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May 06, 2009

Nerdy, cross-dressing musical theater? Must be a Marshalls ad!

Posted on Wed May 6 2009

It is no doubt the strangest Marshalls ad you'll ever see: A 35-year-old cross-dressing man named Liam Sullivan portrays Kelly, a shy 17-year-old girl. Kelly, a popular YouTube character, is first shown at home greeting her visiting grandma (also played by Sullivan, natch). Grandma is wearing iPod headphones that aren't connected to anything, but bops her head anyway, as if listening to the music in her brain. Flash forward to the mall, where Kelly is waiting outside an expensive store and meets a girl was just bounced from the shop. Then, at about 2:26 in, we see a beauty shot of Marshalls, which is descended upon by a gaggle of pretty girls and, trailing a bit behind, Kelly and her new friend. At Marshalls, the girls (not the dude playing Kelly—you get the feeling Marshalls wasn't too into that) are shown trying on various fabulous threads. They all ignore Kelly, who keeps asking, "What are you girls talking about?" Finally, Kelly explodes into song (the voice is dubbed by an actual female) and poses that same question musically as a fat mime (in red!) dances and a sleazy-looking guy with a moustache shakes the maracas. What to make of this? Conceptually, the video/commercial is very Napoleon Dynamite. You have the deadpan humor, the weirdly aggressive protagonist, the girlfriend with the side-ponytail and a denouement that includes a musical number. (In Napoleon's case, it was a dance sequence.) Is this what it takes to reach teens these days?

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

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