Friday, June 17, 2005

THE EVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED

That’s because we will not evolve until we get rid of TV.

I will grant that there are television shows that stimulate the mind, dazzle the imagination and inspire truly great things. There is also a whole lot of shit. Reality Television, to cite one example, is the technological equivalent of marijuana. It numbs you, makes you laugh at stupid shit and quite honestly, you’re dumber after it than you were before it.

Good TV, bad TV, great thought-provoking, imagination-dazzling, lights-out television – they all have one thing in common. They are all represented by the most inane, bottom-dwelling, lowest-common-denominator-catering ads out there.

This is the best thing I can say for advertising: At its best, advertising makes fun of itself because it knows it sucks. Ads with the bald Goodyear guy are funny but they’re still a waste of my time.

At their worst, ad are what are wrong with society, if I can say that without a white belt and pants hiked up to my armpits. They (ads, not my armpits) lay there, under the radar, shaping perceptions of perfection, feeding self-doubt, allowing people who are perfectly fine to believe that their lives are shit and that everything they want is a simple dye-job, mascara-shade, bottle-of-beer, pack-of-condoms or fast-food burger away.

Not only do these degrading and demoralizing ads shape people’s perceptions of themselves, they distort standards of beauty sought in OTHER people.

Want someone to love? If you’re anyone worth loving, you’d better want someone with a good rack, decent cleavage and rippling abs. We’ve become a bunch of people who care more for the shape of an ass than for the content of a person.

I’ll be the first person to admit that physical beauty is a good thing – I married the great beauty of my life – but our priorities as a whole are way-off.

Dark tan, bleach-blonde, rock-hard abs and tight buns are a necessity, you might be led to believe by the beer commercials, makeup commercials – pretty much anyone who sells something that will not sell itself.

I’m sure that most people will agree that there’s a whole lot of useless shit for sale out there. There’s shit you stick on your face to make you “pretty”. There’s shit you drink that makes you so stupid that you don’t know you’re too stupid to drive. There’s shit to eat that makes you really, really fat. These are just a few of the many pieces of shit that won’t sell themselves.

First, there’s makeup. On the surface, it looks like makeup sells itself. It seems to be a great way for someone to improve their self-image – and people should feel good about themselves. I agree with that one hundred percent. However, the way that makeup gets you to improve your self-image is by insinuating that you are less without it. Makeup insinuates itself into the mainstream of a young lady’s life through celebrities. Everyone wants to be famous, to generalize grossly. Girls see the grown-up famous people and want to be like them. They wear makeup. The girls on the makeup commercials look like (and often are) the same celebrities that attract the adoration of the young ladies in the first place. The smooth skin, the shaded eyes, the full, vibrant lips… You try telling your daughter that she can’t wear makeup when she sees Alicia Keyes out there pimping some cosmetic. I’ll admit that, to my eyes, makeup can improve someone’s looks – but that’s because I’ve been raised in a world where women wear makeup. Can I get a do-over? Regardless of, and probably blind to, the self-doubt that this creates in the fragile ego of the typical pre-teen/teenaged girl, not to mention the priorities it helps boys of the same age develop, cosmetic companies continue to hammer home the notion that makeup = fame and beauty. It’s all about the bottom-line.

Beer is another product that seems to sell itself. Many a teenaged boy cannot wait (and quite often does not wait) until he is eighteen and can have that first cherished sip of beer. The Old Man takes Sonny-Boy out for the first drink and tradition is preserved. It’s a rite of passage – a harmless way to let off steam after work. A large majority of beer companies’ work is done for them by “tradition”, “rites of passage” and “expectation”. All they have to do is steer you toward their beer. Enter the buxom women, bungling men, backyard barbecues, amazingly-smokeless bars where the women have an average weight of 92 lbs and none of them have their natural hair-colour. It’s very tempting. The ads play up the parties, the romantic possibilities, and camaraderie. They play down the hangovers (not completely, because it’s funny when someone else has a hangover). They don’t play alcoholism, fatal crashes caused by drunk-drivers or families torn apart at all. After all, life’s a party!

Fast food is really shit. You’d be better off drinking rat-poison than eating fast food. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Okay, it’s total bull. Still, fast food is not healthy. It makes you fat and unhealthy. (Which would rather be? Fat or unhealthy? Later…) The big companies don’t want you to think about obesity or diabetes, though. They focus on heartstrings – a family doesn’t have time to eat at home – the fast-food joint around the corner is the perfect place! They target your kids (Fine, we’ll go! Just stop WHINING!) with toys, cartoons and sweets (like Hansel and Gretel, walking through the woods). They only have to get you in there a couple of times, since their food is physically addicting. Trust me – I know.

How do you sell something that’s useless?

1) You convince people that it’s cool. “See that car? The one that looks like a big fucking bubble? You see that shit? That’s some cool shit. That’s the brand-new Sssportero from CARnival. You’ll want to be the first on your block…” Granted, advertisers are better at being subtle, but then, I’m not trying to sell you anything… (unless you’re in the market for a crappy Nissan that hardly runs. It’s cool! Trust me.)
2) Convince people that they can’t function without it. “I don’t know how people LIVED before the Breakfastomatic. Scramble eggs? Who has the time? Eat bacon? I’m in a hurry. The Breakfastomatic purees the breakfast of your choice and injects it STRAIGHT INTO YOUR VEINS for a BREAKFASTOMATIC BURST OF ENERGY that lasts ALL DAY!” Infomercial heaven.
3) Convince people that they are shit and that their only shot at redemption is through whatever product you offer. “Oh NO! I have a little red PROTRUSION on my face! If Hunk Hunkerson sees it, he’ll just KNOW it’s full of pus – JUST LIKE MY SOUL! I’M NEVER GOING TO THE PROM! WAAAAA! Unless I cover it with Acne-A-Way Concealing Tape. Thanks, Acne-A-Way.” Another girl’s homecoming dreams just homecame true!
4) This is a special case – when you can’t convince someone they need your product, you can’t come up with a way to redeem your fallen consumers with it, and Goddamn it, it’s just not cool enough, use sex. Scantily-clad women, dark blue lighting, husky music, innuendo, and insinuation – all of these tools are invaluable toward the selling of the truly useless. “ ‘Why should I rent a limo? I’ve got a good car.’ ‘I’ll suck your dick. But I won’t – cuz that’d be prostitution and I’d go to jail. But I might. You’ll never know from the ad.’” It’s just THAT subtle.

Sex is truly mainstream in advertising. Need proof? In READER’S FUCKING DIGEST, one issue (I don’t have volume or issue numbers – but it’s got Nelson Mandela on the cover) has THREE (3) advertisements with topless women. One is sinking into a tub, advertising a contest or something. Another is a full shot of a woman’s torso, her arms covering up the unmentionables. I think they were selling soap. The last one had half of a woman’s breast exposed in profile, advertising a FUCKING MEDICAL ADHESIVE! I did not bother to count the number of cheesecake shots advertising other things.

I find it exceedingly ironic (or is it hypocritical) that the magazine that would print a quote to the effect of:

“The job of raising children has become much more difficult. In the past, we were expected to raise our children with the help of society. Now, we must raise them despite society.”

would have no problem displaying topless women to sell products.
The Evolution will not be televised.


(Giant disclaimer: I am not condemning Fast Food, beer or makeup. These are just examples of things that are advertised in a way that I believe is detrimental to viewers of television. I am also not trying to label anyone who drinks beer as a drunk, anyone who wears makeup as an insecure person who values only her looks, or anyone who eats fast food as a lard-ass. I am that lard-ass and I enjoy fast food. I will continue to eat it. Does that make me hypocritical? Nah, just a dumb lard-ass.)

4 comments:

MuddyBrown said...

The land of Liam... Somehow I thought there would be ice tea fountains here...

Dylan said...

Liam? Bitching out TV? Anal butt busters volume 41 wasn't released for the big screen, you hypocrite!

Liam J. said...

That part of my life is over, Dyl.

Earl J. Woods said...

Great (and funny) analysis, Liam.