Archive for the ‘Travel and Hospitality’ Category
The “champions” in this commercial are men who are pretending to be something they’re not. By carrying around their “trophy”, people believe that they’re members of an athletic team who are in Las Vegas to celebrate their victory – or something like that. This isn’t true, of course – their “trophy” is just a plant holder they found in the hallway of their hotel – but it’s okay to get all kinds of rewards one wouldn’t otherwise be able to get because, after all, “what happens here, stays here.” That’s the joke, at least.
The effectiveness of this commercial comes from the fact that while many people who visit Las Vegas actually do engage in behavior that they wouldn’t engage in elsewhere, they don’t engage in behavior that is that extreme while they’re in Vegas. This recognition helps people to rationalize the behavior which they do engage in. It helps them to tell themselves: “I don’t do that, so therefore what I actually do isn’t so harmful that it needs to ‘stay in Vegas’ (ie: be kept secret or unacknowledged).”
This begs a question, however: if what people do while in Vegas isn’t so bad that it needs to “stay in Vegas”, then why does such an idea even need to be joked about? Why does such behavior need to be rationalized away via commercials like these? Why can’t it just be openly, explicitly talked about and celebrated? The answer: because what people do in Las Vegas actually is bad. Because it actually is harmful their values and virtues and interests – and therefore the only way they are able to go through with engaging in it (ie: visiting Vegas) is if they lie to themselves via evasion through hyperbole.
It isn’t surprising that a place like Las Vegas – which owes it’s existence to a widespread and perverse view of money – would employ an advertising technique such as this one, but it is disturbing that it is able to do so so openly and on such a large scale. What does that say about the true health of the culture and economy?
While this version is the original, unedited version of the commercial, and it did air for a time, the one currently being shown on television has the Orbitz employee pronouncing the couple’s last name differently. Is his pronouncing it incorrectly supposed to be making fun of something about Hispanic-American culture, is it making fun of something about non-Hispanic, European-American culture, or is it something entirely different?
On the one hand, his butchering it’s pronunciation points to the fact that there is an ambiguity, in both the English and the Spanish languages, in dealing with names that end with S and Z respectively. In English, a proper noun normatively refers to one person, place, or thing. If a speaker wishes to refer to a plurality of identically-named proper nouns, or to identify possession by a proper noun(s) of something else, the rule is to ad an S. Wilson becomes Wilsons or Wilson’s, Brown becomes Browns and Brown’s, and so on. In Spanish, the normative reference and the rule are exactly the same: Garcia becomes Garcias or Garcia’s, Santiago becomes Santiagos or Santiago’s, and so on.
Nevertheless, in both languages, there are proper nouns which themselves end in S or Z. The rule here creates an exception in spelling and an ambiguity in pronunciation. In English, instead of attaching an additional S, nothing is added when dealing with a plurality of identically-named proper nouns, and only an apostrophe is added when identifying possession. Williams becomes Williams or Williams’, Jones becomes Jones or Jones’, and so on. The rule for the pronunciation is that if the word is more than one syllable, the additional syllable isn’t pronounced. Thus Williams still sounds like “Williams”, whereas Jones sounds like “Joneses.” Similarly, in Spanish, where there is a name that ends with Z, all of the same rules apply. Gonzalez becomes Gonzalez and Gonzalez’, and is pronounced “Gonzalez”, while Cruz becomes Cruz and Cruz’, and is pronounced “Cruzes.”
So why imply – by having the speaker ad not only the appropriate additional “es”, but a second, inappropriate “es” – that either Hispanic names are unnecessarily difficult to pronounce because they follow illogical rules, or that non-Hispanic European-Americans are self-absorbed and lazy when it comes to learning the perfectly reasonable nuances of different cultures? Because Orbitz wasn’t trying to imply either. The actual intent was just to ad a bit of quick-witted, subliminal comedic value to the commercial. To “pack as much in as possible”, so to speak, by poking fun at something unimportant (just as they are doing when they poke fun at the inability of valet workers to operate hovercrafts).
There isn’t anything wrong with that – the same joke could have been made had the couple had an Anglicized surname (“Williamseses”) – so why was it edited out? As has been shown here, with just a bit of thought given to the matter, it becomes clear that the butt of the joke was not Hispanic culture, or even non-Hispanic European-American culture, but a silly linguistic ambiguity that both culture’s predominant languages share. Political correctness – the pathological need to suppress any and all even perceived expressions of racial or ethnic thinking – suppresses the ability to engage in that thought. Evidently Orbitz either anticipated, or was made aware of, unnecessary controversy from this well-intentioned, innocent attempt at humor. They were not even willing to risk keeping it up, and should any controversy erupt, hide behind the weak-kneed, apologetic explanation that what they were actually trying to do was poke fun at the widely-alleged egocentrism of non-Hispanic European-Americans. At first glance that is a very convincing explanation, but that would be seen as reactionary and insincere by politically correct witch hunters. Of course, for it to be seen as insincere implies that the seers are at least somewhat aware that there is another, non-racial target of the joke, and that Orbitz in their hypothetical “explanation”, and not them in their immediate reaction, are the ones incapable of thinking outside of racial terms. But because of collectivism’s (in this case tribalism’s) extremely strong grasp on American culture, it becomes virtually impossible for such a person to put aside knee-jerk emotional outrage and to bring that vague awareness into full awareness. Orbitz is aware of this, and instead of taking it on, evidently they decided it all wasn’t worth it to retain their sincere enjoyment of playing with the curiosities of language, and decided to edit their commercial.
The commercial opens with a shot of an old man packing his suitcase, and behind him is a black and white picture of an American soldier. The viewer assumes that the man in that picture is the old man. As he continues to speak, the viewer learns that the place he is going – a place with great significance in his life, judging by the tone of his voice – involved young men storming beaches. The viewer now has enough information to piece together the reasonable expectation that this man is a WWII veteran (WWII veterans who are still alive are necessarily old men, WWII was the war in which more beach storming was done by American soldiers than in any other), and that he is returning to the site of a battle he was involved in (since those places, understandably, leave deep impressions upon those who’s actions at them give them noteriety). Instead he turns out to be returning to a famous vacation destination.
What is offensive is the implication that those veterans who do claim that their finest hours were their heroism in battle are lying. It gives the impression that when a man claims to have been forever changed by war he is simply saying what is expected of him. Although it is entirely possible for a man’s “finest hour” to be his youthful vacation in Cancun, that is being extremely charitable, and given the context, it’s certain that that was not the position Kayak was taking. Again, being charitable, perhaps the old man finally summoned the courage to propose marriage to his wife on that beach in Cancun – and that that’s what he considers his finest hour. That would be pefectly valid (and actually show a uniquely admirable orientation towards values, rather than simply the defeat of disvalues), but given that he mentions the presence of many women (“bombshells”) on his vacation, that can be ruled out. He was there to do nothing exceptional; but simply to relax, party, and have more or less meaningless experiences. Kayak was readily conceding that the most cherished experiences of most men come when they are tested and they succeed, not when they take time away to rest and to celebrate those successes.
Why would Kayak be willing to denigrate the significance of war’s effects upon it’s participants by elevating the effects of an unchallenging vacation? Why is such an advertisement considered safe – let alone positive – for a company’s reputation in today’s culture? The answer has to do with three philosophical ideas running rampant in today’s culture: egalitarianism, subjectivism, and mysticism. Egalitarianism allows those who’ve achieved nothing to feel as though their lack of achievement – their habitual gravitation towards leisure and escapism – is equal in moral stature to the decision to challenge oneself and achieve. Next, subjectivism allows the viewer to justify this feeling by maintaining that everything – every experience – cannot be understood by an external observer. If someone asserts that his consistent pattern of eschewing opportunities to meet challenges was itself just as challenging, subjectivism tells any would-be detractor that those feelings, because they are feelings, are beyond the scope of rational scrutiny. And, finally, mysticism allows the failure to indulge the notion that he will be able to reach the same sort of personal satisfaction in his old age as the achiever has reached. This commercial provides him with “proof” of that fact, in much the same way as descriptions of heaven resemble the best places on Earth provide believers in that delusion with a saving grace for their sense of personal failure.
Anyone who is not deeply offended by this commercial, at least after the comedic effect of surprise and incongruity has worn off, is drawn to is precisely because it gives him a momentary relief from the chronic axiety brought about by a meaningless life.