Thursday, September 29, 2011

Warning: These Dogs Are Manipulating You!

I'm always amazed at how prevalent dogs are in advertising. Puppies are used to draw one kind of response; Boston Terriers another; Great Danes are often laying about the furniture, but aren't they just too cute about it.

Our pets are used as a sort of emotional shorthand. I don't necessarily mind this manipulation, but certainly I'm beginning to wonder if the public is capable of processing real emotions in this age of symbols.

You can bet advertisers are not often going to show a family of whelping puppies and the sagging teats of the mother dog. Reality ruins the symbolism.

I'm pretty sure the sides in the pit bull debate can be drawn up pretty easily. Let's see: I'll bet 98% of Hells Angels think pit bulls are pretty cool. Cat owners hate them. That guy down the street who lets his dog run the neighborhood, he likes pit bulls too-- at least he thinks there shouldn't be any sort of a ban on them. Dogs are often a symbol of rebellion or freedom for some folks.

What's it all mean?

Take Ren and Stimpy. The sheer brilliance of those characters wasn't just the shaking Ren and the Stimpy with the filthy cat box. Actually those characters were fleshed out quite well. Ren was portrayed as a nihilistic intellectual, while Stimpy was more dog than cat. Just imagine if Stimpy had been drawn and acted like an aloof feline that we often see. The show never would have made it to air. But make Stimpy kind of a dope, give him the voice of Larry from The Three Stooges and suddenly the show was a can't miss for all the repressed adolescents in America.

But the manipulation of your feelings isn't as sophisticated as the above-mentioned cat and dog cartoon. We are victims of the idea that everything can be represented quickly and easily by a word, a sound byte, a catchphrase, or a photo or video clip. Are we loosing the ability to think?

Your detergent can make your clothes whiter than white, but heaven forbid that the same detergent has "white power."

I might think Sarah Palin is a bit of an idiot for her reliance weaving homespun rhetoric into the conversation instead of discussing the issues. Nonetheless, many people would fault President Obama for his rhetorical intellectualism. Neither politician seems to have an answer to the malaise that has overtaken this country. However you see it, these people are symbols. It's easy to agree or disagree with a symbol. It's not so easy to discern the shades of gray in their characters or their political stances.

I can't use the N-word, but I can't use niggardly either. By the way, the words are from two totally different origins-- of course you knew that.

Gay Marriage.
Universal Health Care.
Immigration Reform.
Affirmative Action.
The Cat Lady

Yippee! I've got an opinion on all of them. But the words themselves shouldn't dictate the discussion. Even putting a "No" in front of some of the words doesn't necessarily define the debate.

No Gay Marriage
No Universal Health Care might explain one's feelings, but No Immigration Reform might mean that things should remain the same or that the reforms should be more restrictive.

I suppose a crusade to think more before we react is needed. Oh my! Did I say "crusade?" Sorry, so sorry.

verb /kro͞oˈsād/ 
crusaded, past participle; crusaded, past tense; crusades, 3rd person singular present; crusading, present participle
  1. Lead or take part in an energetic and organized campaign concerning a social, political, or religious issue
    • - he crusaded against gambling in the 1950s
How does The Cat Lady fit in with the other words? Come on, how evocative are those three words?

It's all just so easy to manipulate people. Just think about it.