Sunday, November 12, 2006

I Hope Were As Happy As They Sell Us to Be

Every morning, the husband goes to work wearing a navy blue shirt. The missus rises from the bed and opens the closet, revealing a row of neatly hanged white polos. A look of utter anxiety crosses her face as she spirals down to a horrible bout of depression over unused white polos. But lo! She gets hold of a shimmering white bar of detergent which then magically solves her marital problems. From then on, the husband goes to work wearing a navy blue shirt under a white polo.

Pretty huh? Pretty moronic. If I was the husband’s boss, I’d fire him for not wearing his uniform to work. If I was the wife’s closest gal pal, I’d slap her and tell her to get a life and stop sulking about polos. Since the husband will lose his job because he was prissy and the wife will be more depressed because of peer pressure, their marriage will disintegrate. Can a bar of detergent erase a man’s prissiness and combat peer pressure? Yes? Idiot.

That detergent commercial is stretching reality a bit too far, simplifying it and thus distorting it like its brethren. While such commercials may seem utterly stupid and mostly senseless, beware: commercials are probably the most brilliant things that man hath created.

Douglas Adams said that evolution has three stages: Survival, Inquiry, and Sophistication. For example, the first stage is illustrated by the question: How do we wash our clothes? The second by Why do we wash our clothes? And the third by What detergent shall we use? If we apply evolution to something as basic as drinking water, the order will be as follows: How do we drink water? Why do we drink water? And what is the tastiest mineral water? It can safely be said that we are now in the stage of Sophistication. It is the job of advertisers all over the planet to compete for their products to be the answer to the third question of humankind.

I believe that the question of sophistication has only one category to satisfy: the happiness of the consumer. Let’s not get into the nuance of defining just what the hell this happiness stuff is. Suffice it to say that happiness is a good thing; the highest ideal; the IT everyone is after. If a TV commercial can sell you happiness, it can sell you anything. Or maybe it will stop right there and sell it to you for something below a hundred bucks.

Sounds farfetched? Remove your earwax. Commercials try to sell happiness nowadays and actually succeed at it. Ever watched the Enervon anong meron ang taong happy campaign? The commercial asserts that energy can make you happy. Enervon can give you energy. Thus, doing some clever math, we come up with this equation: Enervon=energy=happiness. Stupid, but hey, they sell. Anong meron ang taong happy? Kabobohan.

And the Del Monte tomato sauce commercial, this one’s a winner. The husband narrates the tough times his family has been through. Surprise, surprise, his wife’s spaghetti made with Del Monte tomato sauce pulled them through! Hooray! At least Enervon’s energy=happy analysis makes a little sense. But a tetrapack of tomato sauce? Man you must be joking. Tomato sauce can’t solve family problems even if it was streaming out your nose.

The examples above are not unique, as there are varying manifestations of the fundamental idea. The same theme of selling happiness is all over the idiot box, and we are suckers for it. Great hair can make you happy. Chicken can give you joy. A capsule dissolves your stress, gives you a promotion, makes you richer, and makes you happy. Name it. For every personal definition of happiness each one of us has, a commercial can promise you IT. Never mind this teeny weeny bit about the products delivering IT. Our minds work out the expectations and make them come true---free of extra charge.

So to hell with reality. As long as these commercials give us something to hope for, something to expect, and answers to the relevant questions in the universe (why am I not a sexy beast), then who cares about them being moronic and unreal?

This is the scary part: their creators know exactly what they’re doing.


Anonymous steel said...

Pity those people who have been gorging on Century tuna in hopes of obtaining a god-like sexy bodah notwithstanding acquiring aluminum-induced cancer.

1:22 PM  
Blogger lizette said...

yep. pity. but if they do get the cancer, won't they lose weight? and a lot of hair?

9:35 PM  
Anonymous steel said...

Uhm, riiiggghhhttt... (stares at avatar)

9:02 AM  
Blogger lizette said...

uh, what's wrong with the avatar?

9:41 AM  

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