Obviously, the big news in Olive Garden advertising lately is that one of their spots features a man saying, “I’m in the mood for something different,” to his Olive Garden server. Which is rather like moving into a gated subdivision because you want to live in a diverse community. But less frequently remarked upon is an earlier spot for the same restaurant, in which a server asks a customer, “How was that?” And he replies, “It really hit the spot.” And everyone at the table bursts into laughter, as if he’d made a joke. But “it really hit the spot” is not a joke on any level. It’s just a comment.
This is actually what I like to refer to as ‘secretary humor,’ because it’s the type of humor largely occurring in office environments among bored and excruciatingly polite administrative professionals, where somebody will make some banal observation and everyone will burst into forced laughter as if it had, in fact, been a witticism. “That donut was so good, maybe I’ll eat two!” Bwaggh-har-har-har!!! “Maybe I just won’t come in on Monday.” Waaaaa-haaa-haaa!!!! “What if I took a little nap in my chair here?” Girl, you are a SCREAM!!! Or the ever popular, “You are Too Funny,” response, which works after anything at all:
“Oh, I didn’t pick up the phone in time.”
“You are Too Funny.”
“It’s only three o’clock?”
“You are Too Funny.”
“Wait, what was I in the middle of?”
“You are TOO FUNNY!!!!!”
Obviously, “You are Too Funny,” is code for “Please, God, just kill me where I stand.”
Speaking of humor that is not, NYC is plastered with posters promoting some movie that feature in large type, the sentence, “You DO look fat in those jeans, Sarah Marshall.” Now. I understand that at one time, some dude first made the observation that frequently, women will ask their boyfriends if they look fat in a pair of jeans. This is meant to be humorous, because, no matter what the accurate answer to that question is, the fellow so addressed can only reply, “no.” Or, less charitably, it is meant to be humorous because the woman looks fat not because of the jeans, but because she is fat. While this observation might have been marginally amusing the first time or two that it was pointed out (which is debatable), surely endless reiteration in everything from Twix ads to sitcoms to stand-up routines and on and on and on has long since wrung from this “joke” whatever comedic potential it originally possessed.
Yet somehow, some film that is obviously spending a shit ton on marketing believes not only that this “joke” is hilarious, but that it is so universally and unceasingly hilarious that prominent featuring of it alone is enough to attract all and sundry to their movie in droves. This blows my mind.
Moving on, in the category of ads that dispense with reality altogether, we have the Walmart ad, in which a lot of Walmart employees open a store at something like 4 a.m., dancing and singing in their pristine big box environment to the strains of “Dancing in the Moonlight,” and a voiceover explains that while you sleep cozily in your beds, underpaid and uninsured Walmart employees are cheerily preparing for your arrival by mopping, stocking and Windexing the entire store predawn, and Could Not Be More Thrilled About It. On the other side of the economic gap, we have the Audi ad, where the voiceover discusses privilege burnout: “You will grow up in this mansion, you will go to one of these three schools (Harvard, Yale or Princeton), you will own homes on these two coasts, Yawn – AUDI!! Consider the cycle broken! …Not the cycle of inherited wealth, of course. But the cycle of spending Daddy’s money on cars other than Audi.”
Speaking of over-consumption, I love the McDonald’s ad where the voiceover talks about how a certain burger is so big that, while the man consuming it will still be able to cram a super-sized fries and Coke in on top of it, he’ll have to stop at one ketchup packet. You can almost hear the tortured pitch meeting that came up with this ad: “How do we emphasize that this burger is monstrously huge, but not suggest that the person forgo spending money on a couple thousand more fried calories on the side? Hey, condiments are free…” Meanwhile, in the McD ads for Girls, lithesome women cavort ecstatically over some sad, wilted little salads. McDonald’s really has all its bases covered.
Which brings us back to my favorite refrain: the stupidity of women’s advertisements. This month, there’s yet another ridiculous birth control pill ad out. I speak of the ad in which the pharmacist tells a woman – after he’s already filled her prescription – that she might have to get a blood test to use that pill. The woman’s face falls in dismay, and an adjacent birth-control-buying customer reacts in shock and indignation as well. They both just can’t freaking believe this. No matter that she already has the damn prescription in her hands, so unless a miniature doctor pops out of the bag and demands to do the procedure before he hands over the dial, she’s probably in the clear. No matter that the pharmacist doesn’t in any way explain why she might need one, or when, or under what circumstances. She is simply shocked – SHOCKED – to hear that in some undefined scenario for some unspecific reason having vaguely to do with a prescription she’s already filled, somebody in the medical field might at some point advise her to have a blood test. Which is OUTRAGEOUS.
And while I can’t think of an appropriate segue, let me just say that Kohler is becoming for me the new Twix, in that it is currently running a series of ads aimed entirely at men by running down women for no reason whatsoever. Witness the ad wherein a man observes a hot lady plumber (because those exist, right?) and immediately proceeds to throw all manner of things into his toilet to plug it up, so he’ll get to meet her. Which is fine. But then, just before we see the logo, his wife walks by and looks at him funny. OH! He’s a married man who wants to hit on the sexy plumber! Now, there’s really no reason for him to be a married man for the commercial to work – he could just be a single guy. But why stop at merely amusing when with one simple beat more you can reach full out offensive, right Kohler? Well done.
WARNING: Feminist Digression!!!
Femininity, in fact, can’t even be practiced without stuff (which is one way of debunking the argument that it is an inherited sex trait). It is simply not possible for a woman without makeup and deodorant and lingerie and kitten heels and diet pills and clothes without pockets and anti-wrinkle cream that promises “glowing skin” and self-help books explaining the best ways to suck up to men and jewelry and razors and tweezers and lemon-scented cleaning products and boxes of Lean Cuisine in the freezer — all stuff that must be bought — to be fully feminine.
If you’re a woman, you’re a woman, and that’s that. You can’t be less of a woman because you don’t buy enough shit to trick yourself out in. While it might sound shocking today, men were in fact able to ID a woman as such way back when both sexes were costumed in identical bits of animal hide. Otherwise, none of us would be here today. So relax, ladies, and spend your hard-earned pennies on travel and theatre tickets.