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Charmin Bear Reads Kafka on the Toilet

New toilet paper ad gets literary with ‘The Metamorphosis’ cameo

Stephanie Butnick
August 13, 2013
Existential bear. (New York Daily News)
Existential bear. (New York Daily News)

I think we can all agree that the Charmin ads featuring the family of bears whose little ones seem to always be getting toilet paper stuck to their bottoms are irksome, if not downright creepy. But in their newest set of ads, all available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube, they step up their game big time. Kafka big.

The New York Daily News brings our attention—for better or worse—to one ad in particular, in which the family of bears is asked if they enjoy going to the bathroom. The mother bear grants that she appreciates five minutes of “me time” (bears: can they have it all?), while papa bear admits he likes to text while on the toilet. Gross, dad.

But what about the cub stars kids? “Sometimes I like to bring a book,” one of the young bears says cheerfully, proudly holding up a pink book with “Franz Kafka” and a giant insect on the cover—Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, in saccharine animated form. Translations differ on what kind of creature protagonist Gregor Samsa turns into. If Charmin has anything to say about it, though, it’s probably a dung beetle.

Either way, that’s one existential little bear.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.