Friday, January 23, 2015

Animated America

One of my least favorite commercials these days involves a woman on a bus who is alone.  Alone except for her bladder, that is.  And her bladder, like a cute, little, needy child, travels with her like a separate pet, one who holds hands with her and tugs at her, trying to get her to go where he wants to go.  Which is the bathroom.  All the time.  Even getting off at the wrong bus stop.  Because she has a bladder control problem.

Maybe the whole thing began with cold pizza, or, better put, the creature who represented the abstract idea that forces were at work to make your pizza cold.  Remember the Noid?

Or was it Mr. Clean, way back when, the personification of a fresh-smelling housecleaning product?  Or soap scum.  Or the soap itself.  Or toilet bowl germs, who emerge as a bunch of misanthropic characters with one eye bigger than the other, but who, nevertheless, cannot shake their irascible cuteness.  You wouldn't say they were evil, just grumpy.  Animation has obviously played a part of advertising for many decades.

I think something changed a few years back.  It started, I think, with mucus.  Who knew that the thick, yellowy stuff that we cough up from our throats is actually just an impish creature who needs the control that comes from chugging some chemicals and drugs?  And mucus as distant cousin to Smurfs and Teletubbies is a far cry from scrubbly bubbles happily cleaning your toilet.  Mucus is gross.  Mucus is tangible and internal, full of taste and smell and repulsion.  Mucus is personal.

Welcome to modern America, where nearly all of our problems, however private or abstract they might be, are represented as lovable, animated creatures.  Now, everything is animated.

How long until a bunch of hemorrhoids are hanging from someone's butt chatting with each other like a bunch of fruits in a Fruit Of The Loom commercial?  Will little fart creatures fly around the room like pesky, stinky sprites?   Will Larry the Cirrhosissed Liver be tugging on the arm of his owner, trying to pull him toward the whiskey shelves in a public service announcement like a little kid that wants candy?

Can cancer become a pesky character?  Can a heart attack be lovable?  Will we think of heart attacks in terms of an Energizer bunny whose batteries have run out?

This movement on Madison Avenue towards portraying everything from illness to debt as animated creatures is a shameless attempt to steer us away from confronting the harsh realities of life.  It treats us as children who cannot accept the brutal situations of adulthood and need to be comforted by a flatscreen version of the stuffed animals that may have gotten us through childhood.

Is the panacea for everything  "Don't worry about it; it's not as bad as you think?"

Well, I'm the unpleasant man here to remind all of us that some things are pretty darn bad and that the only way to confront them is head on with a full awareness of how awful they can look and smell and taste and be.  You want my America to take something like Tamiflu, then make your commercial a tragic tribute to the beautiful, 26 year old woman, newly-married, who died a week or so ago four days after getting the flu, which poisoned her blood.  That will get my attention.  That will remind me that influenza is to be feared more than Ebola and that "I'll go to the doctor if I don't feel better tomorrow" may not cut it.

Save your cuddly, or even demonically-cuddly, creatures for things you want me to buy that I don't need.  For things that matter, a dose of the straight truth will do just fine.

1 comment:

Kath said...

I hadn't really considered this! What's just occurred to me is how the mucus are characterized-- as low-class and obnoxious so you don't feel bad about getting rid of them.