Sell The Kids For Food
“I’m not doing something like that to save money, so the economy cannot be that bad.” The appeal of these two commercials is that it allows viewers to escape for a moment from the fact that they might as well be doing such things.
Suppose for a moment that hamsters actually could be trained to row a tiny boat, and thereby generate electricity. Clearly, even if it could be done, it wouldn’t be worth spending the six months needed to do it. The amount of energy spent would be greater than the amount produced. That, after all, is the humor of the commercial. Similarly, imagine what would happen if a mother and father actually did kill their child’s pet fish for the sake of enjoying a sushi dinner. While they might very well enjoy the sushi, the displeasure they would get from seeing their daughter distraught at the disappearance of her fish (not to mention the anger she would have towards them if she figured out why the fish disappeared) wouldn’t be worth it. The humor lies in the “knowledge” that I, the viewer, would never do something like that – and thus it’s okay to laugh at the impossible.
But are such obviously stupid and inefficient (in the former’s case), or maliciously evil (in the latter’s) really impossible to the kinds of people who find these commercials appealing? Literally, yes. Virtually, no. The cause of intolerable electricity prices is not insufficient technology, or “corporate greed” – it’s politics. Things like appeasement in foreign policy which allows oil-rich dictatorships to extort Western businesses, environmentalism-inspired prohibitions on domestic energy production which artificially decreases supply, and general taxes and regulations upon business all drive up the price that the consumer pays for electricity. Similarly, the average middle-class family’s increased inability to enjoy “luxuries” such as sushi is not the result of some kind of new found powers of evasion on the part of fish the world over which is outsmarting fisherman, nor is it because of “corporate greed” – it’s because of rising prices on things like, well, electricity.
These economic conditions are the result of these things, but those causes have their own causes. The reason why politicians appease foreign brutes, treat polar bears as if they’re citizens with property rights equal to factory workers, and why they presume to know what the financial structure, quality standards, and general decision-making processes should be for every business under their jurisdiction is because every day people vote for the politicians who do these things. Every day people may not like the consequences, but they certainly support the intention behind them (ie: altruism).
Thus, the reason why these two commercials are expected to appeal to every day people is because every day people know, consciously or subconsciously, that it is they who are ultimately responsible for their decreasing standard of living (despite working just as much as ever before). Consciously or subconsciously, every day people know that if their children are unhappy, unfocused, unmotivated, and approach the thought of “the future” not with passion but with dread, it is because the conditions they created for their children dictate that that is how their children should feel.
These commercials allow such people, for the length of a few moments, to feel as if the connection between their philosophical (specifically, their moral) values and the practical, disastrous consequences of attempting to bring those values into existence doesn’t exist. The advertising agency which created these ads understands that in order to stand out from the vast array of experience the average post-modern person is exposed to – in order to be remembered – the ad must not simply be funny, or visually impressive, or informative. It must also touch a person deeply – on an emotional level. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that, of course (there is no inherent contradiction between one’s most personal emotions and the practical needs of one’s life; such as insurance), but in this case it is profoundly wrong. In this case, instead of the ad attempting to strike something good within people – and thereby have them associate the product being advertised with that emotion because it actually does compliment that emotion – what is being “struck” – what is being flattered and told that it’s good, is one of the most perverse and immoral emotions a person could have. An emotion which is, unfortunately, all too prevalent in today’s culture: the desire to escape moral culpability.