Commercial Analysis

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Yes, There Absolutely Is a Better One

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The “motorcycle lifestyle” is commonly described as invididualistic. Those who lead the lifestyle are “free-thinkers”, “non-conformists”, et cetera. Ostensibly, they utilize motorcycles rather than cars to meet their transportation needs because they do not have the petty requirements, or suffer from the irrational insecurities, that other people do. Their lives are defined, secure, and complete. As such, they don’t need the added financial burden that owning a car brings – they have other, clearly-defined values with which to spend their money on (eg: “good times”). They don’t feel the anxiety conformists would by having extra money that isn’t dedicated to what conventionality says it should be spent on. Nor are they plagued by the anxiety that a conformist would feel if he were able to move more freely, and being more exposed to the eyes of others, by riding a motorcycle instead of driving a car. While a conformist feels secretly comforted by the tucked-away privacy of his car’s interior, and the structural predictability of traffic, gridlock, and routine, the individualistic motorcycle rider would never be able to tolerate it. Why would such people, for who self-assertion and self-assuredness comes naturally, need life coaches to help them with their personal goals? They wouldn’t.

Looked at more closely, women who lead the motorcycle lifestyle, because it is an individualistic lifestyle, are naturally much more in touch with their femininity than other women are. Biker women are “comfortable in their own skin.” Although they need not necessarily be youthful in appearance, they are youthful in spirit, and this creates such an overwhelming impression upon the people they meet that any need to artificially accentuate their youthfulness is unnecessary. Why would they use botox when their skin begins to age? They wouldn’t.

The police who are the bane of the motorcycle lifestyle’s existence are simply conformists with power. Their actions are not motivated by a desire to protect society from the bad behavior of motorcyclists, but simply by a need to control those who are better than they are so they can momentarily escape the pain of insecurity which they chronically feel. But even so, despite all of their power, and despite all of the motorcyclists whose lives they ruin by enforcing their laws, they are still unsatisfied with themselves. So in their private lives, away from their jobs, they turn to things such as self-improvement tapes to overcome what harassing motorcyclists could never get them to overcome. Would an individualistic, self-realized motorcyclist ever feel the need to improve himself? He wouldn’t.

Finally, men who lead the motorcycle lifestyle, because it is an individualistic lifestyle, are naturally more in touch with their masculinity than are other, conformist-type men. Like their female counterparts, they too are “comfortable in their skin.” They are okay with being men. They are not ashamed of the physical roughness which comes with being a non-self conscious man. As a result, women are naturally attracted to them – and they are able to have social and sexual encounters with good looking women more often than conformist men do. Would such a man ever feel the need to receive a manicure? He wouldn’t.

These are the messages, point by point, implied in the coordinated wording and imagery of this commercial. The entire piece is dedicated to flattering the vanities of men and women who already consider themselves to be “living the lifestyle” by contrasting it with the lifestyles of others. However, this is only what the commercial implies. What it states openly is that if you are one of the people being put down in this piece, there may be a way out of it – and that way is to buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

But then the obvious question is this: if changing one’s spirit really is as simple as making a purchase, how could anyone who has already made that purchase take pride in it? Wouldn’t this commercial be a reproach instead of a compliment? A reminder that it wasn’t the consumer who made himself able to ride the motorcycle, but the motorcycle which made him able to ride it (ie: that defined his values and goals for him, embraced his gender identity, taught him to stand up for what’s right even if that means going outside the law, and finally gave him his confidence around members of the opposite sex)? Also, once a conformist who is moved by this commercial’s message purchases his motorcycle, and some months or years later is exposed to another piece of advertising which presents the same basic message (and it is a common message in motorcycle culture), isn’t he going to be similarly offended and deflated?

Why is a company taking the risk of offending both of it’s major demographics – those who “live the life” and those who believe that “the life” is the key to happiness – in the same exact ad? Why are they so confident that neither group will sense the contradictory element, and simply respond to the aspect which they find flattering (in the former’s case) and inspiring (in the latter’s)? Wouldn’t this at least anger the “lifestylers” because it will be seen as inviting “outsiders” in, just as it would be ineffective towards the “outsiders” since, being the self-conscious pedants they are, they would sense the illogic in what the company is claiming it’s product will do (it is, after all, their “conforming” which made them able to afford a motorcycle)?

The answer lies in the non-conceptual method of mental functioning which dominates every category of contemporary society. Just as a person’s relative “freedom” in regards to some superficial aspect like his mode of transportation does not make him an individualist, and just as a person’s relative “conformity” in regards to that or any other superficial aspect does not make him a conformist, a commercial’s superficial aspects (which one a particular person picks up is irrelevant) does not give it it’s particular power. That comes from the essential point that it makes; a point both “individualists” and “conformists” agree upon: that personal happiness is derived from the outside. Whether it be a life coach or botox or self-help books or motorbikes, what makes a person happy is not knowing that he is actually an individualist (regardless of how rare or common his particular traits might be) because he knows he actually understands and independently embraces his characteristics, but rather some external force (which he must pay money for). Or, if a woman knows she is youthful in spirit because she knows what that actually means, and has engaged in a titanic struggle to preserve the fire of her soul, she will never actually feel it unless and until she either gets injected with botox or rides on a motorcycle. Both parties (which are actually just variations of the same party) agree: happiness – like individualism and conformity – are not actual concepts, so there’s no reason to think too deeply or carefully about them; and there’s no reason to pay too close of attention to the contradictions in this commercial. If it speaks to you for a moment, you will take pride in being a “biker” and want to trade your current one in for a new one, or you will feel a moment’s embarrasment for being a “conformist”, and you will want to visit your city’s Harley-Davidson dealer. But whatever you do, don’t be yourself. Join a group. Either the “group’s group” known as “conformity” – with it’s botox and male manicures – or the “non-group group” known as “the biker’s lifestyle” – with it’s “freedom” and sex – but be sure to ignore the fact that it’s precisely the kind of self-destructive behavior glamorized by things like the “biker lifestyle” which leads so many confused, miserable people to things like life coaches and self-improvement books in the first place.

This is the kind of short-range mentality that Harley-Davidson is counting on to fuel it’s sales. In this constantly-shifting, unpredictable cultural, political, and economic landscape, this is what the once honorable practice of production and trade has been reduced to. Pragmatic manipulation of other people’s flaws – their stupidity and their pretentiousness – in order to get whatever profit one can at this very moment.


Written by commercialanalysis

October 19, 2010 at 4:32 am

Posted in Transportation

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