The Sublimity of Failure

Stephanie Fail

One would assume that after watching enough stupid advertisements one would no longer be offended at their baseness. What is an ad for anyways? They are intended, however subtly, to intrude a product, brand, or store into our subconscious to make us favorably biased towards their wares. That, to word it bluntly- is brainwashing.

Advertising is nothing new. It has been walking hand and hand with human culture ever since the advent of agriculture. It would not have been uncommon for a Roman citizen to awaken one morning to a fresh graffiti tagging for a blacksmith on a wall of their house, to march right over to that blacksmith and demand a new tool for every month he keeps it up. The original billboard, no? Yet it would not be human nature to stop there, and so today we live on a planet where it is rare for a day to go by where our freewill is not compromised by advertisements. It is enough to tempt me to dash my contact lenses before an oncoming train!

I try not to grumble, instead acting as if all ads are invisible. Denial, unfortunately, is not always successful. Maybe I need to take an acting class or something to shut my soul up.

Lowe’s Home Improvement has a Christmas commercial that I feel illuminates a horrible truth. It features a woman who has walked into Lowe’s and is standing around vacantly when a friendly female employee walks up to her and chirps, “Can I help you find anything?” The woman begins stammering out a slew of barely intelligible phrases like “you know”, “one of those” “long” “uh, green”. Before the customer can finish compromising the integrity of the English language, the employee whips out something long and green and chimes, “Garland! Do you need anything else?” The woman begins anew, this time wasting less breath as she more vigorously draws a circle in the air and a single “You know…” before the employee pops up and thrusts a “Wreath!” in her face.

The pace quickens and they toss in several more products as the employee realizes that the quicker she “helps” her befuddled customer, the more buying happens. Next, the woman decides she wants some sort of animatronic animal as she begins hopping around and hooting like a chimpanzee while the well-trained employee fetches it. The ad culminates with the woman forgetting the name of that man she was with, as she splutters out “Now I just need to find my, uh…” and to this the omniscient employee replies “Your husband?”

What I feel this commercial illustrates is the trend our culture is taking back to illiteracy. Illiterate people are not necessarily stupid. However, the problem is that our pop culture and its TV encourage simplistic thinking to the point where even our elections can be determined by catchphrases such as “flip-flop”. We have secret agents storming down hallways rolling non-stop jargon off their tongues. Sports lingo infiltrates not just ESPN but countless corporate boardrooms.

Valley girls are no longer relegated to the valley, now they harass us as they storm the streets talking in abbreviated “tXt” slang to their friends. There are enough marketers jumping on the word-smashing “Comcastic” bandwagon to the point where Webster’s dictionary is up to its 1000th page of linguistic bastardy. “Billboahdz” on the T are poking so much fun at Boston accents that I am almost embarrassed to own one.

How did this come to be? By aking TV our oracle, we become total spectators. It reminds me of a Jim Morrison quote: “We have been metamorphosed from a mad body dancing on the hillside to a pair of eyes staring in the dark.”

Human brains have not evolved through or for passivity! Literature allows one to pause and ponder, while TV, (unless you have a DVR) keeps on rolling. Even with a recorder, what most likely happens is that you pause it not to think, but to go do something else altogether. It is often dangerous to dive into a daydream during the day, but free thought via words is one of the few ways one can do this and not walk into open sewers. TV, through pulling from an often juvenile and oversimplified “manufactured for the masses” vocabulary, is bound to stick to the same old words, clichés, and idioms. It is no secret that the average number of words in our vocabularies tends to fall shamefully short to those of our forefathers. There are many good things about TV, but enhancing creative thought is rarely one of them. As a result many people dream only when they do have the time, while sleeping.

This is not exactly constructive to our original American dream. Happiness may be for the time safe, but how the heck are freedom and equality going to stand up against a tide of verbal stereotypes? Does that not lead to stagnation of thought? How are we going to truthfully express ourselves if we do not have the vocabulary? Shall we simply parrot what the news tells us without digestion? Is that healthy for a democracy? Or are we supposed to just “gloss it over” with a smile and hang back?

Hopefully, you have noticed the rotting of English linguistics with your own eyes and maybe you care. You may be wondering where we can turn to protect our language. You are probably standing on one of the most important battlefields right now, the University. Every university in the whole wide world is against this trend. The question is, How do we maintain our hungry minds once we leave? Maybe you are an active participant in some internet community. Or maybe you just use the internet. My point is that by reading and writing anything, you are part of the fight against stupidity. Or, like lemmings, forgetting about the power of words will fate us to the sea of the future with no idea how to swim. Our future rests on ideas.

Long live the free and literate world!