The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

USING HISTORY TO PUT DOWN OTHERS
I've got a problem with one of television commercials the Library of Congress has been running. The only place I've ever seen it run is the Sci-Fi Channel.

The commercial opens with a dim-looking pizza delivery guy driving through a sun-soaked neighborhood, trying to find the right house. Cut to a bald, chunky, glasses-wearing, couch-potato dude, who opens a window and yells, "Over here!" to the pizza guy. Next shot, the dopey pizza guy is running through the front lawn, trying to avoid the running sprinklers, until he gets to the door and hands the pizza to Mr. Couch Potato. As Potato counts the money, he looks at the delivery guy and, in a condescending tone, starts this exchange (somewhat paraphrased):

Potato: Did you know that the first man to break the sound barrier was Chuck Yeager, back in '47?
Pizza: (smiling, with a blank look on his face): Um... nope.
Potato: (haughtily) I didn't think so.


Potato hands over the money, takes his pie, and shuts the door on the delivery guy. A voiceover starts that says something like, "It's fun learning things about American history, find out more at loc.gov." End of commercial.

My problem with this spot? Where the hell does that couch potato motherfucker get off trying to diss the pizza delivery boy? One look at the fatty and you can see he's a loser. Trying to make himself feel superior by dropping knowledge on a dimwit only makes him even more of a loser. He especially sounds like an ass by saying, "back in '47"--as though he were actually there and a part of it. Not to mention that memorizing a few scattered historical dates and events hardly makes anyone a history buff. Dweeb!

And I've gotta question why this message was the one they decided to put across. Is your motivation for learning more about American history supposed to be the ability to show off how much you know, and how little others know? Does a perusal of the LOC website give you a leg up over minimum-wage drones? Wow, I'd better high-tail it over there quick!

It's amusing to think that the Sci-Fi Channel is the only place this particular spot may be running. I'm sure a high percentage of the channel's viewership is made up of nerdy braniacs with whom such a message might resonate. Still, the presentation makes me question why anyone would be swayed by this.

I'm aware that the LOC is trying to project a carefree, hip image to counter the traditionally musty reputation associated with historical scholarship. Some of their other spots have been pretty funny: The ones where kids try to play catch with cardboard cutouts of George Washington, Abe Lincoln, etc. were especially memorable. But this one is just dumb, and counterproductive.