead, the family is aiming to build a place where everybody is accepted as they are. Rockwell's granddaughter, Abigail, drops in to narrate, and she reminds us that "Family is what you make it out to be."
Yes, it's a bit transparent on the part of Tylenol to receive supportive writeups on the internet (like this one) and thus build good "branding." But it's still rare for ads to feature LGBT couples — much less devote as much time to them as this one does — which makes it significant all the same.
If nothing else, there are few better times of year to remember that, as short story writer Amy Bloom has written, love is not a pie. There's not a finite amount of it in anyone's heart, and it can come in any shape or size you might want.