The Year Of the Dog
First of all, I must admit that the prospect of returning to the United States after an absence of 17 years was something I looked upon with both excitement and trepidation… after all, though somewhere deep In my childhood memories I had Nabisco and the Price is Right, Crystal Lite and Bubble Tape, the media maelstrom I was presented with on my recent holiday trips back to New York, and now, living in Cambridge, was of a new echelon altogether. I was not prepared at 8am, for example the Lil’ Debbie commercial where a crowd of children chime in in broken and brassy harmony to persuade each and every one of us to buy pastries called “ding dongs” with the air of demented cherubs. In fact, at this hour the commercial scared me so much I had to turn it off and run into the other room and reach for the radio dial for solace. As we all know TV, not the eye, is the window to the soul, or at least to the superego of a nation: meeting the US through commercials, talk shows, and entertainment news, sitcoms galore, Roll up Roll up! Bad enough for me, an itinerant transatlantic scholar, but I really despair for the mental cohesion of those international students adrift in an alien culture and foreign language confronted by dancing peanuts with monacles and low carb’ bread, (a contradiction in terms, n’est ce pas?). It’s enough to tug at the edges of sanity. And the peanut goes tappity tappity tappity…
In any case…let us illustrate, dear reader, a moment in the chasm of cultural intelligibility: Our Hero (me. I’m writing this, so I may as well take the opportunity to be the hero, eh?) leans back on a bank of red cushions, beer in hand after reading all day (ha!) like any good Harvard student (ha!), to enjoy what the evening’s fine selection of programming has to offer her. “Give Kids What They Crave!” Cut to children screaming in near falsetto…”mine tastes like a cheeseburger!!!”…choruses of mock excitement verging on chemical orgasm as pyjamad ten year olds holler their corporate delight over microwaveable pastry packages of colored filler oozing with synthetic flavoring!! Our hero sits up, beer still in hand and considers the underhanded politics of advertising to children. Mutters underneath her breath…”markets, million dollar markets created out of clogging ten year old arteries,..” clenching her bottle and raising it aloft she decries lost innocence, filled with revolutionary zeal and utters a phrase at once eloquent and concise:
She settles back into her political armchair, feeling she has accomplished her civic duty in a suitably noble, concise and empty fashion and is now done with polemics for the evening.
And then it comes on, the most supremely ironic placement, the crème de la crème of the talents of blasé commercial programmers…and she wonders, “surely this is a mistake, surely the irony of this juxtaposition would escape no one, or is there some kid at the controls playing with everyone’s head???”…
“Delicious, and healthful! Specially designed New puppy food for a strong digestive tract, good immune system, and healthy shiny coat…help your best friend to live a long and healthy life with a balance of natural protein and carbohydrates, vitamin enriched, and with a real meat taste he’ll love.”
In the moments before the opening strains of the plug for Growing Up Gotti, our hero sits dumbfounded and silent.
“I’d rather eat the dog food.”