Alright, kiddies, the big move is upon us. Most of my boxes sit ready to be loaded on the truck tomorrow. Both my NRFB Mego Wonder Woman doll and Our Lady of Guadalupe icon find themselves snugly awaiting their new, though temporary, home in the Greater Boston area.
I will begin my long mult-day journey traversing many of the united states. Fortunately for those on my travel route, I have hired a team of trumpeters to announce my imminent arrival. Consider it my own version of Travels with Charlie. Only, in my case, I have a cat instead of a dog, a moving truck instead of a camper, and a greater level of gravitas than Steinbeck could ever muster.
Before I depart, though, I wanted to jot down some thoughts about television. Since I have been without cable television for some time, I have been forced to depend on other means of entertaining myself while packing. When I wasn’t watching That Girl, on DVD, I relied on the good old fashioned air-wave transmissions. I learned something that I had forgotten: Network televison blows.
As I sat wrapping my collection of Wonder Woman coffee mugs and Salton Hostess 1960s Warming Tray, the same commercials played over and over and over again. Two particular series of commercials really irritated the shit out of me.
First, GayProf has long said that he does not have a horse in the Mac/Microsoft race. To be honest, I just don’t care. Microsoft, well, they are just plain evil. Mac, from what I understand, has minuscule advantages, but their hardware isn’t worth shit.
Mac wants to pretend that they are not a giant U.S. corporation guilty of all the excesses therein. Some people feel so invested in Mac that they will even become angry if you dare to suggest that they are just another consumer option. Thus, I am annoyed by the smug, self-satisfied ad campaign for Mac computers.
You have probably not been able to avoid them unless your doctor or a criminal court ordered you to stay at least 75 feet from all television sets. These ads involve a “PC” and a “Mac” computer personified with actors. The Mac tries so hard to seem “cool,” but just ends up looking like one of my annoying-know-it-all freshmen students. Mac, the corporation, tries to convince the public that buying their computer will permit them to be part of a special group of people. I see this ad and think that Mac computers clearly lack manners.
As I have said many times, though, the Mac mystique is really just capitalist brand-identification. If one finds the Mac computer works better for their particular needs, I think that is just dandy. Owning a Mac as some type of evidence of innate cleverness, though? In the immortal words of Shania, that don’t impress me much.
These ads, if anything, make me unlikely to even think of buying a Mac for many years. The next time that smug little Mac brat appears on my television, friends might need to restrain me from tossing the whole set against a wall. I would not want that Mac guy in my house, much less working as my computer.
What company could come up with an ad more annoyingly self-important than the Mac ads? Hmm – Only a corporation that makes its bottom dollar by destroying the earth. I write, of course, about the Hummer H3 ad campaign.
In the two particular commercials that now endlessly cycle through my head, the ad’s protagonist discovers personal courage and strength by buying a Hummer. One centers on a mother who finds herself and her child bullied on the playground. Just when she looks so sad that you want to take away all her sharp objects, she sees a bus pass with an ad for the H3. Once she signs away her life (and probably sells her child into slavery) to pay for the vehicle, she looks unstoppable as a song plays about her rock and rolling. We are left to assume that she must be driving to slaughter her playground bullies in a blood-red-rage.
Another ad in the same campaign plays upon classic masculine insecurities. This time around, a man waits in the grocery line buying cartons of tofu. Another guy follows him in line buying tons of red meat. Apparently feeling his testicles in danger of crawling into his body and converting to ovaries, he spots a magazine advertising the H3. Within seconds, he races to the dealership and obtains the key to his new found manhood. The ad’s tagline has the audacity to read, “Restore the Balance.” We can say many things about Hummers: They guzzle gas; they cost the same as a small Carribean island; some double as the local county seat; they look suspiciously like a rolling Quaalude pill. What we can’t say, though, is that the Hummer implies balance.
I suppose we should be grateful that the Hummer ads avoided the explicit homophobia of the Dodge/Chrysler ads. Rather, they opted for a more subtle, anti-vegetarian message. Gee, that’s great. One has to wonder when eating healthful foods became “unmanly.”
GayProf understand the score when it comes to advertising. They want to tap into people’s fantasies and vanity to sell products. I get that. Believe me, I also understand how shopping and buying things can make a person feel better. E-bay and Amazon.com do not send me personalized Christmas cards for no reason. Nothing seems wrong to me about enjoying nice things from time to time.
What does bother me, though, are the ways that these advertisers create a vision of identity based on conspicuous consumption. These two ad campaigns depend on crass desires to feel superior to your fellow humans. Contrary to Mac’s unending ad campaign, buying a Mac does not make you a better/smarter/more interesting person. You don’t have “one-up” on PC users (like that would be a hard thing to accomplish anyway). Owning a Hummer, likewise, won’t give you personal courage. Getting behind the wheel will not show your manliness/womanliness or grow you a new set of testicles/ovaries. Instead, driving a Hummer announces your depraved indifference to real social and environmental problems facing the globe.
Being a better/smarter/more interesting person, in my experience, does not start with you opening your wallet. Rather you have to, you know, actually do something smart/productive/interesting.
Or maybe packing all of my own personal crap has just made me cranky. Eh – We can never tell with GayProf.
Regardless, I am glad that we had this talk. I will be deprived on the internet for many days and would hate to go away without discussing these things.
Keep a candle burning for me. I look forward to arriving in the Greater Boston Metropolitan area. Long-time readers know that he past year(+) has not exactly been a pleasure cruise for ol’ GayProf. You wouldn’t believe the time it takes to mend a heart once it breaks.
Now, though, I have faith that the cosmos will bring me a year of new people and intellectual engagement