I don’t know about you, but all this social distancing has certainly gotten me thinking about… buying a new car. In truth, these fleeting thoughts are not about myself buying a new car. I just spent a bunch of money fixing some critical issues with my ten year old VW, since I would like it to last far into the next crisis- and beyond. But in sitting and watching the litany of the latest reports on the teevee about virus spread and all that our thoroughly incompetent, sort of president is not doing and undoing about it- through all of that I have been marveling at the sea change in advertising surrounding new car sales and service.
There have been a number of indicators that have blipped out loud on my Madison Avenue radar, but I had kind of ignored it until the unseen hand changed the latest Mercedes ad. You know the one, where this young and newly mingled couple is at their local psychic’s pad for a reading, and the mystic madame tells the female side of the pair to delete the dating app that they met on because she basically doesn’t need it anymore since “he’s the one”. We are obviously not talking about a Matrix-y kind of Neo type One- just the kind that she might just share a mostly unexpected, if highly hoped for Mercedes with.
Who knows? But the memory hole part of this- the recently disappeared scene- had the psychic say ‘bless you’ or gesundheit, or whatever in cosmic anticipation of our Romeo’s sudden sneeze. At almost any other time, and particularly during pollen season, that achoo and the clairvoyant pre-blessing would have been the perfect way to show that this medium was the real deal. But now, in the time of plague, anyone exhibiting any signs that the people at the CDC (who are not lying for the president) state with urgency could very well be red flags of infection, are definitely not candidates for buying any Mercedes. After all, I’m fairly certain that the folks at MB corporate would rather that you make it through your entire lease, or set of car payments. They most definitely would not want the car back if this guy- or anyone signing on the dotted line for that new Mercedes- lost his job- or worse- and could not make the payments, because then the dealer would get the car back and have a detailing, disinfectant nightmare on their hands, literally. Who knows, they might even consider having to ship and sell the plague car overseas in maybe Spain or Italy where statistically any bad result of spread contagion could be written off as the new owner’s own fault for lack of proper hygiene in either of those hyper contagion infested disaster zones.
Along the memory hole lines, I believe it is a Mazda commercial where they have masterfully re-edited an entire ad. While formerly there was a catchy tune with sunny lyrics narrating the life soundtrack belonging to the couple in the ad, now there is meditative music accompanied by a structured narrative that is not spoken, but instead now written in bold-faced type. There is a gauzy haze that softens the entire construct, with a warmer colorspace now applied throughout. There is something said about trying times and offers of covering payments if jobs are lost. Mostly though, it is an amazing facelift of an ad that had been about driving in the sun, into one that embraces your need to buy a car amidst the disaster without the worry of loss of employment kindling any buyer’s remorse.
The folks at Lincoln should be most happy with their ad house creations that appear to be at least luckily psychic, in that they actually foresaw a need for their luxury vehicle, not as a status symbol but rather as a retreat and place of sanctuary from the storm. Back during the holidays, there was a series of ads where a woman drove into her hedge shrouded driveway and up a slight incline to her trendy, modern home. All was well with the world until she walked in the front door and encountered anything from her parents doing yoga in the middle of the living room with their pet, pygmy goats, to the kids wreaking havoc in that same space in a giant, inflatable snow globe bouncy house, all depending on which version of this vehicular sales fantasy the magic wheel of fortune allowed one to land on. In both cases, after gazing about in horror at these discovered scenes, the woman retreated to her car where she took a breath, hit the recline button on the driver’s seat, and was instantly transported to her own secure sanctuary without actually having to drive anywhere. In the context of “holiday anxieties”, these ads were humorous for a time, but after too many viewings one started to question why she chose to only recline in her seat instead of just driving off, regardless of the ‘bad daughter/mother’ labels that might have inspired.
To extend this sanctuary theme, the Lincoln folks then decided to send a certain spokesmodel McConaughey to the frozen, mountainous wilderness in ”his” SUV with an arctic parka, an ice bore and an ice fishing rig. With this bit of coincidental prescience they really hit mass marketing paydirt. I mean, after dropping the unbaited hook through the hole and walking back to the car and taking a seat just inside the opened hatchback, Matthew M. didn’t even get through the entire, whistled rendition of the Andy of Mayberry tune before the fishing hole signal flag went up, indicating that dinner was on the line. Sign me up- this is luxury survival in the harshest of environments. Admittedly, there was no one there to cook the fish for him, let alone any indication as to whether matches, pots and pans and a cookstove came with that particular sanctuary package, but like the two trillion dollar coronavirus and/or corporate bailout, those are mere details that can surely be worked out. Maybe as a part of the next stimulus package, instead of being given a one-time supermarket shopping spree and/or rent check, everyone could get taught to fish as well. Of course, the Republicans would insist on including a provision that the general public not be told that all the fish are, in reality, in the private lakes that only the top 1% can get to in their Lincoln Navigators that must be equipped with the relevant survival package.
Some people might say, after reading all of the above, that this social distancing stuff is starting to get to me. To that I would say- nonsense. Aside from a few tweaks to what is happening right now, my life before the virus was not much different than it is now. I do not go out very much. For years now I have been watching the teevee, similarly waiting for something to happen that would give one some inkling of hope that things might change. As I continue to watch on that self same idiot box, I have not seen any indication that anything hopeful is on the horizon. On another plane, I have been going to that amazing documentary festival in Missoula for three years, and each year I see things that are appalling as well as astounding, the bad and the good. It is not all bad, but I am still looking for that abundance of hope that continues to seem forever out of reach.
I look at our current idiot-in-chief, and all the lackeys he has bumbling around him, and what I see is a hopeless us and the relentlessly screwed up systems we live in. I look at every really stupid thing that Donald Trump has done, both in leading up to his election and since his ill-gotten inauguration, and what I see is that he has been destroying the office of president as well as any semblance of credibility that we once had in the world as a nation. With neither media nor congressional oversight of any tangible substance or set of teeth, Trump continues to get a pass for everything he does, from outright killing someone who was suggestable enough to think he could save himself with aquarium cleaner that the president said it might be a cure for this plague that was ailing him, to putting entire states at risk by denying needed medical supplies to the people who live there because the governors of those states refused to kiss Trump’s ass to get them. To their credit, one of our local public radio stations stopped broadcasting Trump’s ludicrous press conferences because, like his re-election pep rallies, they were and are filled with presidential misinformation, vindictiveness and lies. At the same time, even when it is printed in black and white by Pulitzer winners or discussed in detail on the cable channels with credible and accredited authorities, the relentless stream of blither, bluster and nonsense still spews forth from the White House in a tidal bore that defies all cries for sea change.
It has already been pointed out elsewhere that there is a certain irony in the fact that while at least most health related costs potentially incurred by U.S. citizens related to this plague will now supposedly be covered by our government via rushed through congressional legislation, Bernie Sanders has been relentlessly mocked and berated for advocating this self-same solution through universal healthcare coverage for all. At the same time, Andrew Yang was scoffed at for suggesting the idea of a universal minimum wage, while a form of that has been legislated through as well in order to help people with critical expenses and to “stimulate the economy”.
The unrelenting actions of the simpleton Trump and his baffling ability to continue to stumble ever forward, have more than exposed the glaring failings of an absent protocol of check and balance in our democratic system of government- a system that at one time was the envy of much of the world. At the same time, a rogue virus, which we stand mostly unprepared for with no natural immunity, has brought the massive global economic support system to its knees. Some might say that a rethinking of the way things work here and now- democratically, capitalistically, medically and otherwise, could be the silver lining that results from having weathered and potentially survived all of this. The mortgage collapse of 2008, the catastrophic Trump presidential failure, and this pandemic, all can be seen as red flashing lights, blazing in the face of this and everything else that is going wrong right now. Each offers a lesson that begs for change- radical change. But those two words are ones that most people will not be willing to hear, let alone accept- let alone act upon.
In getting over and through all of this, there is an opportunity to get truly better as a people and a nation as well. We’ll see where it all leads us. As we look forward to better times, it is also helpful to look back. A statement that continues to resonate for me from early in the Trump administration was one that came from Steve Bannon. At the time, I thought it was odd and at the same time a bit chilling. What he said was that one of the things he saw as a goal for this administration was to achieve the “deconstruction of the administrative state”. As hospital workers are dying from the lack of protective gear in the face of everyday duties while fighting the COVID19 fight, and as we move into the lead of most people in the world testing positive for the virus, and as the word today comes out that we could see 100,000 to 200,000 dead in these United States by the time we are through this, all I can say is: hey Steve, hey Donnie- how’s that administrative thing working out for you? I can see how it’s working out for us.