The Size of Your Life
In Gulliver’s Travels, a great, powerful, competent giant is overwhelmed by a swarm of small, impotent, cunning, miniature people and made to do their bidding. In modern America, the greater you are – the more productivly, intelligently, responsibly, and competently you manage your life – the more you must give up so that the lazy, the stupid, the ignorant, and the failures can avoid the consequences of their choices and continue to live theirs. This is manifest literally – in law and economics – as well as symbolically, in terms of the indifference productive people receive from the culture until and unless they do something that doesn’t involve a quid pro quo and is instead blatantly self-sacrificial.
Of course, being who they are, the worthwhile amongst us – often in spite of their conscious beliefs about it – are conscientious enough to at least subconsciously sense that this is happening to them. That is precisely what this commercial exploits. By acknowledging it – even if just through allusion – Acura hopes to endear itself to this demographic and thus to stand out from it’s competition in the luxury car market. In and of itself there is nothing wrong with this. Although the primary purpose of advertising is to inform the consumer about the product which is for sale, assuming that that has been done, there is nothing wrong with entertaining him – creatively recognizing his emotional life – as an additional, supplementary value. A compliment to him, of sorts.
The problem with this commercial, however, is that the entertainment element is not secondary, or even primary, but exclusive. The commercial includes absolutely no meaningful information about the product being presented. Given that, instead of being valuable to the consumer, the entertainment value of the commercial actually becomes harmful to him. When Acura uses it’s advertisement to do nothing except subtly acknowledge the unjust and unpleasant cultural, political, and economic situation productive, competent people spend their days in, instead of it being a way of emphasizing what was already implicitly known and therefore offering comforting, complimentary sympathy, it is actually nothing except a way of twisting the consumer’s desire to escape his unjust situation away from actually doing that and towards the relatively trivial, completely ineffectual act of buying a car.
What Acura is attempting to do is to have the consumer tell himself, basically, “If things were really as bad as they are presented in this commercial – if I were being literally physically restrained by all of the stupid, lazy people around me – then yes, of course it would be absurd to accept that as right simply for the sake of having a luxury car. However, I am not literally tied to these people (even though with all of their laws he might as well be), and so it must be true that my willingness to put up with my current situation – which I have been willing to do so long as I can drive a luxury car – must mean something other than the fact that I’m an evasive coward.” Acura knows that it’s target demographic knows that the most potent reason for it’s enslavement to impotence is it’s own unwillingness to directly challenge it, and so in order to sell a few cars, they are trying to get them to doubt that that is true. To laugh at it; and thereby ignore it.
The irony, of course, is that the longer such appeasement goes on, the less and less productive the productive will be able to be (no matter how much they wish to), and so even if Acura will want to sell luxury cars in the future, there won’t be enough people to buy them.