Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The first honest car commercial

People who buy cars based on commercials are the biggest suckers of all.

I'm sorry, but someone had to tell you.

You bought sizzle. You bought the illusion that:
  • your car will somehow create a new empty lane — hell, your own freeway overpass — by which you can speed away from life's eternal traffic jam
  • every coastal highway will empty completely, so you can hug the hairpin turns at high speed while the ocean sparkles for you alone
  • similarly, every city is glass and gleaming and completely empty, while your car glides along its sheening streets, every pane reflecting city lights, to the one place where everyone is — a swank nightclub
  • your car pulses with power and can turn any highway into Le Mans, which is the biggest lie of all: Any car lets you race dangerously along our streets and byways. The commercials leave out whether you should
  • your car can fly
  • you drive more safely, with devices that let you see cars and objects behind you, or the car beeps on approaching cars, or will brake for you if you get too close to a car in front of you or bring you back into your lane if you drift — which makes me wonder if you should be driving at all if that's what it takes to safely convey you
  • you need an enormous truck — damn the gas bill! — to pull your Enormous Boat up the Steep Mountain Grade and Haul Stuff, even though you don't have a boat or haul all that much stuff, it turns out
  • getting this car makes you cool, either because a sports figure says so, or an animated stuffed monkey mocks you if you don't drive the cool car in the coolest possible way, or your car rises out of the ocean to escort you to a tropical beach party
Shame on you!

Finally comes the first honest car commercial. You might have missed it. Built on ephemera, car advertising must constantly move onto the next message before the structure of the last commercial collapses and your attention wanes.

This one should have stuck around longer. Watch and see why.

Sure, it still perpetuates the classic car illusion, suggesting in an irrelevant fantasy setting that drivers can race along the city streets like stunt drivers (by the way, if the commercial warns at the bottom, in teensy type, "Professional drivers on closed roads. Do not attempt," you are being sold a pipe dream). But it contains the truth I've never seen in any other commercial — the real reason people want a new car, especially one like this.

To screw the other guy (or girl).

"While others go in circles … and repeat themselves," the narrator intones as similarly silver BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi cars chase each other on a vast dry lake bed, "we choose to carve our own path in the pursuit of exhiliration."

The Lexus — the better car, driven by a better person, even though the car is the exact color of the others and indistinguishable at high speed — races into the center of the circle, cutting off one of the cars to get in.

Let me repeat that: Cutting off one of the cars.

"The 306-horsepower Lexus GS," the narrator finishes, practically panting, "Experience the next level of performance! And there's no going back!"

The Lexus skids to a sharp left turn inside the circle and races out of it — cutting off one another of the cars.

The last shot, from overhead, reveals that the cars have together carved the Lexus logo into the desert dust.

At last, something real, authentically applied: A new car can truly make you superior. As such, your place in a lane is more necessary, your destination more important, your presence more notable.

You may not be able to race like a stunt driver on surface streets (peculiar phrase, by the way), at least not for long distances, because everyone else drives at the speed limit and eventually you have to too. But you have unlimited chances to cut off people at the last moment and roar away — until you again meet up with law-abiding citizen drivers. And you take those chances, time and again.

Your car is your permission. Your ordination. The rest of us understand, shouting huzzahs in the confines of our car, "Typical *%&##@ (fill in the name of the car)!"

We know you by the one special feature that marks your ascent, no matter your brand or the color you chose — patented virulent anti-turn signal™® technology.

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