November 23, 2004

Sex! Drama! Marketing!

NOTICE: Per long-standing Rant policy regarding potentially-objectionable content, readers under the age of majority are asked to refrain from reading this post. This policy, as Dan Ackroyd once put it, is to prevent you from becoming as screwed up as your elders -- look, run along, son.

Standards Department,
Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant, Inc.

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SIMON FROM JERSEY has written an excellent post on the recent controversy surrounding an ABC promotional spot aired during an NFL football game. As we understand it, the spot featured an actress from one of the network's dramas seducing a player from the Philadelphia Eagles, and there was accordingly much wailing and gnashing of teeth afterwards.

Mr Einspahr, as we learn from his post, is horrified that vapid marketing ploys are invading his football viewing. He writes:

Sure, I'm upset and amazed to see just how uptight and repressed our culture is about sex, but not as upset as I am seeing companies sell anything at any time, any place. I can't avoid it. At least I still have the Joe Louis Arena, and the Rose Bowl (brought to you by - insert jackass company here). But music, movies, TV, EVERYTHING just stinks of crass commercialism. Network is the worst though, as 99% of it is garbage, pandering to the lowest common denominator, only there to hock shit Americans don't even need.

We ourselves are not impressed with ABC's unfortunate marketing ploy, although we do admit that sex does play a role in our displeasure. This is primarily because we view sex as generally something that ought be assigned to life's private sphere. By this, we mean we don't particularly care what one and one's partner do, watch, or read. We also don't particularly care about one's tastes or proclivities. That said, we don't want to see or hear about it in public either, and we certainly don't want it to crop up during events aimed at general audiences. Please, keep it at home.

We know these statements will prompt charges that we are old-fashioned and Puritanical in our outlook on life. Understandable, perhaps, but we do think such allegations are unwarranted. We see nothing wrong with the act of coitus, nor many related activities, but we do find it unfortunate that our society sees fit to daily cheapen and coarsen the act with thousands upon thousands of stupid and tawdry schemes forced upon the public.

For we are not impressed with the slavering and pathetic tone which seems to infect such things; the lurid frat-boy mentality that prizes transient beauty above lasting relationships, and which casts aside true love for the fleeting joys of the one-night stand. Yes, such-and-such an actress may be quite a dish; and yes, it was thrilling that you made out with such-and-such a girl in your chemistry class; and yes, one ought praise God that you threw the football through the tire. Just what about this, pray tell, is supposed to impress us? These experiences are not exactly what one would call new and novel.

All that said, we have not yet discussed Mr Einspahr's points, which deal with marketing -- something which, as he writes, can sometimes prove a bit disturbing.

We share Mr Einspahr's personal distaste for the constant commercialism which has seeped into every facet of our popular culture. Yet we do respect it, and have developed our own personal antidote to it. Allow us to explain.

Over the years, we have realized that the tentacles of commercialism reach far deeper than one might expect into American life; and indeed, we doubt that any part of life is free from it. Even the deepest sacraments and tenets of religion can sometimes prove infected, Christ's expulsion of the money-changers notwithstanding. But in modern life, of course, commercialism is most apparent in the incessant barrage of advertisements and cross-promotions and product campaigns and everything else which daily assault a person.

Yet on a temporal level, we have come to respect this facet of life, and even to appreciate it. For as Coolidge famously put it, the business of America is business, and this necessarily involves separating large numbers of Americans from their money; which is accordingly spent on goods and services which they may not need, but certainly do want. Such is life under glorious capitalism.

So while we may not be impressed that our gas station now offers supposedly premium coffee, and our favorite restaurant makes a big to-do about serving middling liquors, and our automobile comes with TruCoat for just an extra $599, we do realize that such spending fuels the national economic engine. And we do realize that to make that engine run at peak efficiency, the affluent must spend lots of money on very expensive durable or luxury goods -- the fancy box seats and the diamond watches and the new kitchens. Our view then, is quite simple: if you can't beat 'em -- and you won't -- then join 'em. Live with the commercialism that others embrace, and smile as others spend, for down the line it will eventually enrich you.

But wait, readers will say, you spoke of an antidote to all this. What is it?

It is simplicity itself.

No, really. Simplicity. That's it.

We take no credit for the following thoughts, for verily, we have learned them at the feet of the masters. But another grand secret to commercialism is this: there is no reason why anyone must buy into it, and if one does not, then one will prove all the happier and the richer for it. The former, of course, is far more important; but the latter is a rather nice side benefit. And the latter item, as it turns out, can contribute a bit to the former. But the best part is this: simplicity is a good starter kit for spiritual peace.

We are convinced, as are many other learned sages, that many people spend not because they truly want some particular good, but because they are looking to fill a void in their own lives. But of course the pleasure derived from the good is fleeting, and one must then buy more goods to keep up, and suddenly one is enslaved to avarice: the beast, as Dante put it so well, that grows hungrier with every meal. It is, of course, no sin to buy a good or service because one truly wants it; but why buy something when something other than that want is driving your purchase? It makes no sense.

Really, who cares if your neighbors or coworkers or friends snicker that you have an older car and don't have a new fridge and stayed home on your vacation? You know that in living below your means, you are better prepared for retirement, better prepared to follow your dreams, better prepared to one day achieve your freedom. Indeed, through the grand opting out, you have already done much to reach that goal.

And so, with Thanksgiving Day upon us, we would encourage everyone to take stock of their lives, and examine the books in terms of one's wants and needs, on both the temporal and spiritual planes of life.

But enough. Thus endeth the lesson for today.

We did not mean to turn this into a sermon, and we apologize for carrying on so. We're excitable about these types of things. However, we do hope it proved at the very least interesting, in some way.

And we sincerely wish each and every reader a happy and joyous Thanksgiving. May God bless and keep you and your family.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at November 23, 2004 10:46 PM | TrackBack