Archive for June 2010
“Hi, I’m an eighteen to twenty-four year old female who’s ability to read memorized lines that I didn’t write makes me seem self-aware and intelligent. Despite my appearance, you can relate to me because I share the same cynical attitudes about beauty and happiness that you do. I’m trying to be like you right now. I can’t help that I neglected my intelligence in order to manipulate people with my beauty – just as you can’t help that you neglected your beauty in order to manipulate people with your intelligence. Anyways, I’m in this commercial because market research shows that girls like you love to dislike girls like the one I’m pretending to be. Don’t all the disassociative observations I’m making prove to you that we have something in common? Now I really am going to tell you to buy something. Buy the same tampons I will use for awhile – the ones in the ugly, unpopular packaging, so that eventually the ones in the traditional packaging become unpopular, at which time I will resume using those. This is because just like your stock and trade – pseudo-intellectualism – gets people to make uninformed decisions, beauty does too. You see, we’re not all that different after all. We may be enemies in competition for the same target – the girl who is both genuinely intelligent and beautiful and not ashamed of it – but ultimately we’re the same kind of half-formed spiritual parasite. So don’t wish you could be me; you already are.”
… or just play a video game that more convincingly mimicks the big boys than other games do.
The philosophical root of this commercial is relativity. Not moral relativity, but metaphysical relativity. Moral relativity is actually what is being criticized here (“racing isn’t about winning, it’s about making friends”), but in doing so it is excusing the customer’s sense of metaphysical relativity. Essentially, this is the idea that because you are better than others (those who play less realistic racing video games), that’s enough. You are now a “big boy”. You have now fulfilled your potential, and there’s no longer any need to put down the controller and actually go out and learn how to race in the real world. What this company is selling is the promise of a momentary escape from a chronic sense of uneasiness for having betrayed one’s self.
As bad as the idea that winning or losing isn’t important is, it is nowhere near as insidious – and in fact is born from – the idea that being better than someone else means being one’s best.
It was a European who discovered America, but it was Americans who were the first nation of people to discover this earth and man’s proper place in it, and man’s potential for happiness, and the world which is man’s to win. What they failed to discover is the words to name their achievement, the concepts to identify it, the principles to guide it, i.e., the appropriate philosophy and its consequence: an American culture.
America has never had an original culture, i.e., a body of ideas derived from her philosophical (Aristotelian) base and expressing her profound difference from all other countries in history.
American intellectuals were Europe’s passive dependents and poor relatives almost from the beginning. They lived on Europe’s drying crumbs and and discarded fashions, including even such hand-me-downs as Freud and Wittgenstein. America’s sole contribution to philosophy—Pragmatism—was a bad recycling of Kantian-Hegelian premises.
– Ayn Rand, “Don’t Let It Go,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 210.
One of Europe’s “dying crumbs” is the idea that, while interesting, ideas are ultimately unrelated to every day life. This ad is the logical consequence of such an idea. To equate the differences between America’s and England’s national soccer teams – which probably don’t extend beyond the color of their jerseys – with the political differences which provoked The Revolutionary War is an obscene mockery of that event. Further, the fact that such a comparison is being made by an American television network, simply to drive up their ratings (pragmatism), is proof that the “American culture” discussed in the quotation above is on the doorstep of death.
Too Bad That Your Chic “If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em” Philosophy Came From the Mouth of a Hick Senator From Indiana, Who Also Happened to Be a Member of the Ku Klux Klan
In other words: You’re aware that the fashion world is nothing more than the arbitrary, nonsensical whims of a bunch of flawed people just like you, who think just low enough of themselves that they’re willing to be slightly more opportunistic (read: ruthlessly manipulative) than you are, so that they landed the jobs that you wanted but didn’t receive. You secretly realize how pretentious, pointless, and wasteful their entire existences are, but – lacking any genuine source of self-esteem to beat them – you should shop Marshall’s to join them as best as you can.