Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Celebrating a Culture of Cruelty and Indifference

The culture is ours. The subject is how television commercials foment and support it:  a culture of cruelty and indifference.

Ad geniuses everywhere have long been accused of moral turpitude in their naked pursuit of persuasion. In the fifties they portrayed us smiling insanely while gazing at mounds of custard. In the sixties we were languid with pencil-thin cigarettes that would soon kill us. Then it got worse.

Today the hidden persuaders--often enough--play a different mind game. In many commercials products are so charged with desirable qualities, that ostensibly normal people are rapacious hooligans in their presence. In one ad, a man screeches like a skewered hyena while racing after a bundle of cash that has fallen from the sky (okay, this one is almost believable). In another, a jean-thief is run down the way a Neanderthal might have ridden a deer, and then is disrobed in a parking lot. And we've all witnessed couch-jockeys beating and choking their neighbors for a handful of salty chips.

It's become accepted practice for ads to show average-looking folks committing violent crimes in pursuit of coveted goods. As demonstrated above, it's often in the form of battery or forced confinement or both. Often, victory is not enough. Once the perpetrator obtains the product, they gloat. Preening, they enjoy their ill-gotten goods while the vanquished lie squirming at their feet. These behavior patterns are presented as if they were paradigms.

Judging by a number of indicators, we are a culture where the word "me" is easily more important than the words "life" or "liberty" or even "all men are created equal". So the message has gotten through.

Thank you, Ad Geniuses, for making your trifles catalysts for acts of unreflective selfishness; and especially, for glamorizing random cruelty. Some of us might not have known to behave disgracefully unless you'd shown us how.

You there! Step away from the Chalupa!


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