Monday, August 24, 2009

The Further Dumbing Down of America

There are a lot of these "if (fill in blank) ran the world" Nextel commercials, and they are all totally snark-worthy. There's the "if lumberjacks ran the world" one, in which some incredibly filthy dick holding one of those incredibly annoying chirping phones decides a divorce case by having his minions chop everything the couple owns in half, brilliant. There's the one featuring a cliche'd Bridezilla in which we hear one of my favorite questions ever- "Why is it raining?" Ummmm......

But I'll focus today on one that touches a subject near and dear to my heart. I teach AP US Government, and I take the concept of Democracy and the teaching of the genius of our remarkable, enduring system very, very seriously. So the "What if Firemen ran the world" commercial really ticks me off.

The firemen are sitting in what looks like the floor of the House of Representatives. The Speaker bleats into his phone "New Roads?" The "Representatives" reply into their own god-damned chirping phones "Aye!" "What about the budget?" asks the Speaker. "Balance it" chants the "Congress."

Done and done.

Except, NO. Here's the "problem" with a Democracy: Services and Costs must be balanced, which requires careful deliberation among 435 Congressmen, 100 Senators and 1 President in accordance with the rules set down by a 222-year old document. The decisions concerning the raising and spending of money involve the wants and needs of some 300 million people with widely divergent opinions, all of whom have the right to be heard. This commercial feeds what I like to call the Conceit of the Common Man- the conviction, fed not only by Nextel but also by Hollywood movies from Mr Smith Goes to Washington to Man of the Year and Dave, that if ONLY "average" people could be put in charge, all of our problems would disappear in the wink of an eye. Such a conviction might make us feel good about ourselves, it might fit nicely into our already well-established but largely ignorant distaste for "politicians," but it's about as rooted in reality as Swing Vote.

I don't think that corporations have an obligation to educate the public. It would be nice, however, if they didn't feel it necessary to reduce the national IQ to pimp their crappy products.


  1. "It would be nice, however, if they didn't feel it necessary to reduce the national IQ to pimp their crappy products."

    I could not agree more. Feed garbage information and do it in flashy, catchy soundbites. Train everyone to expect to be entertained at every turn and expect all information to be neatly packaged and never boring. *twitchtwitchtwitch* There aren't any quick, easy answers (for the things that matter, at least) and you'll never please everyone, but that doesn't fit into a thirty-second ad slot.

    I'm thirty and I feel old every single time I find myself thinking "Kids these days! When I was their age..." My pet peeves are literate (or should I say ILliterate) in nature. I know being an avid reader since second grade and a writer since ninth has put me ahead of the game in the spelling and grammar departments and I try not to hold others to an unrealistic standard, but it is really so much to ask for people to remember what they learned in grade school? I mean, is it really so hard to remember how to use periods, commas, question marks, and apostrophes correctly? To capitalize first letter in a sentence and proper nouns? GAH! I blame texting and spellcheck programs.[/soapbox]

  2. What is it about mobile phones that make ad agencies unleash the lunatics and creepolas, anyway? It used to be car ads that were the most insane and now it's ads for a product that allows the user to stroll around being a self-important jerk while being seen to do so.

  3. I was at a nice restaurant for lunch the other day, and a few tables away sat two "gentlemen," one of whom had a phone which chirped and blurted static-filled questions and info every few seconds-

    BEEEEP "Jim where are you?

    BEEEP "On lunch."

    BEEEEP "Ok that job on Thurber and Main needs to be taken care of ASAP."

    BEEEEEP "I'm on it."

    In a restaurant. Whatever happened to simple MANNERS?

  4. I find cell phone ads annoying. Also ineffective from an advertising standpoint because I don't remember which company gives you "the network" (geeky guy followed by 100 assorted technicians and administrative support personnel) and which company will send some trashy actress to seduce my husband and teenage son. >:(

  5. albuqwirkymom,

    Verizon gives you 'the network' and I believe it's T-Mobile who sends Catherine Zeta Jones to lure away your husband and teenage son. ;p

  6. I hate those I Phone "apps" commercials. Hey, my phone makes phone calls! Got an app for that?

  7. The general purpose of any tv commercial is to make you feel bad about yourself, then give you a way to feel good about yourself for a price. These "There's an AP for That" commercials are designed to make people feel like they are pathetic, hopeless little children who simply cannot function without their phones. Especially when you consider that practically everything offered in an "APP" is already available if you just look for it for a few moments- "you need to figure out the Paris subway system?" My guess is that there are MAPS of that. "Want to send a postcard?" I KNOW you can do that in Paris- and who the hell wants a "postcard" sent via cell phone anyway? Talk about being treated as an afterthought. Bleh.

  8. But years from now you will be able to pull out your Iphone, pull up that app of the Paris Metro and recall what fun you...Wait, no you won't be able to do that because years from now your Iphone will be an obsolete chunk of plastic! Glad I have my maps from past trips folded up in my photo albums...

  9. Idiotic cell phone ads are scarcely an American phenomenon; I just saw a doozy for those annoying Bluetooth earpieces. The thing has a senior citizen pushing a walker and ranting away as passers-by stare at her. For the life of me, I thought it was a scare-them-straight PSA about Alzheimer's until I saw the damned thing sticking out of her ear. Thanks to the cell phone providers, an ad I thought was about the plight of the elderly turned into a reminder that being a jerkass on a cellphone has no age limit.

  10. I can't tell you how many times people have had to repeat what they said to me, because after several misunderstandings I now just assume that the person in the room is talking into a bluetooth, and not to me. People who use those things when both hands are free I think are being obnoxious and antisocial intentionally.