Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Mad Men

Picture the scene: A child awakes to the sound of a running engine. From the window she sees her drunk father, slumped over the front steps, a bottle clutched in his hand. Behind him the door of his pickup truck is open and the engine idles. The girl goes to her mother’s bedroom where her mother, surrounded by what the newspapers like to call ‘drug paraphernalia’ is in a stupor and unresponsive to her child’s entreaties. She wakes her younger brother and while he is dressing she dials a number on the house phone. Cut to the girl and her brother sitting on the sofa. The doorbell rings, she answers and a large clown fills the doorway. The theme music swells “I’m loving it!” sings the familiar voice while a narrator describes MacDonald’s new home delivery service. Boom!

I like it; it’s no worse than the sort of stereotypes used by advertisers everywhere. Unfit parents? No problem; Maccy D’s got this. Or how about this funny comercial for Audi in China? (Go on, watch it) What’s wrong? It’s funny. Ah, maybe that is what’s wrong. Humour, almost by necessity, has a human subject; the errant husband, the idle child, the nagging wife, the intemperate vicar and there is no end to the chuckles to be had at the strange ways of ‘foreigners’, if that word is still legal. But the holy scriptures of the powers of PC decree that nobody must ever again be offended, thus all laughter must cease.

The Advertising Standards Authority is going to get tough on stereotyping. In other words they are going to reach into your televisual world and suck the joy out of it. No more mocking, joshing, ribbing, poking, or tickling of ribs. All future portrayals of persons of whatever shape, size, gender or origin must henceforth avoid inaccurately labelling human characteristics as remotely amusing. Don’t these virtue-signalling morons at the ASA have real jobs to do? I thought their remit was to ensure advertising was legal, decent honest and truthful; not wholesome, sterile, inoffensive and utterly dull.

Stereotypes exist for a reason, the reason being that most of us, inadvertently or otherwise, conform to them. But advertising stereotypes are not intended to portray anybody in any particular light, rather to cynically use pre-existing conceptions and – especially with humour – appeal to a bit of the brain that says ‘drink me’, or preferably ‘buy me, then drink me’. The Alice in Wonderland realm of the Mad Men is a bustling hive of subversive humour, cynical manipulation and appeals to the psyche; their sole purpose is to sell. And if efforts like this second Chinese example (go on!) do the trick, where’s the harm?

Good clean fun!

Racist, you say? Well, try making an interesting, re-watchable, memorable, commercial that is politically and factually correct in every detail, offends nobody, doesn’t schmaltz up the screen and doesn’t make you want to stab yourself in the eye. I’ll be waiting over here, chuckling at feckless dads, overworked multi-tasking mums and overbearing bosses... and not believing for one moment that they are meant to represent real life. 

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