Commercials

While I’m fighting for my quality of life against cancer, TV commercials offer a fascinating juxtaposition of one man’s isolated life versus the broad spectrum of American life and values.
I’m wide awake, uncomfortable, at 3 a.m. I turn on the TV, where they’re telling me how to whiten my teeth. I click channels and see that I am not buff enough (and 40 pounds under weight battling malnutrition) but this amazing new exercise regime will fix that.

Another cable channel promises me intimate conversation if I dial a 900 number and have my credit card ready. Still another wants me to keep up with the upper-class Joneses and buy the right car. Then there is the plethora of pharmaceutical “ask your doctor about…” commercials that promise relief for everything troubling the human mind and body, with a caveat for some devastating side effects, and the provocation for you to Google and self-diagnose, and then call the doctor and ask for the RX by name!

TV commercials are a microcosm of society that paint a picture of who we are as a people, what we need, what we value, and how we spend our money. It must work or the price of a TV spot would not be what it is. What it is to me is sad.

The vulnerable among us, educated or not, wealthy or not, are easily targeted. One TV commercial that strikes me as a ploy and appeal to the vanity of the upwardly mobile, is a Lowes commercial. In it, the home improvement center has beautiful answers to your gardening needs. A youngish couple in their first home, goes all-in to quickly make their yard look like an arboretum, and with great success thanks to a well-conceived landscaping plan by the good people at a local Lowes, all the right supplies for the project, the flora and the fauna, and the couple’s own sweat equity.

Then comes the vanity, the Jones effect: the wife snaps a photo of the new look and the husband instantly reminds her to “post it”. “I already did,” she says, facebook-loaded for the world to envy and admire, and for “friends” to start making their own shopping lists.

Cynical? Perhaps. But at 3 a.m. with cancer, you tend to think more about your family’s future security than your garden; about your struggle not to feel helpless to do menial tasks (like get dressed, bathe, or takeout the trash) rather than about six-pack abs; and about your mental attitude rather than the shade of your teeth.

Cancer isolates you (if only for a moment until you glance at your spouse asleep at your side, as totally vested in your journey as you are, or you think of your routine first-light coffee with your daughter). And it creates strange juxtapositions. You think about things you never really thought about before.

And you fight, never never never, as Churchill said, giving up. If you or a loved one should find yourself inside my world outside the world of TV commercials, and you need some moral support, please don’t ask your doctor; just ask me. I’ll try to help you through this blog.

Peace.
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3 Responses to “Commercials”

  1. Rob Grogan Says:

    There is one series of TV commercials I really do like. I think it’s for AT&T mobile. Young school children, maybe Kindergarten or first grade, are sitting at a round table. Their teacher, a late-20’s male, asks them simple questions, like “Is it better to have More or Less?”
    The children respond with what is convincingly to me unscripted answers. It is fun and uplifting and spirited. It is medicine at its best. Remember the old Art Linkletter show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”? It is so that. And the teacher is perfectly cast.

  2. megan hicks Says:

    Your blog post made me start wondering: I wonder how the sylphs and beefcakes in the commercials aired twenty years ago have fared with the ravages of time. I wonder what they really look like without fancy lights and photoshop.

    (Your first line got my attention. And held it. And will, I’m confident, continue to hold it. Blog on!)

  3. Amy Bayne Says:

    3 a.m. tends to bring out the philosopher in the healthiest of us, so I can only imagine what one thinks about when battling an illness and contemplating the big questions in life. Check out your email for a Ray Bradbury reference.

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