Monday, July 31, 2006

I am So Gone

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 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


brian said...

God speed,Gay Prof.Truer words were never spoken about the state of broadcast TV and advertisers.The decline in broadcast TV I blame on the FCC,under the Clinton administration and finished off by Colin Powell's son.Infomercials ad nauseum.Advertisers on the other hand are insidious in their projection of culture.Bias in casting and copy are often intentional to target a specific market segment.Apparently,he who has the gold also makes the rules.

jeremy said...

Safe journeys, prof!
I hate those mac commercials, too. That little douche bag drives me bonkers. And to think he has a lame ass movie opening this Friday. The kids at Pen15 club sure seem to like him.

Roger Owen Green said...

The Mac guy was in a TV show called Ed, which I watched regularly. His name is Justin Long. Won't make me want to buy a Mac, though.

So, does the parade route go through Albany?

Christopher said...

So Gayprof, let's say you meet someone handsome, smart, and funny who seems not to be a liar who tells many lies. His only perceivable fault is that he drives a Hummer in addition to giving them. Do you date him?

Personally, I think everyone who drives a Hummer ought to be required to pay an Asshole Tax, but that is just me.

names said...

oh, be prepared to see those monster hummers attempting to navigate the tiny streets of Boston. It is truly idiotic to own one here yet several people with small penis complexes insist on it.

Hilaire said...

Hallelujah to you on this post! I am so with you about advertising, branding, and corporations trying to image themselves as antithetical to corporate culture and bottom lines. And Mac sanctimony bugs me, too.

MaggieMay said...

Safe travels, GayProf! (BTW, for some reason, in addition to the row of Tauruses and yellow Mustang that the hub & I had the option of renting while in AZ, the other option was an H3. The husband and I looked at it and just burst out laughing.)

notsosecretadmirer said...

AMEN, Gay Prof! You've nailed the whole consumerist bullshit aesthetic. Appeal to the basest needs of your demographic, and BINGO, you've made a sale. I think that anyone who falls for that bullshit is deserving of being ripped off by the idiot fantasy of it all. This includes the asswipes who buy Enzyte for "natural male enhancement". Faugh! That idiot-grinning Bob in the commercials is such a dickheaded wiener/douchebag. His wife will be grinning all the way to the bank when she divorces him for the infidelity that he'll feel empowered to invest in thanks to his "enchanced" penile reproductive organ. Asshole.
I also love the ad for one of the hundreds of variable Medicare supplemental ads, in which a youthful Grandmotherly type gently chides the audience saying in a sing-song voice "And health care costs keep rising!". Thanks for the heads up, dumb cunt!

vuboq said...

Have a safe trip!!!

My brother used to sell Hummers (no, not *that* kind, you pervy monkeys!), which was very frustrating since I do EPA contract work.

I wanted to beat him over the head with a Hummer. Fortunately, I refrained.

tornwordo said...

Good luck with your traversal of America. Get thee quickly to a blue state, you deserve it!

This might be my favorite post by you. I am on a constant screed about Hummers, and I scowl at anyone driving one. (I also imagine the miniscule penii of the men driving them, but I digress)

I don't have a mac because I don't want to learn a whole new rigamaroh, but the adds are irritating, I agree.

Earl Cootie said...

Most commercials drives me insane, but they're not much (if any) worse than the drivel they interrupt.

Catch ya on the flip-flop!

pacalaga said...

Have a safe trip.
I agree with your description of the ads on TV (although I kinda like the Mac ads, especially the one with the little Japanese digital camera). Anyway, you're basically describing the entire marketing biz, not just those two companies. My product is better/will make you sexier/will make you thinner/will make all your dreams come true...better than their product will.
That's the deal they made with the Devil.
So far, only the lipstick ones work on me. I swear, if I could just find the right formulation, I'd look like a Victoria's Secret model... ;-)

Helen the Felon said...

Travel safe, love. I'll be sure to TiVO all the commercials you miss while you're on the road.

Dorian said...

Yay for cranky GayProf! I love it when you turn your critical eye on commercials and pop culture.

Have a safe trip. I've never had luck traveling by car with cats, so I really hope you have a safe and comfortable journey.

Lorraine said...

I liked Justin in "Ed", too. But he's not making me buy a Mac. In short, there is nothing to add for the GayProf has covered it all nicely. An OLG candle has been lit, per your request, with hopes for a safe trip and a stunning time in Beantown.

kate.d. said...

oh my goodness! when i saw the hummer ad with the tofu guy a few weeks ago, the tagline read, "Restore Your Manhood." i fell halfway off the couch. seriously.

i wonder if there are two different versions of the ad, or if they changed it after getting some (understandably) negative feedback about the original tagline. like when mcdonald's changed the text in that coffee ad from "now tuesday is the suckiest day of the week" to "now tuesday is the crummiest day of the week." who knew, "suckiest" was a word you can't say on tv? someone should call george carlin.

oh, and one more thing - the hummer ad with the woman? the tagline there is "Get Your Girl On." in a sense, this is even more mind-boggling to me that the guy ad. get your girl on? what does that even mean?? i'm sitting there thinking, "i've already got my girl on. it's always on. i didn't realize it was detachable!"

or, "wait, stop! i've got my girl on too tight, i've just got to adjust it a little..."

the possibilities are endless.

Adam said...

All commercials are irritating, but the irony is that you're talking about their product because of the ads. Clearly something worked.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Great cover - yeah, who isn't sick of the world of men. One the one hand, because I haven't had a TV for 10 years, I feel like a rube and unable to comment, on the other hand you then rant about how the insipid aspects of TV are worming thier way into your life so, that kinda killed the desire for a TV.

Have a great move!

jpdc said...

You should stay in hotels that have computers in their lobbies, because then you could still update your blog.

That would be cool.

Signalite said...

Tee-Vee? Wait, let me google it on my Mac...

Oh well, in the end a tool is just a tool as long as it works for my world dominat --er-- humble purposes.

Speaking of which they need to get on that teleportation thing to make travel much easier.

Steve said...

My BF, Chris-Says, sent me the link to this post because I often go off on the type of Mac people you describe. I like Windows just fine. I have nothing against Macs, either. What I reaallyy dislike are the iLosers who have turned owning a Mac into some sort of techno-religion that somehow, magically conveys some sort of uber-coolness on them. Bullshit. (I did think Justin Long, who is in the Mac spots was waaay cute in Jeepers Creepers, though.) Hope you have a safe journey.

Frank said...

Bon voyage, GayProf! Boston is going to be great for you, I can just feel it. If your cross-country drive brings you into suburban southern NJ, just give a holler and I'll come running! *LOL*

I totally agree with you about the commercials. The Mac one just makes me want to buy a PC out of spite. (Plus, John Hodgeman -- the "PC" -- is just so adorkable!) And the H3 commercials are truly disgusting and degrading to all parties involved.

Anyway, safe travels. And if your drive turns into a journey of self-discovery and healing, preferably in the arms of a handsome and wise hitchhiker, remember to take pictures for us!

Larry said...

Maybe when you're two hours away from my after my move, we'll get together and go key some hummers or something :)

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wayoutinthestix said...

Seems an appropriate time to hop on board! Hope your travel observations on the state of the nation are more heartening than disheartening. Please report.

Plenty of ads are appalling, but there’s one on television I like. Sophisticated Parisian couple seated at a sidewalk cafĂ©. A blob of wet, nasty something lands on their table. Splat! Screams of horror and disgust. Cut to suburban America where Mr. and Mrs. A. have just unclogged the bathroom sink with super powerful drain product. I may be reading between the lines but the message appears to be Americans don’t know where their mess goes, who is affected by it and really don’t care. Who said there’s no truth in advertising?

Paul said...

Whee! Travels away!

I'm sad that the Mac ads are so off-putting. I like my Mac. But the ads make me feel like I'm just an awful, smarmy, know-it-all. (And I even like the actor, who was in the fabulously creepy Jeepers Creepers.)

Wol said...

You rock, GayProf. Sunshine on your road, coffee in your cup, and Wonder Woman to keep Hummer drivers and other general jerks far, far away.

Seeker Onos said...

1) Hmmm. As a Mac owner, I can't say that I feel any more or any less superior than I did as a Windoze user or as a Linux user. All different flavours with different issues, I s'pose.

2) Those Mac commercials are certainly smarmy, but the "Mac Boy" is definitely cuter than the "Dell Dude". (imho)

3) Although I generally try to be nice to strangers, for some reason I can't resist the urge to slow to around 5mph under the speed limit when I get a Hummer driver behind me on a two-lane country road... because they have awful acceleration time, they can't whip around me like most other folks can.

:: evil grin ::

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