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Just Do Me

This column is local inasmuch as it takes place in your living room.

The other day I was watching television. Because I couldn't find the muter, or remote control, I was forced to sit through a commercial. Halfway through that sucker, I saw something more offensive than a car salesman who doesn't clean up after his dog. It was a subliminal message. There is something inherently evil about subliminal messages. They are so... 1984. There's thought crime, there's Newspeak, and then there is the subliminal message. In case you are unfamiliar, this is an advertisement that passes before your eyes so quickly that your conscious mind can't register it, yet it somehow sticks in your subconscious. We've all seen the experiments in which psychologists increased popcorn sales at theaters by flashing "invisible" pictures during the movie, but those were conducted by, like, Fred Flintstone. Why haven't we heard about them lately? Or maybe we have heard about them and just don't know it...

For me, the subliminal message is the most devious form of advertising to date. If advertisers have something to say to me, I don't think they should sneak it past me like a Trojan Horse. They should present it to me for my willing review. Television isn't free at all. It costs us our innocence, our connection to other humans, and, in this case, our freedom of choice. Let's point a collective finger - your choice - at the consumer psychologist. If you are one of them, shame on you. The consumer psychologist is someone who schools extensively to learn everything they can about the human psyche, then use that knowledge to manipulate our behavior on behalf of Corporate America. The consumer psychologist brought us cigarette-smoking Camel Joe. The consumer psychologist brought us the World Wrestling Federation. The consumer psychologist brought us subliminal messages.

I must admit that I'm a paranoid man. One night I called the police on my newspaper boy because I saw him running from a neighbor's house at four in the morning. I haven't received a paper on my doorstep ever since. You wouldn't believe how long a guy can hold a grudge for being held at gunpoint. Even so, I think we should address this issue "for reals." MTV is presenting two cajillion pictures per second to our poor kids, who can't possibly digest it all. No wonder they have trouble concentrating and occasionally kill each other at parties. Gatorade, ESPN, Sunday morning funnies - they are all flashing pictures so quickly that I got a headache trying to figure them out. Maybe someday there won't be commercials at all. They'll just weave their advertisements into the nanosecond intervals between the frames of a program. The word "program," then, becomes a double entendre. If you're unfamiliar, that is a pretentious way of saying it has two meanings.

Of course, I can always "let it go" as it has been suggested to me. Instead of being an oversensitive "sublimevangelist," I could sit back, open a beer, and let it all wash over me as they do in Mainstream, America. My motto could be Just do me. But I like to think that I belong to a more discerning audience, one that demands to see what it is watching and hear what it is listening to. I like to think that others may also find it offensive to be unknowingly penetrated by The Man. Consider this. The next time you're in the store reaching for a bag of Doritos instead of Frito Lays, it may have nothing do with taste. It may just be the power of suggestion.


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