Tuesday, February 02, 2010
KFC, which used to be Kentucky Fried Chicken, which used to be Colonel Sanders's Kentucky Fried Chicken, is running a television ad that simply will not stop. The theme of the ad is "Unthink." In the midst of snap cuts, the voice of Chris from "Northern Exposure" speaks without a pause, and the camera slams from close up to two shot to three to close up, to twirl about the product, to zoom on faces, to smoke from the hot food, and out and back. The camera work is like the party scenes from "Laugh In," when they wanted to show the go-go dancers, or like a kung fu fight scene, when they have a heavy set actor with hands softer than newly hatched ducklings and the director makes up for it with a stop-motion montage of poses that give the illusion that someone is actually moving.
It is absurd, of course, that they want us to "unthink." One can imagine the advertising pitch meeting: "Our goal is to get the consumer to forget everything they think about KFC. They think of us as grease and fat. We want them to un-think those thoughts."
One could note that this is taking place even as the Republicans are trying to get us to unthink in the same way, which is to say forget, everything. For example, they maintain that the economic collapse is after Obama's inauguration. That is flatly not true, and they know it, but that's not the point: the point is to unthink. From polls that add up to 165% to disagreeing with themselves to being for pay as you go, until it's proposed by the president, there is a campaign of relying on public ignorance of what goes on in Congress or a campaign to cause unthink.
However, it isn't merely the "unthink" that gets me. Chris from "Northern Exposure" (when the actor is just a voice over, he's Chris from "Northern Exposure," since that was his use on that show -- the voice of calm, of philosophy, of moralizing, and therefore the actor providing a voice over for restaurants is curious and challenging) reads copy that requires unthinking, too -- unthinking the English language.
What Chris from "Northern Exposure" promises us, if we merely go into KFC, is the exciting opportunity, once we manage the Zen Koan of UNTHINK (possess nothing... hold emptiness... think the unthought) is that "great fall off the bone flavor." Now, synesthesia is fine. I have no problem smelling a beat, tasting a vision, or feeling a fart, but I do wonder what the taste of falling off "the bone" is.
Is this the taste of gangrene, or merely necrosis?
There are some of you without access to U.S. television sets, and many more who have not seen this campaign. To you, I say, "Congratulations." In fact, my topic today is, of course, to respond to the monumental insult of this campaign, but I cannot see it in isolation. I see in it either a profound laziness and unthinking response on the part of the client (KFC's marketing chicken wing), or a very nasty coalescing of cultural currents, whereby many are now concluding that Americans are not only extremely stupid, but that they are incapable of being otherwise, and "thinking," "thought," "knowledge," and "English" are alike detriments.
Consider the Tea Party jackanapes. These creatures are bizarre. They showed up, spurred on by FoxNews Channel, to protest Obama immediately after his inauguration -- before he had any legislation passed -- to protest what he was doing. They were supposedly protesting all the taxes he was inflicting, even though he hadn't proposed, much less passed, a single tax. They screamed their anger, carried guns, flirted with the Lyndon LaRouche crazies, mixed libertarian, racist, GOP loyalist, racist, and independent deficit hawks together, and they were funded by Dick Armey. See their attempts at a convention. They were angry first, had the reasons second.
Thinking and facts, reasons and reasonableness, were not appropriate. Those things were either afterthoughts or signs of, as with Sarah Palin's discourse, "Gotcha journalism." Questions were all traps, and knowledge was all unnecessary. The emotion was real, and that was sufficient.
They were ready for fall off the bone flavor.