Tales From the Bottom of the Film Business

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cars for Christmas
Rampant Capitalism Eats the World Part Two (Part One was that Gorbechev thing)

I worked on this holiday ad recently. Maybe you've seen it, 'cause not only is it running like lemmings on television (or at least on Bravo and Comedy Central, since those seem to be the only channels I watch now that Cablevision wants me to PAY for IFC and Sundance and I am way too cheap for that), but it's being shown on screens at a theater near you before the previews. And as if that weren't offensive enough, it's a commercial in which a guy gives his wife twin cars as holiday gifts.

Now, granted, the cars in this particular ad are a free sweepstakes prize, so he doesn't actually buy them. But this isn't the first time I've worked on advertising promoting giving automobiles as gifts. In fact, if you haven't noticed, there are a ton of them out there this season, trying to convince folks like you and me to do just that: buy cars for Christmas.

What the HELL???? Aside from the fact that in our world, with its dying-a-little-more-every-day atmosphere, nobody should be encouraged to buy another gas-guzzling, smog-producing vehicle
-- What sign foreshadowing the apocalypse will it be this week? Wildfires? Bee die-offs? Trees budding in Central Park in November? -- there's the fact that in our world (yes, this too is our world, your world, my world), where folks are dying from lack of food, shelter, vaccines for diseases that should no longer exist, mosquito netting for Christ's sake, ANYONE should be getting a Hummer, a Volkswagon, a used fucking Subaru, or pretty much ANYTHING as a gift THAT COSTS OVER TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!

Now look, I know. I work for The Man. And specifically for The Man Who Made This Ad. And even though we only recorded sound effects on this one, which they very well might not have even used (even though they were damn good, 'cause we are the best sound people EVER, we even make the useless shit sound good), I am a cog in the machine without which this ad would not exist, and people would not be inspired to spend this kind of money on crap. In fact, in general, as we all know, that is my day job: helping to make crap that's going to be used to get people to spend money on crap they don't need. Oh, and did I mention all of the crap -- money and uneaten food and
landfills of plastic water bottles and entire power plants of megawattage -- that's expended making this crap?

Yeah, it's a living. And without me, there would be another very willing cog, quite thrilled to make my $57.50 an hour plus OT to take my place at the pole. In fact, I know him, and he already is, which is why I'm sitting here at home writing this instead of holding the pole over my head for The Man right now.

But still, I am part of The System, some might argue more than most. And even if I use The Money I make off The Man to create something(s) that attempt in some way to buck The System…is any of that any more than, well, hypocritical bullshit?

Nevertheless. That doesn't mean I can't call bullshit. And it certainly doesn't force me to buy the crap. In fact, it makes me think twice, or three or six or twenty-eight times if I'm feeling obsessive, about what I do and do not need to get by in my own little life when I'm not holding the pole.

So in our world, where Gorbechev lends his face to Louis Vuitton, let me lend my pathetic, anonymous, potentially hypocritical voice
to this:

Plywood and nails (Habitat for Humanity): $10.

Measles vaccine for 50 kids (Unicef): $27.

A loan to start a tomato-selling business in Tanzania (Finca International): $50.

A llama (Heifer International): $150.

Giving something that matters: priceless.

Oh heck, I don't want to end the year on that churlish note (even if I am a churl -- I'm not sure what that is exactly, but I am one), since we're off on another shoot and then I'm away for the holidays, and this will very likely be my parting shot for 2007. So here's a little phone video from our last shooting trip, to Las Vegas. Yeah, you haven't heard about that one yet, but you will, in 2008. I know, shoes, Vegas, the evils of rampant capitalism, what could be more apropos, and yet contradictory? But for some reason, watching this makes me happy. Hopefully it will do the same for you. Vegas, baby, Vegas.

Oh and, um, happy holidays. Ha ha.


Blogger Unknown said...

I am totally with you on the "WTF" re car purchases. Was just reading about how if the dems, lead by Pelosi in the house, hadn't stood firm, that the car companies probably would have AGAIN convinced congress not to kick Detroit into the freaking 21st century, and force them to get basic required MPG up to...29 mpg?? 28mpg? something ridiculously low. I still can't believe that Detroit is upset about that, when everybody's buying Priuses and Honda Insights. I thought these people knew their business. I guess someone must be buying the darn gass guzzlers, or they wouldn't be making them. But it doesn't make you feel very sympathetic when they start whining about having to lay people off, if they're not willing to innovate. The thing is that they CAN make cars that get 60mpg, but apparently, they wouldn't look nifty, and have all the extras that they say their clientele ask for. And since there are people out there who actually buy and actually DRIVE hummers during these crazy times...I guess they may have to respond to that.

It's funny that you also mentioned how perhaps some of this money could go toward finding a cure for malaria...which I totally agree with. ;-) But just today in the NYT there was an article about these people who are trying to develop a vaccine. They're not the only ones, and they still have a long way to go. but they were talking about the "potential" market for the vaccine, and I expected them to immediately cite the thousands of people who die from malaria every day. But no. First it was tourists and military personnel. Because of course, those are paying customers. Then....it was the 3,000 children who die of malaria EVERY DAY. EVERY DAY.

now THAT makes me want to buy a mosquito net...

keep up the good work "cog in the wheel". :-) right there with you...trying not to contribute to the landfill...;-)

2:28 AM

Blogger Daneeta Loretta Jackson said...

I have an existential crisis about these things every day. Get your money from the Man then go off and try to do something good with that blood money. The Man, by the way, has also spent in excess of $400 BILLION on the war in Iraq so that he can no doubt sell cars to those guys at some future date. I could use some of that $400 BILLION and so could my family down in New Orleans where my sister still doesn't have phone service in her neighborhood. It's only been literally 30 months...

8:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know. I figure that if you have that kind of money to throw around, who is to stand in your way. I wouldn't buy a car (or two) but if someone else wants to (and if the car dealers want to empty their lots) go ahead. Problem is that the rich aren't taxed accordingly (nor should they be taxed on what they buy).

As to my charity giving this year: MS, buying books for a school in Newark, and sending money to gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Good Holiday All-


2:00 PM

Blogger Scripty said...

I question myself and my career when I work on infomercials! They are truly the pit of advertising. During one job our production team could not get the product to work! Not a good fuzzy feeling working on that job knowing that people will shell out money for the stupid product!

8:46 PM


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