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Red, Red Whine

Paying attention to TV commercials is like paying attention to office gossip. Neither one is something you want to get yourself worked up in too fine a lather over. To fret obsessively is to court disaster. One minute, you're a happy employee. The next, you've begun a blood feud with Ed in accounting because of that crass remark he made about you and the girl from HR last week at the water cooler.

But every now and again, there comes a TV commercial that requires obsessive fretting, that demands fretting be ratcheted up to DefCon-1 levels. Such a commercial not only insults the intelligence of even the dimmest viewer, but so violates the basic tenets of human decency that it must be stopped, lest it tear away at the delicate fabric separating our society from anarchy.

And so you must raise your voice. You must bitch like there's no tomorrow. You must gripe and grouse and grumble until the last frame of the last videotape is sealed off in the coke oven. To do otherwise is to sit idly by as society slouches ever further toward Gomorrah. Silence equals complicity.

And when it comes to the TV commercial hawking the sale of raspberry-flavored wine, I can stay silent no more.

I do not remember the name of the product -- always the sign of an effective ad campaign. I do not care ever to know the name of the product. All I know is that someone is selling raspberry-flavored wine to gullible rummies and that I must put a stop to it before our society becomes irrevocably torn asunder.

It's not the product itself. Though, really -- raspberry-flavored wine?

I'm the furthest thing from a wine snob. Like any fine American of good Lutheran stock, I enjoy a good Merlot; who doesn't? But it's not like I go into paroxysms of rage whenever someone tries to have cabernet sauvignon with chicken or gushes about a petit syrah's rich, smoky flavor when any idiot knows that petit syrahs are tart, fruity wines. For all I know, cabernet sauvignon goes great with chicken and petit syrah tastes like battery acid.

But I do know one thing about the ol' vino. Pour enough food coloring into fermented grape juice to make it look like stage blood, slap a "Raspberry Wine" label on the bottle, and you have probably not created the next "Wine Spectator" cover story. You've created a cheap high for teenagers, winos, and lightweight drinkers who've never been able to handle the harsh aftertaste of peach schnapps.

Raspberry-flavored wine. It sounds like something Prince would sing about drinking right before he got his freak on.

All that would be horrifying enough. It's the commercial itself that moves raspberry-flavored wine out of the realm of mere annoyance and into the rarefied air of possible violation of the Geneva Accords.

The commercial features three couples made up entirely of -- and I apologize that there is no politically sensitive way of saying this -- filthy, horrible yuppies. These six sacks of human filth have converged on a lovely, rustic cabin on the shores of a scenic lake, even though it's obvious that their idea of "roughing it" entails a weekend when the cable TV goes out. The couples bid each other hello, mutter about the hectic pace of their workaday lives and break out the bottle of raspberry-flavored wine.

And that's when the trouble begins.

Someone's cell phone rings. And one of the horrible, yuppie filth -- she looks like a discount version of Andie MacDowell -- gets a wild look in her eye. "Maybe this is just the raspberry-flavored wine talking," her eyes seem to say, "but I'm about to do something wicked and naughty."

She grabs the cell phone and throws it into the lake.

This causes quite the giddy stir among her compatriots. Soon, everyone is following suit. Pagers, handheld organizers, wristwatches that tell the time in Budapest -- all go flying into the lake. By the commercial's end, one particularly carefree person has tossed a laptop computer into the drink. The rules are out the window. Chaos reigns. And, presumably, as the camera fades out, the raspberry wine-induced partner-swapping orgy can commence.


I get the point the commercial is trying to make: Our raspberry-flavored wine is so outstanding that you'll forget all your troubles with just one sip. Of course, that could be because the fumes from the wine are melting your brain and -- Oh Christ, my eyes!

But at the risk of making a value judgment on the lives of these saps, I'm guessing that people who buy wine for its raspberry flavors are not the kind folks who can afford to toss hundreds of dollars' worth of technical gadgets into a lake, just because some low-rent Andie MacDowell clone went a little bit crazy on the booze. I'm just speculating here, but I'd wager that when the buzz clears and the six bozos shave the raspberry-flavored hair off their tongues, they're going to cry the tears of regret for their rash decision. And then they're going to tie Andie MacDowell's doppelgänger to the nearest anthill and leave her to die.

Put another way, I am not a violent man. But let's say that Andie MacDowell and the gang, their minds clouded by raspberry-flavored vapors, espy me working busily on my laptop -- a bit of machinery I paid a pretty penny to own. You want to know what happens if they try to toss my laptop into a watery grave? Their weekend in the woods winds up making "Deliverance" look like high tea at Windsor Castle.

That's why the raspberry-flavored wine advertisement is a big ol' hunk of Evil; it's feeding lies to the American people. It's telling them that not only is there a demand for raspberry-flavored wine, it's the drink of choice for upscale adults. It's telling them that they'll never be truly free until they grab the aforementioned wine and start doing Jell-O shots with it. But most tragically, it's telling them that if they hurl someone's personal electronic devices into a lake that they won't wind up with the heart cut out and served as an entrée to the local fauna.

Still, I bet that heart would taste great with a good cabernet sauvignon.


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