Some pundits investigate the culture of America though our political system, which shows us as basically nuts.
I prefer advertisements—television advertisements during the 6:30 evening news to be exact. I watch those shows because I expect them to be fairly neutral in coverage. Fox News is out of the question—all those people yelling conspiracy theories at one another leaves me profoundly fatigued. Although I admire Rachel Maddow’s intelligence and humor, she can go too long on one subject, and after the first 15 minutes too many ads make my attention falter.
So the 6:30 news is my choice for television watching and advertisements. This program offers sociological evidence for what companies or their ad agencies think about us, the American people. It also makes you wonder if those companies understand the messages they convey.
For example, they think we’re lazy—too lazy to take four pills a day of ibuprofen, which my friend calls Vitamin I, when one Aleve will do. How hard is it to take four pills? Who knows which one is best?
They think we want to look like zombies. Check out the characters in a Restasis eye drops ad. All the eyes—ghoulish, fish-eyed, creepy—would fit perfectly on aliens from outer space. No way will I ever put Restasis into my eyes. I might come out looking like those people in the ad. This ad claims that people have a “disease” called “dry-eye syndrome.” Maybe some people have irritating eye problems, but doctors say there is a cheaper way to handle it. Dip a wash cloth into hot water and hold it against your eyes for 20 seconds twice a day. You’ll be amazed.
Advertisers think we like seeing people who are either drunk or on opioids. The disheveled, bleary-eyed Poligrip woman looks like she needs to go into rehab. Poligrip holds false teeth in place. Who has false teeth these days, especially women of the actress’s age? That was a condition, before fluoride, before regular dental care, in which older people’s teeth became so diseased they had to come out.
But this woman looks as if she’s in her fifties, maybe even forties. Are the advertisers thinking that people whose teeth fall out look like that wobbly woman? It’s insulting. There are good reasons some people still need false teeth, but if they look at the woman in the ad, they’ll need more than false teeth.
According to the nightly news, many healthy men are impotent, or at least have low amounts of testosterone. I doubt it. Maybe because of fracking fluids, air-borne chemicals and other polluting factors, men’s sperm count is decreasing. But there is no way the men shown in the ads—handsome, fortyish guys with beautiful women at their side—can’t perform. These, however, are my favorite ads because at least the couples are cuddly, happy and looking forward to a nice activity rather than sporting creepy eyes or a drug-induced look.
And then these companies think we can be hoodwinked over the environment, another indication of how dumb they think the American people are. “Clean” coal—now there’s a curious concept. Urging you to become an “energy voter” because fossil fuels create jobs? Of course, so do wind and solar power, but why bring that up? I guess these advertisers believe you can fool all people enough of the time.
The ad-makers believe Americans have no friends. Otherwise why would a woman named Angie tell us that for a fee we can find out from her list which local plumber or electrician is a good one in our small neighborhoods in Boston? Don’t people have friends? I bet that’s where you get your recommendations.
Some advertisers notice that we’re so stupid that we’ll pay multiples for medicines that cost little if they are in generic form.
Advertisers believe you will help sell their products, because you’re so dumb. They instruct you to ask your doctor. Why would you insult him or her to ask about a pill advertised on television? We’re not that stupid.
The election is bearing down on us. Maybe it will prove that we’re stupid, we don’t have any friends, that most men, except for one overweight 70-year-old, are impotent, that people who need false teeth or eye treatments look like freaks of nature and that we’re too lazy to take four pills instead of one.
I just hope it proves we are still smart, well informed, able to distinguish between right and rot, and not what the advertisers think we are.
Downtown View is a column by newspaperwoman Karen Cord Taylor who founded The Beacon Hill Times in 1995 and served as its editor and publisher until late 2007. She also founded and served as editor and publisher of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and The Back Bay Sun weeklies. Karen now works from her home in downtown Boston and blogs at BostonColumn.com. Please feel free to leave responses in the comments section below.