Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Saturday, February 25, 2006


Life Takes Monstrous Gluttony

I've been watching the hell out of the Olympics this year. This has a lot to do with the fact that my wife has been out of town and even more to do with the fact that I'm too poor to have many alternatives to extended television viewing. Because of the amount of time I've spent watching the coverage on NBC, MSNBC, USA and CNBC, I now have a working knowledge of the rules and strategies of curling. Never in my life thought that I'd have even the slightest interest in a sport that unabashedly goofy, but I watched the men's and women's gold medal rounds.

This knowledge has not come, though, without a price. I've been exposed to hours and hours of ads during these Olympic games. I've already discussed some of these ads in brief, but I have yet to address the one commercial image that's been haunting me, even more so since I read my Entertainment Weekly this morning and discovered that a print campaign being run in conjunction with this TV spot is recycling this horrifying image for people who prefer print media to cable television.

I'm talking about Visa's "Life Takes Visa" campaign. You can watch the main commercial right here if you haven't already seen it. It's fairly innocuous, I suppose, on most levels. Just another series of shots of people living life to its fullest, largely due to the fact that they have Visa cards. It talks about all the things one needs to live a meaningful life. Standard stuff, like passion, joy, spontaneity, etc.

And then they get to Determination.

I realize--I do--that the ad is meant to be funny. "Oh, look! They say you need 'risk' and then, ha-ha, they have a guy, tee-hee, pouring questionable milk into his coffee! Nyuck-nyuck-nyuck!" But I am still just...I guess I'd have to say I'm disturbed by the fact that they illustrate the point that life takes determination by showing a guy in a greasy-looking restaurant trying to eat a cheeseburger the size of his head.

Now, I'll concede a point here: it would, I admit, take a lot of determination to eat a five pound cheeseburger. But it would take a lot more of something else: stupidity. If they wanted use this image of gluttony to say, "Life takes stupidity", then I wouldn't object to it. But they're not. They're saying that the only thing that's going to get that huge chunk of dead cow down that guy's throat is the same determination that it takes to become a U.S. Senator. (Or something along those lines.)

They are saying--even on their jokey level--that you have to admire someone who walks into a restaurant and decides to stuff enough beef to feed a family of six in his mouth. Well, see, you don't have to admire that. The fact that so many Americans do seem to hold this sort of binging in high esteem speaks volumes about why this country's six-year-olds are ready for SlimFast shakes.

Yeah, yeah. "Just an ad." "Meant to be humorous." Blah blah blah blah blah.

I guess this hits me so hard because I once made the mistake of trying to eat a huge burger myself. I was working at a tool and die shop after my freshman year of college. A bunch of the guys ordered food from this diner that delivered and, when I took a look at the menu, I decided I'd order a "Gutbuster". The Gutbuster was a half-pound burger on a home-made bun. I was hungry. It sounded good.

When the food arrived, and I held the Gutbuster in my hands, it looked so huge. I was scared. Hell, I was just a kid. What'd I know about the hazards of dumping a full pound of red meat down your gullet? So I did it. I managed to eat the whole friggin' thing.

And then I spent the next three hours wishing I could take my digestive system out and run it through a carwash. You've seen pictures of a snake lying immobile on a rock while its stomach starts to work on the water buffalo that you can actually see poking through its skin? That's how I felt. I could have died. It was touch and go there for awhile. And now Visa wants people to think that huge burgers are a life-goal?

For shame, Visa. For shame.