Let me tell you about a little commercial that I hate. View it (or don't) in its entirety here. In fact, don't watch it. Let me vaguely describe it and you'll know instantly the one I mean.
You know that child that makes you hate children? You know that kid you just want to bludgeon to death with a sack of nickels, even though you're a Sunday School teacher on the weekends and you teach kindergarten as your day job and you love all of your students with like, a physical, Christian love? That kid that you still hate in spite of all that? They gave THAT kid a commercial, and told her to shriek shrilly into the camera while she wasn't patronizing you with an endless guilt trip about WHAT KIND OF FUCKING PHONE YOU BOUGHT, EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE BOTH AN ADULT, AND, SEEMINGLY, IN THE CONTEXT OF THIS COMMERCIAL, HER PARENT!
You know how much I hate this commercial? I hate this commercial so much that I am taking time out of my busy life to write a blog post about it. It's not that anything I do with my life is important. But I could be doing literally anything else right now. I could be planting a tree for future generations to enjoy. I could be spending time with loved ones, and God knows I don't spend enough time with my loved ones. I could be masturbating right now, is what I'm saying. But I hate this commercial so much that I'm taking time out of my day to ensure that hate it along with me.
You know what else? I had no idea what this commercial was for. Honest Injun, I had no idea. I just spent about twenty minutes typing in "shrieking blond harridan," "annoying tree monster," "reasons birth control invented/tolerated by society" before I finally figured out it wasn't for Virgin Mobile. It was for one of their competitors. (Don't buy anything from this competitor. I don't even own a Virgin Mobile, but I'd rather you buy something from them than the company that visited this little Child of the Corn on us.)
Here's the thing that I find most striking about this commercial: this kid is meant to be hated. Everybody already sort of hates everybody else's kids. I mean, you mostly like your own kids, and you mostly like the kids of your friends and family, but most other kids, just the ones you meet on the street, everybody sort of hates. Because they're either crying or being rude and obnoxious, or, if they're not doing anything untoward, you're ignoring them.
So writers usually take some time to ensure that most kids in TV and movies are tolerable. That you like them for a reason. That they're Renee Zellwegger's kid from Jerry Maguire, not the kid that was just kicking you in the back during the whole flight to Phoenix. But with this kid in the whatever-brand-it-is commercial (not Virgin Mobile) I assume, they seem to have completely reversed decades of screenwriting wisdom.
"Say," the writers of this commercial appear to have said to themselves, perhaps during self-flagellation, "What if instead of finding a kid that we have to use a shorthand for making everyone like in thirty seconds...what if we used shorthand to make everyone hate the fucking shit out of her her in thirty seconds?"
"Yeah," his-or-her screenwriting partner seems to have agreed, coming out of a long, dark absinthe-and-heroin induced bad trip, "Let's just make her as annoying as possible. Everyone will sympathize with an annoying kid who has an axe to grind."
If I'm kind, I suppose that the marketing geniuses behind this commercial intended for the child to merely be "disappointed." And that this "disappointment" would translate into empathy from the audience, because who hasn't been disappointed in their lives? But the thing about kids is, while their disappointment can be adorable, it can also be petulant and, to use a seemingly tailor-made word, childish. And they went full fucking tilt on the petulant side and completely ignored the part where a child's disappointment translates into puppy-dog eyes and the desire to comfort them.
Instead, they had a girl LECTURING her parent - me - about what a shitty person I am. Because while I seemingly went to the trouble to appear at her hastily put-together school play, I DIDN'T HAVE THE DATA TO TAPE IT. Now, first of all, fuck you. No, that's pretty much my whole argument. Fuck you, little girl. I went to your fucking play. Why would I need to tape it as well? It's not for your fucking acting talent, I can tell you that. You're pretty proud of that little line, huh? I've seen Bristol Palin give better line readings than that. You're not objectively good, and therefore the only reason I would find you SUBJECTIVELY good is if I, for some reason, found you charming enough to give a shit about your feelings. Which I don't. Obviously.
I hate, hate, hate this commercial. I want to strangle this kid with piano wire, and if that weren't a crime in this stupid country, I would hunt this child actress down and actually do that. And the whole time I would keep shouting at her, "Say the line! Say the line!"
Then, hopefully, as the life leaches out of her purpling face, I would finally get subjected to a line reading of "WATCH OUT FOR MY ROOTS!" that actually contained an iota of pathos and give-a-shit.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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