Blasphemous Shampoo

Padraig Reidy is shouting “Hurray” at the prospect of the demise of the blasphemy laws, but is also:

wary of attempts to use the Religious and Racial Hatred Act as a more comprehensive blasphemy law

What, I wonder, should we make of the Advertising Standards Authority’s ban on an arguably sacreligious advert for shampoo:

A TV advert for hair stylers featuring eroticised female imagery and an extract from the Lord’s Prayer has been deemed offensive to Christians.
The Advertising Standards Authority said the ad for ghd IV hair styling equipment could cause “serious offence” and must not be screened again.

The advert juxtaposed the words ‘thy will be done’ alongside erotic images of women accompanied by predatory text.

The Archdeacon of Liverpool was among 23 people who complained about the ad.

The first advert for the ghd IV hair styling equipment showed a woman wearing lingerie, sitting on the edge of a bed, clasping rosary beads.

As she looks up, the text on the screen reads ‘May my new curls make her feel choked with jealousy’.

The text is replaced with the words ‘ghd IV thy will be done’, then ‘ghd. A new religion for hair’.

The letter ‘t’ in ‘thy’ closely resembles the Christian cross.


Nothing derogatory is being said about Christians in the advert. Rather, the advert plays upon our familiarity with the common Christian culture of this country. In particular, it plays on the rather dark, masochistic, and erotic nature of Christian imagery and liturgy: something which is already inherent in the culture of the religion.

The thing is, the Lord’s Prayer, and Christian imagery doesn’t belong to Christians. I’m an athiest, but my culture is significantly Christian: and that culture belongs to me. That means I can do whatever I want with it. Christians don’t have copyright in any of this imagery.

It is quite legitimate thing for the state, or an industry quango, to do police and prevent the incitement of violence against individuals because they are members of a cultural community. Protecting individual’s sensibilities is not the job of any official or semi-official body. If the Archdeacon of Liverpool’s sense of the sacred nature of Christian iconography deserves protection: then why not any other cultural community? Should the ASA prevent advertisements poking fun at Morris Dancers, Anglers, or Historical Re-enacters?