Sunday
Mar202005

« Extreme TV Commercialism »

Tonight's ABC Extreme Makeover Home Edition show was the typical tearjerker that it usually is, selecting a family with some sort of below standard home, and usually some pressing crisis such as a dead dad or a disabled brother, or tonight a family with a ruptured septic system spewing filth underground. I have taken to calling the show Extreme Sears Commercial: Home Edition. Sears of course is the supplier for all the appliances and furnishings and stuff, and apparently the tools used to remodel the house. So its a one hour long commercial for a company that is losing ground to WalMart and Target, and has been forced to merge with K Mart. Imagine that! A one hour commercial.

But then there was—get this!—a regular 30 second commercial for Sears during the commercial breaks! What the hell? Is that the Sears commercial for those on the run? I can just hear the stentorian announcer's voiceover: Got no time for the full one hour version? Why not watch this ultra compact 30 second version? The exact same thing happened with the Disney commercial that was during the same hour. (The Home Makeover people always send their lucky recipients to a Disney theme park for the period when the house is being rebuilt. Disney owns ABC. What else shall I expect?) This is about the same crass commercialism that one experiences when one goes to the movie theater, pays $9 and then goes in to watch a movie that is preceded by 15 minutes of ads, then may have a range of product placements tucked within the drama itself. Commercialism is so advanced now that the world of advertising has figured out how to make people PAY to see their ads. And let's not forget that the movie itself is a loss leader for the concession stand, where the theaters must make BANK off getting people their sugar, fat, and salt kicks for the night. Most of the movies made now seem to be made just to keep actors, crew, directors, and writers working year round while producing not much in terms of culturally redeeming output. It certainly isn't art they are selling.

Anyway, back to my commercial watching. There was another commercial that popped up twice in the hour. It was for some Ford car (the 500). There was this shiny, classy looking sedan that was driving down a herringbone cobbled road in a town that looked like it was in New England or maybe someplace in Europe. It was a beautiful town with the small streets and classic architecture that existed in abundance before the auto got to be commonplace. It's exactly the sort of place you don't need a car to get around in. A single car was in this ad—in a place where a car is not needed! It's amazing how the advertising world will work on us. They never show you the gridlock, or the fate of the car at 100,000 miles when the computer fails and all the mechanical parts go to shit at once, or the parking hassles at WalMart or Costco. They never show you the car accident you will have three miles from home, or the bored and faux-angry suburban youths that will key it if you tell them to stop loitering (because suburbia is mostly devoid of redeeming things to keep young people integrated in society). And they never tell you that you are using a resource that will never again be plentiful as it is now, and is depleting at an alarming rate, with demand rising ever higher with every auto sold. And they certainly don't tell you that the core of our terrorism problem resides in our unrestrained use of cars for needless activity. As nice as that car looked on that classic town, I just have to wonder what that classic town would be now that in reality it is inundated with cars. I'm pretty sure they had to build this town for the ad, because towns like this are basically out of style and illegal, and usually crippled by growth and traffic by now. They are the sort of places that were destroyed by pragmatic engineers and city planners in the post war era, just because they were part of the "old." People are terrified that bad men will come from across the seas to destroy our way of life. Nonsense. We do that for ourselves, with a good bunch of persuasion from the world of commerce. Advertising is the most successful form of propaganda the world has ever known, methinks.

The irony is, the house that was built tonight on the makeover show was made to look like it belonged in a classic European/British town. It was lovely, to be sure, and it was made to look like a country mansion, with stone work, timber, and all. I suppose not a lot of people think of the irony here: we long for a place that reminds us of old and familiar established places that weather the test of time, but we systematically destroy them in our lust for new stuff that drives these places to extinction, while replacing them with substandard structures that aren't going to last more than a couple generations. The commercials portray the peace and comfort that the countryside affords us, but a following commercial is advertising a big truck that is the epitome of the American Way of Life—the very thing that is going to destroy even more of that lush countryside with its unchecked growth that destoys open land so wantonly.

I wish I could teach a class on American "civilization." The materials are simple: spend an hour watching TV and look at all the contradictions that are presented to us in the name of commercialism and the good life.

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