Billboard ad of SnoreStop, top: the actress sans hijab, bottom

Given the range of images available with a click and the sensationalism-hungry news media, it is hard to find anything that has shock value anymore. PETA asks Hollywood celebs and beauty queens to take off their clothes so rich people will shun mink fur. But there is so much nudity on the web that it hardly raises an eyebrow any more. Spencer Tunick, the Brooklyn photographer who invites several thousand people to don their clothes for a mass aesthetic photograph, sends few shock waves through the media. Gay marriage is slowly becoming a Blue State inevitability; even the new pope has asked Catholics to chill over the hot button moral issues that abort civil dialogue. So what can still be shocking? How about a billboard ad showing an American soldier embracing a Muslim woman in hijab?

This is an ad put up by “SnoreStop,” a pharmaceutical company with a slogan of “keeping you together.” Having identified one of the primary causes of relationship breakups (ahem), they offer a medicalized kit for only $14.95 that will pinpoint where your snoring occurs and zap it with a pill. Here is how the website explains it:

Every night in America and throughout the world millions of spouses have to make a decision about leaving the bedroom in order to get a good night’s sleep, which destroys all intimacy. When we lack a good night’s sleep, we break down emotionally, mentally, and physically. Moreover, snorers have sex less often or have a decreased interest in sex due to being tired. SnoreStop┬« saves relationships by ‘bringing peace to the bedroom.

Green Pharmaceuticals, a “woman-owned company,” is turning heads (the oldest and easiest way to stop snoring, although the company does not note this) with an ad that will definitely be a cup of tea for conservatives. According to a spokesperson the ad is not just about selling a product but making a wholesome point about people being together. So they went and looked for real couples and found the oddest couple an ad maker could imagine. Yes, this is supposedly a “real couple,” Jamie Sutton or Paul Evans (depending on the news source) and Aleah or Lexy, although it does not appear that the Aleah or Lexy normally wears a hijab, nor if either of them suffer from the trauma of snoring. As it happens “Aleah” is Lexy Panterra and she has a saucy video in which there is no niqab in sight but plenty of flesh. And it seems her boyfriend is not the soldier in the ad. No niqab, no snoring (well, I can not confirm this) and no soldier husband (or at least no longer). Her boyfriend is, appropriately for Instagram fame, Aladdin. How shocking: an ad campaign that deceives in order to sell a product that nobody probably needs.

The fact that a Muslim woman and a U.S. soldier would fall in love and get married does not shock me. The fact that a Muslim woman would choose to wear hijab or niqab does not shock me. The fact that an ad campaign for a next-to-useless product would try to fool me: that surely does not shock me. The problem with this ad campaign is not what it claims to be doing — promoting acceptance of diversity — but for using a fake couple to do so. This is red meat for Red State bigots and will spill out over the twitter accounts and hate blogs for days to come. Lost in this absurd commercial exploitation is the real diversity at play here. In America a Muslim woman can choose not to wear hijab; she can cut a sexy music video and post it online; she can have a boyfriend and wear a ring in her nose: in short being “Muslim” does not mean having to look like the wife of a Saudi mufti. The ad image here pits the American military hero vs. a popular icon (a veiled woman) of the enemy religion and implies, despite what the “woman-owned” pharmaceutical company suggests, that these are indeed polar opposites. Far from promoting tolerance, the ad reinforces stereotypes.

As for the snoring, save your money and check out these simple steps. As for the sex, try it before you go to sleep and the snoring will not get in the way. Don’t be shocked if both these free notions work.