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Let There Be Footnotes!

Once upon a time, four blind advertising executives fell to arguing about the American television viewing public. Since all four were blind and always had been, none of them had ever seen any member of the American television viewing public, so to clear up their argument they decided to go find a representative for themselves. They hired a guide, A.C. by name, to take them to this representative. Eventually he brought them into a clearing where a large average member of the American television viewing public was idly grazing.

The first blind man walked forward and encountered a prominence of flesh, wet and warm. "Why," he cried out, "The American public drools down its chin like an idiot!"

The second blind man strode forward and thrust his hands into smelly excrement. "My goodness!" he said, "The American public sits in its own waste like a moron!"

The third blind man moved ahead timorously and stepped in a half-eaten frozen dinner. "Oh dear," he moaned, "The American public eats inedible crap like a cretin!"

The fourth blind man paced ahead, hand out, and immediately leaped back. "By Krishna!" he shouted, "The American public plays with itself shamelessly like a retard!"

Their curiosity thus satisfied, they all rejoined their guide, A.C., who could not understand why the four men had been pawing at him while completely ignoring the representative of the American viewing public they had come to examine. And all four men were returned to their glass and steel skyscraper on Madison Avenue, slapping each other on the back and quite proud of discovering that the American viewing public consists entirely of simpering, feeble fuckwits.

Thereafter, it was deemed perfectly acceptable to advertise using half-truths, evasions, and outright lies, so long as every such statement was footnoted. After all, no dullard could be expected to read the fine print in any ad just to discover that all the big type in the advertisement has no relation whatsoever to any reality however far-fetched. It was further determined that a simple footnote warning said dullards against imitating possibly dangerous activities depicted in an ad would be enough to prevent potentially damaging lawsuits.

And thus we live in a world where an ad can flash by on TV reading "No money down" while in one-phosphor-dot-high letters at the bottom of the screen scrolling upwards faster than an electron gun can follow it reads "$1000 due at signing, taxes and tags extra." Trying to catch that as it zips by will cause your eyes to flip back into your head until you're staring at the contour map of your prefrontal lobes, which will be atrophied, of course, if not from disuse then from the withering scorn of the people who design advertising.

At the same time we can watch as the advertised car drives in a leisurely manner down a straight street and stops at a stop sign. This is not one of those ads where a sport utility vehicle is smashing through some irreplaceable ecology with wheels the size of toddler pools, or one of those ads where a tiny silver dart no doubt being driven by a former jockey is casting mile-high plumes of dust as it hugs sidewise to a cliff face at three hundred and twenty miles an hour. This is just a quiet street, during the daytime, but we are advised: "Professional driver on closed track." Because, after all, we simpletons cannot possibly master even this simple act of driving. Imagine the world of bedlam if we all aped this ad -- we'd be out driving at 35 miles per hour and stopping at stop signs! Even professional drivers must blanch at this prospect. "You want me to what? Can't be done -- too dangerous!"

But wait -- then we are treated to the Enterprise car commercial where a rental vehicle is completely wrapped in brown paper and yet we are given no warnings! Not even a squib along the lines of "Professional blind driver on closed track. Auto smashed into tree just after filming." This is a lawsuit waiting to happen -- all we need is one member of the American television viewing public (representative, of course) to go out and tie his car up like a UPS parcel and try and drive it to work. His estate can then sue the smarmy ass off the entire Enterprise organization. "Hey," I can hear the highly-paid expert witness on the stand, "there was no footnote. How was any viewer to know it couldn't be done?"

"Drink responsibly," the tiny words under the soggy asses of the Budweiser frogs suggest, apparently finding no irony in the fact that the least responsible thing any sentient being can do is drink Budweiser.

1-800-COLLECT ads claim their calls are the cheapest, but note "Rate comparisons based on calls between Mongolian herdsmen over YurtLink, a tin-can-and-waxed-string network, during the spring solstice in a leap year."

Slim-Fast shows us a woman who weighed 1,372 pounds just last week and is now so thin she can dance on a beach wearing only Ethernet cable but warns "Results not typical, you fat slob." Gecko Ginseng Biloba Komodo pills will make us smart, sociable, and help us win at Risk, but, sadly, "These claims have not been verified by the FDA and these pills actually do nothing." And All Free and Clear detergent will cure our allergies, but of course "This product is not intended to replace medications you may be taking, so we guess it doesn't really cure your allergies. Also, it's not actually clear."

And finally we reach the pinnacle, the acme, the great egress: Commercials which are all footnote. Anti-smoking commercials, for instance. What other legally operating industry would the American viewing public allow to be crucified so shamelessly on the public airwaves, using public funds? One advertisement shows the portrait of Abraham Lincoln from a five dollar bill and says, "This is what you look like to a tobacco company." But Coca-Cola loves us for who we are on the inside, yes? Another ad tells us that smoking isn't cool. But sucking down 7329 grams of fat between two slices of dessicated wheat product with a fried carbohydrate side and high fructose corn syrup chaser is tres courant, no? Or should I say, Kool ain't cool, but McDonald's is da Boom?

Yes, we are all so phenomenally, unremittingly, hopelessly chuckleheaded that we will not only swallow wholly any advertising hook however carelessly baited, we will also follow any other random orders issuing from our televisions. Stop smoking! Drugs are bad! Don't drink and drive! Buy Old Navy drawstring cargo shorts!

Has it occurred to anyone -- anyone at all -- that, if getting people to do what they're told were this simple, we would all have drowned in Gleem toothpaste back in 1952?

Meanwhile, four deaf advertising executives fall to arguing....


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