The comedic element in this commercial is, obviously, the fact that the phrase “pull one off” is an (unintentional) allusion to masturbation. The commercial is funny because even though technically it’s completely legitimate to use that phrase in regards to how the advertised product is consumed, provided that there are adequate alternatives, it’s one that shouldn’t be used because of it’s similarity to a vulgar slang term. That begs the question, however: why, exactly, is that particular phenomenon considered funny. The answer can be found here, in an analysis of another commercial which has a similar object of humor.
The power that determines the establishment, the changes, the evolution, and the destruction of social systems is philosophy. The role of chance, accident, or tradition, in this context, is the same as their role in the life of an individual: their power stands in inverse ratio to the power of a culture’s (or an individual’s) philosophical equipment, and grows as philosophy collapses. It is, therefore, by reference to philosophy that the character of a social system has to be defined and evaluated. – Ayn Rand
At a glance, this commercial seems to be rather innocuous and forgettable. An acknowledgement of a obviously implicit part of any activity within a capitalist social system: that failure is always a possibility. What’s interesting about this commercial, however, is the fact that such a (very public) acknowledgement was thought necessary. What is it about today’s social system that makes a company like Domino’s – which is about as mainstream as a company can be – and therefore has the least amount of incentive to do or say anything controversial – to even obliquely endorse the capitalist system (ie: by pointing out that without economic freedom – including the freedom to fail – there would be no progress)? For such a commercial to be produced and aired, things must be extremely precarious – and indeed they are.
Given how much the precautionary principle dominates today’s social and economic policy, and assuming things continue on their present trend, it is not unlikely that within a decade or two certain elements of American culture will begin to seriously advocate for direct government oversight of business decisions. Arguments for such power – based on the premise that bad business decisions cost people their jobs as well as their retirement security (ie: falling stock prices) – are not too far of a stretch from the kinds of arguments currently made to defend already-existing government involvement in the economy (eg: minimum wage laws, antitrust regulations, labor standards and union power, etc). Unlike today’s government meddling, however, that degree of involvement would have consequences that even ardent “fence sitters” can not ignore. Perhaps that is why even a mainstream company such as Domino’s – one of the biggest beneficiaries of today’s pseudo-capitalist economy – would feel it necessary to preemptively attack such a notion (by using it’s access to the public’s attention to help subtly (re?)inculcate an appreciation for free markets).
America’s economic picture has reached the point that it has precisely because those who have benefited the most from it’s (relatively more) capitalist past have been able to afford to ignore it’s mutation into something less capitalist. They have long been able to forego defending capitalism on principle, and to instead write off it’s anti-capitalist trends as “chance” or “accident.” Have we reached a point where that is no longer possible? Where the threats to the very foundations of not only one’s short-term interests, but also one’s long-term success, have become so large that not even the most non-intellectual, pragmatic of Americans can no longer ignore them? This commercial’s endorsement of capitalism is timid, to be sure, but it could also be praised as cunning and deft (the benefits of capitalism obviously need to be induced – rather than just dogmatically asserted – in order for a pro-capitalist sentiment to truly take hold). The bottom line, however, is that it’s good to see a private, for-profit organization – in times of peril – at least toying with the idea of defending capitalism itself, instead of doing what it has always done: ignoring the peril, innovating around it, and hoping it will just go away. One just hopes this attempt to provide the public with a bit of “philosophical equipment” is not too little, too late.
The man represents a certain type of person: the trader. The woman represents another type: the parasite. Virtually everyone in America these days is a mixture of both. Is it so bad that people see the values others possess and always instantly imagine taking them (as opposed to trading for them)? No, but enough people do – enough of the time – that this commercial is expected to work. How will it work? By giving such people a rationalization for their parasitic (ie: fundamentally unAmerican) behavior. That rationalization, in a nutshell, consists of saying to oneself: “that is what a true parasite thinks like. I don’t have thoughts like that, so therefore I must not be a parasite.” (as if the degree of something somehow changes it’s nature). That rationalization provides a moment’s relief from the chronic (and deserved) feelings of guilt and shame which inevitably come from choosing to be a mixture or trader and parasite. It’s evasion through hyperbole.
The way it plays out in this particular commercial is that people know (or at least subconsiously grasp) that it takes quite a bit of parasitical behavior to reach the point – spiritually – where one could be capable of intentionally corrupting her capacity for romance in order to achieve some ulterior value, and so they are able to conclude that because they don’t do so for something so obviously of lesser value such as a Quesarito, that they don’t consitently do such things (and therefore have not reached a spiritual level that is tantamount to doing what the woman in this commercial does). The commercial helps many people evade the fact that they do compromise their capacity for romance in order to have a relationship which “works” (eg: is socially-acceptable, or financially-safe, etc). Or, at the very least, it helps them evade the fact that their fundamentally unAmerican behavior is the acceptance of lesser values (whatever benefits they receive as a result, even if they’re not spiritual), and that doing so comes at the expense of greater values (ie: the long-term maintenance and security of those benefits which – ironically – destroys their capacity to embrace and enjoy true relationships, including romantic ones, once their “practical benefits” allow opportunities for them to come along).
If they skimped on a few other things, virtually every middle-class American could afford (or at least qualify to finance) a brand new Cadillac Escalade. In other words: a Cadillac Escalade isn’t what an Egyptian pharoh, or an Indian maharaja, or an English King would ride in. Why, then, attempt to sell it as such?
The reason is because this commercial isn’t targeting people who would have to skimp in order to drive an Escalade. It’s targeting those are (slightly) better off than the average American. Those who wouldn’t have to skimp. This begs a question, however: why would such people feel complimented by being compared to various types of historical rulers? This is America, after all. An (ostensible) meritocracy. If anything, wouldn’t such accomplished people be (slightly) more likely to feel insulted by the comparison?
The reason why they will feel complimented is because in today’s economy, the way to get ahead isn’t to be objectively more productive, but simply to be more willing to benefit from the use of physical force. To be both innocent and guilty in regards to “tyrant-like behavior”, but to be more guilty than innocent.
The purpose of this commercial is to make the type of behavior that was the hallmark of historical tyrants feel acceptable. By providing the excuse that “it’s been like that forever” (and therefore somehow it’s okay now too), as well as the rationalization that if they didn’t do it to others, others would do it to them (so why not them?), Cadillac gives people who – despite all of the trappings that their “success” brings them – would otherwise feel miserable, a way to feel good for a moment (and thereby hopefully endear Cadillac – instead of Lincoln or Lexus or whatever – to them).
Even though it is laughably pathetic that someone could be so twisted that they truly think that their (slightly) greater wealth is of historical proportions, it is truly bone-chilling to see that evidently enough of the upper middle-class American populace has been more guilty than innocent for enough time now that, psychologically, they identify with pharohs and maharajas and kings, instead of with inventors, industrialists, and even their economically-inferior coworkers and employees (who, economically and morally, are just like they are, and are no threat – even if they’re not as well-performing).
These two commercials employ the same trick that these commercials employ. Taking a legitimate character trait – a steadfast refusal to suffer political oppression – and trivializing it. The problem isn’t that there’s anything wrong with having standards about relatively unimportant things – afterall, the purpose of creating and maintaining a free society is so that one can live and be happy, and meeting one’s standards is an integral part of achieving happiness – but there is definitely something wrong with exploiting those who only have standards about relatively unimportant things.
These commercials are expected to appeal to the American public because the American public, for the most part, allows itself to be pushed around politically (and in fact most readily contribute to the “pushing”, provided it benefits them personally). Most Americans (correctly) feel anxiety and guilt about that. They know (or at least subconsciously sense) that if the “pushing” continues, eventually it will have direct consequences. They also know – or sense – that they could do something about it (even if that means “compromising” one’s standard of living because of a steadfast refusal to be part of the problem). The result of these feelings should be pledging their “lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors” in order to change things, but McCormick and Terminix would prefer that such emotional energy instead be directed at grilling and pest control.
McCormick and Terminix are hoping that their commercials produce the following rationalization: “I must not be part of the political problems plaguing America today, because if I were, then I wouldn’t have standards. I’m refusing to compromise here, so I must have standards about everything.” That rationalization is hoped to produce a moment’s relief from the (deserved) anxiety and guilt, and then when it comes back – which it will, since it’s a response to facts – the companies hope that the public associates the escape from it not with changing those facts, but with their products – so that in the event that the consumer happens to be in the market for them, they will think of their particular brands.
To employ this trick, ironically, is McCormick’s and Terminix’ contribution to the “pushing around” which is plaguing America, and if one day not even those tactics will work anymore (because the economy will be so bad that people won’t have any option but to compromise on grilling and pest control), they will deserve the consequences.
“There is only one state that fulfills the mystic’s longing for infinity, non-causality, non-identity: death. No matter what unintelligible causes he ascribes to his incommunicable feelings, whoever rejects reality rejects existence-and the feelings that move him from then on are hatred for all the values of man’s life, and lust for all the evils that destroy it. A mystic relishes the spectacle of suffering, of poverty, subservience and terror; these give him a feeling of triumph, a proof of the defeat of rational reality…” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Hippies and beat nicks were the modern era’s mystics. They were openly, proudly of the view that reality is whatever they said it was, and that they could do whatever they wanted to themselves without consequence (so long as others didn’t judge them) – and many of them suffered the consequences (eg: brains fried from drugs and other health problems, financial ruin, eventual emotional emptiness once the “party” stopped, or even death).
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality. Is reality real? Is it fixed or is it fluid? Is it logical or contradictory? These are the questions answered by metaphysics. Not all people consciously hold the same metaphysics (even though, subconsciously, because of the fallacy of self-exclusion, they do). This commercial is aimed at that (large) segment of the populations which would answer those questions with “no”, “fluid”, and “contradictory”, respectively.
The Waffle Taco is, at best, a non-descript product that could easily be substituted by plenty of other fast food offerings in terms of taste, nutritional value, and cost. It’s appeal is it’s novelty. The fact that it’s a bizarre, non-sensical combination of two unrelated foods. Nothing else. The old men in this commercial are incredulous about the Waffle Taco precisely because it reminds them of the changing metaphysical views of the culture they live in. They sense, inarticulately, just how much it is changed (from when they were young) when they observe something such as a taco with a waffle for a shell.
Of course, in reality, no one – not even old men who are disgusted by today’s culture – actually think that just because someone has a certain metaphysical code, and is therefore able to enjoy the notion of a waffle taco, is destined to become a pony tail wearing hippy. Real people (as opposed to caricatures of real people) realize that one’s metaphysical views can be mixed (ie: he can enjoy the idea that the law of identity need not be respected in one instance – a waffle taco – and yet be distrubed by it in another – when someone totally disregards the rights of others and the requirements of human cognition by interrupting a conversation to make an out-of-context demand). Real people realize that one’s subconscious ideas can clash with one’s conscious ideas, and therefore it isn’t necessary to fear that he will necessarily become a pony-tail wearing hippy (even though it is technically true that given enough time, a person’s conscious ideas will become his subconscious ideas and will cause him to make certain types of decisions about the course of his life).
Why are the old men in this commercial incredulous about the new, dominant metaphysical view? This commercial has an answer: because they’re crazy. In other words: anyone who holds any metaphysical views which differ from the prevailing views – anyone who thinks that reality is real, that certain fundamental facts are fixed and immutable, and that logic can illuminate all (even moral and esthetic decisions about things like drug use and hair style) – only thinks so because he is mentally ill. The old man makes a completely out-of-the-blue demand that his grandson dare “not grow a pony tail.” Most younger people (the people who this commercial is targeting) won’t realize that he says this because he grasps – again, inarticulately – the connection between the pony-tailed counter-culture of earlier decades and the arrival of the Waffle Taco in 2014. All they will observe is an old man interrupting a conversation by yelling, from across the street no less, a completely random comment (a clearly insane behavior – since it is tantamount to saying nothing at all, and only undermines the purpose of making it).
People who hold the metaphysical views which are complimented by The Waffle Taco need to believe that such people who are offended by The Waffle Taco are crazy. If not, then they would have to actually examine – and defend – the metaphysical views which make them enjoy such phenomenons. If they did, then they would realize that blurting it out in a fit of pique notwithstanding, the old man actually is right to claim that the approval of The Waffle Taco is tantamount to approving of the worst perversions and injustices which have eminated from the counter-culture over the last 50 or so years. They would realize that philosophically, there is nothing – in principle – which separates such a person from the most irrational and self-destructive “hippy” or “beat nick” (and therefore the old man’s fear about the pony tail is actually warranted, even if very poorly communicated).
This is yet another example of “evasion through hyperbole” – a phenomenon well documented on this blog. Succinctly, this commercial works precisely because it conceals itself behind the premise that no – or at least few – men actually do such things (and therefore deserve to be laughed at, and therefore this is just harmless humor), and yet at the same time that very concealment allows the vast majority of men who actually do such things (albeit not so blatantly) to think that they don’t.
Obviously this man is taking advantage of that woman. He is gaining something from her (higher esteeem for him) that he doesn’t deserve (because isn’t actually the one doing the chore of picking out the furniture). The appeal of the commercial is the rationalization: “Well I don’t to that, so therefore I don’t do anything like that. That isn’t what my relationship is based upon.”
Communism/socialism is the doctrine that all people are entitled to an equal (or at least adequate) share of a nation’s wealth, regardless of the degree of their contribution to the creation of that wealth. In practice, because it ignores basic economic principles, this doctrine results in dictatorship – which means that the only things which are ever actually “equalized” are the various petty details of one’s life (what kind of light bulb he can purchase, how many viewpoints he is allowed to be exposed to, what kind of haircut he can have). As Western culture continues to become more communist/socialist, Westerners – correctly – sense that their individuality is being threatened. The result is an emotion-based rebellion. People begin to cling to anything and everything that is “theirs” – no matter how irrational and self-destructive – simply because they fear if they don’t, then they have surrendered the battle for their independence, identity, and freedom.
Women, for whatever reason, are especially prone to this type of existentialism – and therefore the key to romantic success with them is to flatter it (even if you think it is wrong). In other words: to gain her approval (by making her believe that she has yours) even though you don’t deserve it (because she doesn’t actually have yours). This is simply a more subtle – although pervasive – form of exactly the same thing that is dramatized in this commercial. It’s exactly the sort of thing that this commercial is intended to help the viewer evade (so that he will have a moment’s pleasant reprieve from the self-contempt he feels as a result of his willingness to be stupid, and therefore – hopefully, from Ikea’s perspective – think of Ikea the next time he feels that contempt as a result of yet again being fake).