Eye of the Tiger
Why is the tiger in this commercial necessary? Couldn’t the same message have been communicated by having the male librarian react the way that he did merely to the fact that the female librarian was eating a spicy, exotic sandwich (or even just by showing her eating it, without him being present at all)? It couldn’t have – because the purpose of this commercial is to smuggle in a message that, if openly pushed, would be rejected.
Subway knows that despite people being (rightly) ashamed of it when it’s brought to their conscious attention, the rest of the time – when they’re out of focus and fueled solely by emotions – they really do desire to individuate themselves (or, more precisely, to feel individuated – by any means possible – even if really are not). However, Subway also knows that in order to exploit this ability for self-deception that people have, it has to be kept away from their conscious attention (in order to avoid iliciting people’s shame for being capable of settling for such a trivial, false form of “individuation”).
What this commercial is claiming – ostensibly in a tongue in cheek manner, but really quite literally – is that eating the advertised sandwich will make you (or at least will confirm that you are) a self-assertive, free-spirited, bold person. Obviously this is an absurd claim – it’s simply not a significant enough of a departure from convention (if it even is one at all, considering that spicy foods really are quite common in the contemporary American palate) – so the only way that Subway can make it is by pretending that it isn’t really making it. The tiger’s presence – and more importantly the female librarian’s indifference to it – allows Subway to claim that it realizes that such a claim is absurd (ie: because even a truly courageous, free-thinking, truly bold person would not be indifferent to a dangerous animal sitting right next to her) so that the company will have a way to escape the charge of exploiting people’s capacity for self-deception (even if it means exploiting their intellectual weakness in order to make such an escape).
In modern America’s mixed economy, where long-term planning is difficult, doing something like using one’s hard-earned public voice to exascerbate the corruptions within people’s minds for the sake of selling more sandwiches makes good business sense. Companies have absolutely no incentive to take the “high road” (ie: to forego whatever immediate boost to sales such marketing tactics would produce, for the sake of having a sane – and therefore productive and monied – customer base long into the future). Of course, the biggest irony is that such behavior – typical of the opponents of capitalism – would be seen as inherent in capitalism