Big Brother is watching … No, really, he is

I’ve read the memes and I’ve heard the jokes about “big brother” and how he is ever vigilant in watching what everyone does. However, I’ve never really experienced it until this week. Oh, sure, I’ve been known to look at “must haves” on Amazon or Etsy and then suddenly, up pops an ad for the very same thing on my Facebook feed. I think everyone who spends any amount of time online has faced that disturbing scenario.  But … to ramp up the surreal nature of targeted ads, not to mention creep factor, “big brother” upped the ante this week.

My daughter and I were talking … TALKING … about mochi ice-cream (a yummy Japanese ice cream confection made with a traditional mochi outer-layer) in the grocery store as we stood in front of the refrigerated section staring at said product. I’ll admit, we discussed the topic at length, comparing flavors, deciding which was our favorite from past forays into the mochi dessert menus at various Japanese steakhouses, and waffling back and forth as to whether we should buy some now. Not being telepathic, our conversations were verbal. I know that may seem like an odd distinction to make, but it’s important for me that you know that, because I’m convinced it plays into what happened next.

Our phones were off as they dwelled deep within our pockets … there wasn’t a computer to be seen … I didn’t catch sight of a grocery clerk with a clipboard taking notes or a men-in-black representative lurking about, yet the next day, what pops up on my Facebook feed? You guessed it. An ad for mochi ice-cream. And not just ANY mochi ice cream – but the very same brand and two flavors we were looking at in the grocery store.

You tell me. WTF?


We Interrupt this Program…

So, I was watching TV yesterday.  “When am I not?” is the question to ask. I constantly have it running in the background. Movies, as you guys know, are my thing. So I’m frequently watching AMC, TCM, or some of the other late night classic movie channels.  I also just discovered a terrific series called Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries so I will admit to some binge watching here recently (both on regular TV and Netflix).  Luckily Netflix has no commercials. Other channels?  Not so much.

So, every ten minutes or so, during whatever movie or show I’m watching, there comes a dramatic pause and there are five minutes, if not more, of commercials. Arrgghh!

Can any of you remember back in the 70s and 80s when there were two minutes or so of commercials, max, and then it was right back to the TV show or movie? For a TV series, half-hour episodes were 28 minutes long, hour-long episodes were like 55 minutes long.  Today, it seems like sit-coms are 22 minutes long (although perhaps that’s a good thing!) and the drama series are like 45 minutes at most. If you don’t believe me, just check out those same episodes on Netflix and see the actual “run-time” for yourself.

But, I can understand the need for commercials, in a way, as it costs a lot to make a good TV series these days, considering how much they have to pay the actors and how much decent special effects cost and the lovely costumes and the like. (And I do so yearn for those days, just a few short years ago, when most of the shows on TV were good dramas and sitcoms, and not this reality show crap that seems to permeate every station nowadays.  I mean, come on….who cares if Honey has a Boo Boo or whatever the heck that show is! I’m just thankful that one is not on any more.)

But I digress.

So, I was watching TV, and the show stopped and the commercials came on, and I was too comfortable to stretch out for the remote and mute the TV until the ads were over.

And the first commercial that came on was a “Messin’ with Sasquatch” one, advertising Jacks Links beef jerky. These “Messin’ with Sasquatch” commercials have been around for years and are very popular – which to me is just a sad state of affairs.

Because what is each one about? A group of “goofball Americans” sees a Sasquatch napping, or eating, and decides to “mess” with him. Sasquatch gets angry and throws the young punks around. There was one where the female instigator went headfirst into an outhouse, for example. And well, yeah, she deserved it, but still. What are those commercials really saying?  That people who see a 7-foot-tall hirsute Sasquatch are too stupid to realize that they’ve got a fortune on their hands if they simply snap a photo of the damn thing, and instead are just compelled to bully it, haze it… whatever descriptive terms you want to use…

Yet they’re popular… otherwise Jack Links wouldn’t keep making them.

(And, as an aside, I find them less annoying than Jack Links’ other commercial slogan, “Feed your wild side,” with a wild animal coming out of a person’s chest to eat a piece of beef jerky ala Alien).

Commercials, for the most part, used to be for somewhat intelligent people, right?  I mean at least they weren’t for idiots.

How did we go from Santa racing through a snow-covered village on a Norelco sled, which was some pretty damn clever advertising, to a fungus-infected-toenail playing football?? I mean, please, please, please can someone answer that question??

I suppose commercials throughout the decades have always oscillated between the really cute and intelligent ones, and the ones that are so offensive that you feel stupider after watching them for 30 seconds.

Now, the commercials from the 1950s could be sexist, of course. Heck, from the 1950s right up until the 1970s. Both print and t.v. ads were filled with “helpful” advice for housewives on how to be better… well, wives. Since that’s pretty much all they were good for.

But those were sexist times.  Today, you’d think commercials would have evolved, but they really haven’t. Sex sells. As we all well know. So the ads have unfortunately gone downhill in that regard. But as for the gender stereotypes, now it just seems the extreme is on the other foot.

In the past it was the woman who was the homemaker and the man who knew best. Today, it’s the kids who know best, the mom who is almost as intelligent as the kids, and the dad who is totally clueless. And even if there are no kids in the commercial and it’s between boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife, it’s the wife who is intelligent and knows what she wants, and the husband who is dumber than a box of rocks.  That’s really just as bad a stereotype as the other way around.

Oh, there are still some cute ones that have a point, a moral if you will. Like the Budweiser commercials during the Super Bowl where the Clydesdales found another four-legged friend.  Love conquers all. Not surprisingly, I love these!

But do we really want the image that the latest commercial slogan “Go Cottonelle and Go Commando” conjures up floating around in our heads? I mean really!? All I think of when I see this commercial are the people who buy the bargain basement brand.  Just…ewww.

Then there are the commercials that take a more subtle approach. They tell a little story and you don’t even know what product they’re trying to sell until the very end. Those are the kinds of ads I can get behind. Oh sure, I know it’s subliminal advertising, but I don’t care. It makes the 3 to 5 minutes in-between my shows a bit more interesting and I like that.  It’s like a show within a show.

So, I have to wonder, what are advertisers thinking when they put certain commercials on the air.  Do they really think people are so stupid as to buy things because stupid people in stupid commercials extol their virtues in some stupid way? If they do think that, I have to say I seriously hope that they’re wrong. I mean, what does that say about society and people today?

I’d like to do without commercials altogether. (Yeah, like that’s going to happen, I know!)  But if we MUST have them, for goodness sake at least make them interesting and somewhat intelligent, or at the least cute or clever. Please.  Is that really too much to ask?