Friday, March 28, 2008

Free-falling Friday: Random thoughts to end the week.

Commercials for a Cause

While watching the ANTM (America’s Next Top Model, for the unaware) Marathon on MTV this fine Friday, I was bombarded with the commercials of MTV. Now, for those of you who have not experienced this lovely cable channel it is essentially 5% programming and 95% commercials. And seeing as MTV is socially aware, the commercials not for beauty products or TV shows are undoubtedly for causes.

The causes cover a small range. It is basically anti-drug, anti-tobacco, and HIV awareness. This got me to thinking, which cause makes the best commercials. They obviously are trying to save your life. So basically it’s a little game now. Which form of death will you not die from?


You’ve definitely seen these commercials before, since I am determined that there are only 3 commercials, and they just switch out actors, actresses, and the occasional cartoon dog. These commercials revolve around three themes: rejecting drugs, ruining your life, and ruining other’s lives. They definitely make a statement, but let’s evaluate!

The rejecting-drugs commercials are some of the more visually pleasing ones. The best one is about the boy standing center-frame, watching as people come by and change his outfit, hair, and accessories. He just stands, stoically, against all that comes his way—edited to be fast-paced and stunning. Then he breaks free from his pot-induced lack of self-awareness, and walks away from the people who just shaved his head. I guess it works, but it’s a little ridiculous.

The ruining-my-life commercials are quite hilarious, however. It is impossible not to laugh at cell phone girl who worries about the revealing photos circulating the youth of America that were taken when she was “so high.” At this point, you are supposed to feel sorry for the girl, however I have known a limited number of pothead girls. They genuinely amuse me, granted in a completely horrible way. Especially because this particular one targets the Latin community, so our little pothead answers the phone, "Hey, chica!" In the end, humor is the only reaction received from these commercials. This is evidenced by the many Facebook groups dedicated to Pete's couch. It's an amusing little ad in which three reefer-mad friends sit on "Pete's couch" with their eyes glazed over as one of them talks about nothing dangerous happened, and how the real world is more exciting. Then Pete's couch transports them the woods, then a basketball, court, an ice rink...Pete must be the son of Mrs. Frizzle with his magic couch. If getting high means apparating into a movie theater, pass it to me!

The final type of commercial appeals to sympathetic, soap opera fans everywhere. These are the ones that focus on how pot affects people second-handedly. These are the stories that stick. The little brother who is waiting for older brother to play with him, the grandmother who made food for her grandson, and waits for her pothead grandson—all of these genuinely make good commercials, although a tad cheesy. These, however, are not seen as often. Perhaps the potheads that need to be reformed are very self-centered.

In the end, these commercials are the most cinematically pleasing. However, the message is lost in the stories crafted. I find myself caring more about the grandmother, than about the pothead grandson. Rather than telling Mr. Mary Jane to reform his ways, I want to tell his grandmother to give up on him. Maybe I’m just a pessimist.


The anti-tobacco commercials are much more simple. These have always revolved around people making a statement in the middle of Any City, USA. These are universally statement-oriented. These are the commercials that look like they were filmed on a hand-held camcorder by a high school SADD club. But more recently, they became flashier, and therefore they leave room to evaluate old-school commercials, and new-school commercials.

The old commercials went something like this: person on megaphone talks to stunned crowd in some undistinguishable city. They speak of lies spouted by evil Big Tobacco, while their comrades do something shocking, like filling the rode with dead bodies, or having a person sing who has a hole in their neck. It’s very Cloverfield-esque. You are meant to be shocked and horrified by the evils of tobacco and smoking. You then go get a nicotine patch, regardless of whether you used tobacco or not.

The new commercials are now so ironic that it is ridiculous. They mean to be, however. These commercials usually begin the same way. Two people, in the years during college when they must be promoting some movement, set up some tobacco demonstration. And then with little warning, they second-guess the facts they spout about the lies of Big Tobacco. Cartoon characters pop up, and they start singing. If Enchanted didn’t elaborate non-Pixar Disney’s comeback, these commercials do. People singing about typos in regard to the number of tobacco-related deaths…that’s sheer brilliance. But in the end I find myself remembering this:

And not this:

HIV Awareness

These commercials are always the same. They always show information on screen. In questions, facts, or anecdotes, they somehow display a message of safe sex. Sometimes they have people talking—some of the most attractive HIV-infected people that live. Occasionally Africa is mentioned, but more often then not they are just trying to get Americans to wear condoms. They aren’t showy. There is no story, and sadly no unicorns. But I find myself listening more. These commercials may also be more effective because they are more controversial. And let’s face it, if they are a person who smokes pot, chews tobacco, and has sex without condoms—which commercial will they actually listen to? These. Why? Well, let’s see. They are addicted to cigarettes, they probably like pot a lot, and these commercials actually make sense. The lack of grandmas and unicorns wins.

But in the end, which commercial do I want to see? This one.

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