People's pockets aren't overflowing with cash, so commercials have 15 to 30 seconds to convince you that their thing is worth it, and the other 70 things like it aren't. To sell you, they aim high with big, often ridiculous stories that linger on the brain in some form or another, waiting to pounce the moment a need for their product arises.
Their narratives are usually high-concept ideas that look like they're set on an alternate Earth in another timeline. The stories are small, but often the implications those stories leave behind can be huge. So, I used this column as an excuse to watch a lot of TV and think way, way too deeply about some commercials that are (mostly) on the air right now (at least in the U.S.; sorry, everyone else). Turns out there's some crazy shit going down in the worlds created by commercials.
#4. DirecTV: An Unseen God Physically Controls a Family
We know of only one family in the world of DirecTV's new ad campaign promoting their wireless receiver box -- a husband and a wife and their son. The husband is no different from the rest of us. He has that everyman quality commercials love. His wife and son are nightmares that jitter around on wires, oblivious to how uncoordinated they are.
Their wires trail up through the ceiling of their home, presumably phasing through solid matter and into the sky. They're marionettes, so the only logical conclusion in this hallucination of a world is this: The wife and son's every action, and possibly every word they speak, is being controlled by an unseen god.
It's hard to tell how far this implication reaches beyond the walls of the family's home, but I've got some ideas:
1) The husband is being toyed with by a childish god. His life is like The Truman Show meets Team America. If this is the case, if this unseen god is messing with this guy for its own amusement, it's doing a shitty job of it. The husband seems happy. He cares for his puppet wife and son. When doubt of his love creeps in after he complains about the "ugly wires" of the receiver box, he quells their fears as a loving father would. When his human friend seems put off by his puppet wife, he defends her:
He's a great guy who doesn't seem to be aware that he's ruining a petulant god's fun time.
2) We're seeing a world long after everyone has gotten over the fact that a huge segment of the population had been taken over and controlled by an unseen master. They don't even question it. It just is (although some are just as uncomfortable around people who are different in this world as they are in ours). The guy's friend is put off by the presence of the marionette wife. Some still aren't used to it, and maybe harbor some hatred toward wired folk.
I like the second option, because it implies that the wired folk can potentially have their strings cut, revert back to their human form, and regain their free will. But it also implies that when the puppet wife dances to sexually entice her husband ...
... she's being forced to do that, just as she's been forced to have sex with him for years and bear his child.
"Kill ... me ..."
Christ. If the fact that people were turned into marionettes by an unseen force is common knowledge, what does that say about the husband?
#3. State Farm: All Insurance Companies Are Run by Genies
Whenever someone has damage to be claimed, they summon a State Farm agent to their exact location by singing the famous State Farm jingle: "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." Poof!
Speak the words and they shall appear, like the Candy Man or Beetlejuice, if those guys assessed damage instead of causing it. Clearly, in this commercial universe, State Farm representatives are magical. But it's their more impressive second power that lets us know exactly what they are. This one's the best example:
One of the guys in the apartment summons a sandwich. The friends then test the limits of the agent's powers by summoning a pretty girl from a nearby apartment, and then a hot tub. There's absolutely nothing State Farm agents can be other than genies, or jinn, if you want to be specific. Simply by being a State Farm customer, you are allowed to make what seems like unlimited wishes as long as you need to make an insurance claim. That's an incentive so good, you'd think State Farm would be a monopoly. They've got an army of genies in Brooks Brothers suits who will give you anything you want, on top of making sure you get money to cover damages. Yet there are other insurance companies out there:
When the guy without State Farm tries to summon his insurance agent, he gets his elderly mother instead. The other companies are magic-based like State Farm, but their genies are pathetic. They're the underachieving genies who couldn't get out of a lamp even if it was rubbed.
"You want your insurance agent? Here's your stupid old mom!"
The best genies in the world -- the ones who will be by your side in a flash and give you exactly what you need/want -- banded together for some ridiculous, very dull reason to start an insurance company. All other insurance companies struggling to retain market share had to scramble to find genies of their own to compete. All they found were a bunch of genie college dropouts who don't give half a fuck about their jobs. The pay probably sucks, the hours are pathetic, and the genies will never be able to summon sandwiches, hot chicks, or hot tubs. When their brains pick up on a customer requesting to find them ways to save money, they respond: "Oh, you want me to find you more money? Here's an old guy teasing you with a dollar!"
Before picking up their bong, they shout into the receiver of their brain phone, "Get a job, bitch. What am I, a fucking genie? Well, I am, but ... whatever."