Monday, February 24, 2014

Making Me the Right Kind of Canadian

First among all the empty-headed things I ever lay my eyes upon are commercials, commercials put on during sporting events, sporting events like the Olympics. These must stand out so much for me because we don’t have cable. I don’t have cable mostly because I detest commercials, commercials like those put on during sporting events… well, you get the point.

I first noticed my intense disdain for the fluff that companies like Coca-Cola, most of all, but followed closely as well by McDonald’s, some beer company, and Bell Canada put on during televised sports when I happened to be visiting a friend and he made me watch a Canadian Hockey World Cup such-and-such one New Year’s.

I am not against sports, or even hockey. Indeed, besides putting no effort at all into watching hockey, I rather don’t mind it. Watching it, not Coca-Cola’s message about what it means to be Canadian: watching the game with my thin, good-looking, multi-racial friends (who are of absolutely every age group), while we exchange high-fives, wearing red and white clothing, checking our iPhones for messages from our other multi-racial, good-looking friends, all while drinking Coca-Cola. That’s what bugs me.

I don’t like manipulation. I especially hate tired old, feel-good manipulation from a company attempting to insinuate itself into my affect.

CBC depends upon this nonsense to justify its existence. Well, it preys upon it. Why would we need a government funded television company if being Canadian weren’t really such an important thing to be reminded of? And yet the logic of celebrating Canadian-ness is that we need to be reminded what it is, and that it involves good looking, thin people, of all sorts of skin hue.

I pat myself on the back when I think of all the money my hatred of commercial-political manipulation has saved me. Until I get my bill from Bell – the very company behind so many of the commercials I hate and which hatred has driven me to the internet rather than the TV for my entertainment. I spend a lot of money on the internet, streaming movies via Netflix and suchlike, all to avoid television commercials. I doubt I am really saving any money this way. But this is how powerful my hatred is for the manipulation of advertisers. Coca-Cola insinuates itself into Christmas with its polar bears. Canada equals hockey and drinking coke or beer while watching ‘the game’ with your thin, good-looking friends, does it? Well, that’s not worth dying for. “Stupid Idiot Day,” we should call November 11th, I guess?

The point is, these commercials are billion-dollar affairs created by people who know how to manipulate. I enjoyed watching some of the Olympic coverage over the internet by CBC these last two weeks. But the fact is, reasonable people do not allow themselves to be exposed to too much propaganda. Putin is a very poor propagandist compared to Coke and Bell. It is too bad that the nature of our country is being determined in the boardrooms of advertising firms, rather than in the actual events of human civilization; not by what we are, but by what they tell us we are. They keep telling us about the spirit of Canada, this is Canada.

Now this manipulation includes gay men kissing on Bell commercials. My question is, I was morally outraged when I realized big companies (such as the American company, Coca-Cola) were trying to tell me what it is to be Canadian. When will others be outraged? But my melancholy realization is that they won’t be, because the creators of these commercials are usually clever enough to know how to manipulate subtly. Sometimes they get it wrong, but most times their mindless fluff is just enough to get us to think that some disgusting brink that has twelve teaspoons of sugar in it is the ultimate thirst-quencher, or that those paper-thin burgers that give me the runs make me a true Canadian and bring me lots of good-looking, thin, multi-racial friends with iPhones.

Bell includes a one-second flash of two men kissing, enough, their research has told them, to be appreciated by homosexualists, not enough to offend other paying customers. It's not about right and wrong. It's about what sells. Nor will Google chose to lose profits over its support; nor will TD. Don't applaud Bell's daring, decry their cowardice. They are following cultural trends, not leading. Enough, Bell, but not too much, as you well know.

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