A Race to the Bottom
“When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, “Who is destroying the world?” You are.” ― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
The fable of The Tortoise and the Hare is, essentially, a dramatization of the triumph of rationality over irrationality. The hare’s irrationality (particularly his hubris) costs him a race that (because of his clear physical superiority) he should have easily won. Conversely, the tortoise’s rationality (particularly his honesty with himself about the fact that the hare was at a competitive disadvance because of his hubris) gave him the ability to deduce that he would nevertheless be able to win a race which, on physicality alone, he would have no chance in. The fable is a healthy, wholesome celebration of the power of reason (something which should have particular appeal to human beings – considering that reason is their particular means of survival).
This commercial is a perversion of that message. In this commercial’s perversion – er, “plot twist” – of it, the tortoise doesn’t win because of his virtue, but because of his lack of it. He wins only because he is willing to cheat (ie: to use an artificial means of propulsion – an automobile).
In a society dominated by people who believe in the moral-practical dichotomy – and therefore one with an economy that puts enormous pressure on individuals to cut corners in order to stay competitive – of course such a “plot twist” will not only be tolerated, but will actually be embraced. Seeing it allows such people to think to themselves that how they live their lives is not a deviation from the normative state of reality, but actually an honest (ie: virtuous) embrace of it (as against the moralistic, and therefore unrealistic lessons and values they were exposed to as children). It allows them to tell themselves that even the tortoise, if he were truly being rational and moral, would have bent the rules a bit.
That helps them give philosophical (ie: moral) justification to their lives, which is a fundamental psychological need, and therefore (Mercedes hopes) will cause the commercial to remain in the viewers’ minds (because the resulting rationalization will need to be recalled whenever the truth about that approach to life causes such people to yet again feel as though they actually are immoral).