Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Irritating Insulting Soul-Crushing Catchy Ads

So from time to time, in addition to writing poetry with my eyes closed and writing about the virtues of the avant-garde and the political potential therein, I must also write something about popular culture and the idiocy of certain aspects, which play out in reality television but most of all, in advertising. Advertising, in their quest to be catchy, edgy, funny, poignant, etc. often (usually) commits the greatest affronts to our intelligence. If we let these things go by too easily, without questioning them, they contribute to the demise of our culture, the substitution of our values for theirs, whoever “they” may be.

Perhaps, being the end of the year, I should do an awards category for the vilest of these commercials. But, then I would have to categorize their stupidity and collect many more examples of these insults to our intelligence than I am prepared to. I am ostensibly lazy and undisciplined; or maybe I am just distracted and trying to do too many things. But whatever the case, end-of-the-year awards while tempting, are just not my style.

So after all of this preamble ambling and rambling, I want to talk about just a few of the ads that I find the most aggravating right now.

The first series of ads are the State Farm ads with Jerry Newman, trying to reach his old agent “Jessica” after apparently another in a series of accidents. She asks, “Is your car up a pole again, Jerry.”

Up a pole? AGAIN? How many times has this guy done this? How do you drive your car up a pole? But that’s not enough. We then see yet another of Jerry’s accidents in which he manages to drive THROUGH HIS HOUSE. We can see that he has driven through what appears to be solid granite. He informs “Jessica” that he is going to need to phone number of a stone mason.

Yet Jessica very cheerfully talks to him about renewing his policy with State Farm.

HELLO!? This man routinely drives his car up poles and through houses. He doesn’t need an insurance agent. He needs an intervention. He is obviously addicted to some very powerful drugs. He should be calling Dr. Drew, not his insurance company. As a matter of fact, why does this guy even have a driver’s license at this point, let alone having someone who is willing to insure him? We want to encourage people like this to drive by giving them insurance? This is a dangerous man who has no business on the road and the fact that he has State Farm insurance does not make me feel any better about facing him down when he goes on another bender and puts his car through my front door or on top of my body while I am trying to cross the damn street in a perfectly legal crosswalk.

Remember Billy Joel driving into the side of someone’s house? He got arrested. Billy Joel. When my grandfather was 90 years old and smashing up Cadillacs, they took away his driver’s license. (Ok, it didn’t stop him from driving, but at least he didn’t have legal endorsement to drive!) Where are the cops when Jerry Newman is out driving? He needs the police to tail him every minute that menace is on the road until he inevitably puts someone else’s life at risk besides his own, which is just a matter of time. This isn’t funny. This is a travesty.

Next we have the ads. Damn these ads, because they do have catchy songs! But they too are an insult to our intelligence. First, there's the name. The credit scores are not really free. You have to enroll in Triple Advantage, whatever that is. I suspect it is one of these scams where you have “free” enrollment for a month and then your credit card is charged if you do not remember to cancel your “free” membership so many days before the end of your trial month. How many people do you think actually remember to cancel their membership the first month? If everyone did, then would not be able to afford to run their TV ads every 10 minutes!

But the most recent commercial is definitely an offense to any intelligent person’s sensibility. The daughter gets a credit card from her parents and goes wild with it. Ok, funny enough premise and many of us have been there. But then they have the audacity to assert that if the parents had purchased membership in they would have known sooner.

As anyone who has ever checked their credit score knows, it takes 2 or 3 months for there to be a change in your credit score, which would be long after the “free trial period” had ended and would be plenty of time for their daughter to have run up thousands of dollars in expenses. They would know sooner when they actually receive the bill that she had been spending all of their money. And they would have known sooner still by simply looking up their credit card online and seeing what kind of expenses she was incurring, since credit card accounts are updated daily!

Anyone who would rely on to know how much their daughter is spending on a credit card that they co-signed for should go to a financial management class themselves before they start to lecture her. I’m thinking this must have been the family’s first credit card too for them to be that stupid. Or maybe they just returned from Amish country and have never used the internet before.

Oh, they’re just ads. You take them too seriously, you tell me. Perhaps. But this is not just about car insurance or checking your credit score. Every time we see something on tv, especially advertising and just let it go, we are failing to question the messages that we receive. And then it spills over to watching the news. And political debates. And political ads. Every time we don’t say, hey wait a minute, that’s not right, we accept the values of Kim Kardashian, or Paris Hilton or Rick Perry or the writers of any number of tv shows instead of questioning the values that they portray.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to any tv show and heaven knows, I watch some pretty vile things myself. But it’s important that we are constantly questioning what we’re watching or else we let someone else’s values take over ours and pretty soon that becomes the norm in our culture. Advertising is the most pervasive of all because ads are short, catchy, and on the surface, not to be taken too seriously. But make no mistake. They transmit as many cultural values in their one minute as any sitcom, drama, or reality tv show. With political season coming up in particular, but really any time, it’s important that we not let a single thing go by without thinking about and even commenting upon it, no matter how trivial. You can tweet what you had for breakfast. You can damn well talk and tweet about the ads and the television you are being exposed to!

In the meantime, Jerry Newman, get thee to a rehab center.

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