Mother's Day: La-Z-Boy Ad

“A man’s home is his castle, his scepter is the TV remote control, and his throne is the La-Z-Boy.” – Carole Achterhof

The practice of placing hidden (subliminal) ideas in select print advertisements is a technique used by advertisers.  Advertisers know that most people will not spend much time looking at print advertisements.  Therefore, hidden (subliminal) ideas, imagery, and words can be placed in print advertisements without immediate detection.

The Dark Side of Subliminal Advertising is a blog site that exposes the advertising technique of placing hidden (subliminal) ideas, imagery, and words in advertisements. 

It is important to realize that ads are not designed for the conscious mind, they are deliberately designed to reach the subconscious mind.  The subconscious mind operates under a different set of laws compared to the operations of the conscious mind.

On average, people look at a print ad for no more than two seconds.  Therefore the advertiser has two seconds in which to convey a message in order to increase sales.

With this in mind, look closely at this advertisement and see if you notice anything interesting:

Doesn’t this ad show an ideal situation for a mother on Mother’s Day?  The mother is relaxing, in a La-Z-Boy chair, while her son is bringing her flowers.  Also, her husband is doing the yard work so that the yard looks nice on Mother’s Day.

Maybe later they will all go out for dinner to further celebrate Mother’s Day.  This way the mother will be able to take the day off and relax and won’t have to cook or be concerned with dishes.

The advertisement pictured above has had the ad copy removed from it.

Now, with the ad copy included, take another look at this advertisement again:

Wait a minute, this isn’t a Mother’s Day ad at all, it's a Father’s Day ad!!!

Now why is the mother sitting in the La-Z-Boy on Father’s Day?

Why would the son be giving flowers to his mother, and nothing to his father, on Father’s Day?

Why would the father be doing yard work on Father’s Day?


Before these questions are answered, consider the fact that there is a strong association with La-Z-Boy recliners and fathers.  The La-Z-Boy recliner is considered the father’s chair in many homes.

Here are three quotations concerning the association between La-Z-Boy recliners and fathers:

“When I was growing up, my father never sat ANYWHERE other than his La-Z-Boy recliner.  No one else ever sat in that chair if he was home. That chair was his throne in his kingdom.” 1

“But she only realized that things were truly serious when she came into the family room and saw the big La-Z-Boy deluxe lounging chair, her father's throne.” 2

“A man’s home is his castle, his scepter is the TV remote control, and his throne is the La-Z-Boy.” 3


This advertisement is one of the best examples of an ad that contains concepts found in psychoanalysis.

The beginning of the ad copy reads:  “My Mom’s a real executive type.  She’s a great one for making decisions.”  The ad caption is written from the son’s narrative. 

This statement is a critical key for revealing the psychoanalytic elements in this advertisement.

An executive is the person in whom the supreme executive power is vested.4

The mother is the executive power in this household.  She is sitting in the executive chair (La-Z-Boy).

Notice that there is an open book in the mother’s lap:

An open book is a symbol of the state's sovereignty.5

Sovereignty represents supreme and independent power or authority over a geographic area.6

The open book further symbolizes the mother’s supreme authority in running the geographic area (household).

In this advertisement, the father has been dethroned by the mother.  The mother is sitting on the throne and she rules and runs the household.

Notice that the boy is getting ready to give flowers to his mother:

Also, notice the colors of the flowers:

Pink flowers are a romantic color because they are not as intense as deep reds and therefore express a deeper spectrum of love’s possibilities.7

Yellow flowers represent trust, compassion, and respect.8

White flowers all communicate pure, thoughtful love and undying fidelity.9

The boy is giving flowers to his mother on Father’s Day, and is not giving his father anything.

Notice that the mother is paying attention and giving affection to her son on Father’s Day, not her husband. 

This is reinforced by the way she is touching her son with her hand:

The father has been dissed by both his wife and son.


The phenomenon called the Oedipus complex first appeared in Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1899).  In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud proposed that in a male child there is a subdued desire for his mother, and wishes to supersede his father.  The Interpretation of Dreams is Sigmund Freud’s seminal work, where he proposed theories of psychoanalysis.10

Here are a couple of definitions of the Oedipus Complex concept:

“While he is still a small child, a son will already begin to develop a special affection for his mother, whom he regards as belonging to him; he begins to feel his father as a rival who disputes his sole possession.” 11

“In psychoanalytic theory, the term Oedipus complex denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrates upon a child's desire to possess the parent of the opposite sex.” 12

Concerning the concept of the Oedipus Complex, Sigmund Freud writes:

“Being in love with the one parent and hating the other are among the essential constituents of the stock of psychical impulses which is formed at that time and which is of such importance in determining the symptoms of the later neurosis...This discovery is confirmed by a legend that has come down to us from classical antiquity:  a legend whose profound and universal power to move can only be understood if the hypothesis I have put forward in regard to the psychology of children has an equally universal validity. What I have in mind is the legend of King Oedipus and Sophocles' drama which bears his name.” 13

The concept of the Oedipus Complex is blatantly portrayed in this advertisement because the boy is showing affection to his mother, by giving her flowers, and is totally ignoring his father on Father’s Day.

The mother reinforces the Oedipus Complex by ignoring her husband and giving attention and affection to her son on Father’s Day.


Notice the rake in the advertisement:

Now why would a rake be inside of the house?

There is no logical reason for the rake to be inside of the house.

Therefore, in this advertisement, there must be a symbolic reason that the rake is in the house.

Notice the positioning of the rake.  The rake appears to be coming out of the boy’s head:

In this ad, the rake symbolizes the boy’s character.

A rake, short for rakehell, is a historic term applied to a person who is habituated to immoral conduct.14

Also, a rake is a dissolute person.15  A dissolute person is indifferent to moral restraints; given to immoral or improper conduct.16

The father views his son as a rake because of the way the son is showing affection to his wife by giving her flowers and ignoring him on Father’s Day.

Notice the color of the La-Z-Boy. 

There is a reason that the La-Z-Boy is green.  Green symbolizes envy and jealousy.17

Also, notice that the background behind the father is all green.  There is no other scenery behind the father.

The father is jealous of the affection that his wife is showing his son.  Also, the father is feeling envious over his son’s advantage with obtaining attention and affection from his wife. 

In other words, the father is "green with envy."

Therefore, the son has become the rival of the father for getting attention and affection from his wife.

Now why is the father covering his mouth?

Holding a hand before your mouth means that you are hiding something.18


The psychoanalytic concept of “castration anxiety” is blatantly portrayed in this advertisement.

Here is a definition of castration anxiety: “the boy remains ambivalent about his father's place in the family, which is manifested as fear of castration by the physically greater father; the fear is an irrational, subconscious manifestation of the infantile id.” 19

According to psychoanalysis, “Boys suffer a castration anxiety, where the son believes his father knows about his desire for his mother and hence fears his father will castrate him. He thus represses his desire and defensively identifies with his father.” 20

According to author Miriam M. Johnson:

“Freud generally depicted the father as a terrifying person threatening castration if the son did not give up the mother.” 21

Now back to the question presented earlier.   Why is the father covering his mouth, what is he hiding?

Do you see what the father is holding in his hand?  

Garden shears.  These shears symbolize an instrument of castration.

[Side note:  in 2012 two men planned to stake out, castrate, and assassinate Justin Bieber.  A set of garden shears was found on one of the men at the time of his arrest.] 22

Notice that the father’s gaze is directed towards his son.

Notice that the shears are aimed right towards the rake (symbolizing the son’s character):

The meaning of the father covering his mouth now becomes clear.  He is hiding his subconscious desire to inflict injury on his son due to jealousy and envy over the attention and affection that his son and wife are showing each other on Father’s Day.


According to Kendra Cherry:

“Freud believed that his discovery of the Oedipal complex and related theories such as castration anxiety and penis envy were his greatest accomplishments” 23         

If Sigmund Freud were alive today, he would most likely praise this ad as a brilliant example of psychoanalytic concepts in operation.


  1. Virtually all of Freud's work--especially the sexual/Id drive as running everything, has been discredited. The father has the shears because he cut the flowers. And he's waiting, in a bemused way, for the son to present the flowers to the mother so the father can get his chair back. Not everything has to do with penises. You have to dig a little deeper instead of rubber stamping Freud on everything.

    1. The ad copy backs up your interpretation of this advertisement. This is how the advertiser wants the viewers to interpret this ad.

      However, ads are not designed to reach the conscious mind, they are designed to reach the subconscious mind. Keep in mind that the majority of people do not look at ads in detail and do not take the time to read the ad copy.

      This would have been a great Mother’s Day Ad, but to be presented as a Father’s Day ad is unusual. Why would the father have to go through so much trouble to bribe his wife with flowers in order to be able to sit in his new La-Z-Boy chair? Why doesn’t he just ask her to let him sit in the chair?

      Concerning the rake in this ad, I don’t know how a rake would be used to gather a handful of flowers. Is the father doing more work outside with a rake on Father’s Day? Why would the father bring the rake inside of the house? The symbolism of the rake, presented in this blog entry, makes more sense on why the rake has been placed in this ad. Also, the way that the garden shears are being held could have been different. In this ad, the shears are raised, open, and aimed directly towards the rake that appears to be coming out of the boy’s head.

      Anxiety is one technique used to sell products. On a subconscious level, the advertiser for this advertisement has attempted to create anxiety with the psychoanalytic theory of castration anxiety. When I did a study by asking people about the father’s body language in this ad, the common answer was that the father was worried or experiencing anxiety. Also, keep in mind that someone holding a hand before their mouth means that they are hiding something.

      I do not subscribe to most of Freud’s theories and I know that most of them have been discredited. Personally, I think that the theories of castration anxiety, penis envy, and the Oedipal Complex are ludicrous. However, even though many of Freud’s theories have been discredited, that doesn’t stop advertisers from applying them. Psychoanalysis has been applied to advertising and packaging since the mid 1930’s and is still being applied to advertising today.

    2. You seem like the type of armchair psychologist who thinks he knows everything about "psychoanalysis" because he read some of Freud´s work. Unless, of course, this is very elaborate sarcasm and you are parodying the style of a typical self educated "psychoanalyst", in which case i applaud you for having done it so very well

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  3. I see the arm-rest as the kid's penis.

  4. Very interesting Mr Lafnear.
    Thank you.

  5. I believe anonymous at the top of these comments has summed it up very well. Amateur Psychoanalyst indeed. The ad is intriguing and begs the reader to actually read the associated story. A story which explains exactly what's going on.

    Father gives son a bunch of flowers to give to mother. Father cut the flowers from the garden, hence the shears.
    The rake is growing out of the boy's head because he happens to be standing in front of it. Sheeesh!
    If you can read castration, penis envy and Oedipus complex into this advertisement then may I suggest you visit a real psychoanalyst yourself, you definitely need help.

    You've managed to waste30 minutes of my time, but thanks for the many laughs along the way.


  7. I agree with dawnatilla. You people who complain about the article did not have to keep reading it. No one forced you with a gun to your head.

    Scott, I appreciate your work.

  8. Another feature supporting your analysis is the boy's black & white striped shirt (convict attire). Also, the Dad's covered mouth is not the only clue that he's hiding something - his posture is closed: arm across chest, crossed legs. There even appears to be an image of the devil's head if one looks closely at the small black area where the handle of the rake meets the business end! (just sayin'...)

  9. "How Mum and La-Z-Boy celebrated Father's day"

    La-Z-Boy could be referring to the boy as well. What would the advantage be to subconsciously advertise the Oedipus Complex?

    What if the whole ad is there to create feud between Dad and Son, you gotta read between the lines people..

  10. I think this advertisement tells a story, as most of them do. You have done a great job of describing how this ad was designed to work. I find the subjects that you have discussed on your blog most interesting. I read Wilson Bryan Keys books on the use of subliminal embeds in advertising and have been interested in them and the way they effect all of those individuals who view them. Thank you for your blog and posts.