Air Force Zero: Obama, the Dems & a whole lotta slidin' going on
Commercials, if they’re good, capture and transmit back the sense and mood of the masses quickly. They have to – how can you sell stuff if you’re completely tone-deaf to what’s going on around you? Imagine seeing an ad today featuring a doctor espousing the smooth flavour of a Marlboro smoke. Forget that nowadays an ad like that is so illegal it’s mere existence would lead to both the tobacco executive and network suit responsible for airing it being drawn and quartered by anti-smoking zealots. That time is no more. Everyone knows what doctors think about smoking – at least in public – and an ad that moronic would fall flat, because the mood of the nation has changed. The zeitgeist has shifted.
Now zeitgeist is one of those words that everyone hears, and kind of knows the meaning of, but still manages to get used pretty sloppily. Its official meaning is “the spirit of the times” or “of the age” but more often than not it’s applied a little too specifically to things. The zeitgeist is invoked for everything from Vampires to Harry Potter to Lady Gaga to its latest wannabee, Steven Slater. Still, zeitgeist or not, each fad does share a certain ownership of the cultural mood of the masses so when I see an ad that hogties such a touchstone so efficiently (and for it’s own ends) I can’t help but be impressed.
Steven Slater, to those emerging from beneath the largest of rocks, is the now famous JetBlue flight attendant who apparently had a really bad day at work. What exactly caused the resultant blow-up is in dispute but the fun started when he grabbed the intercom, cursed out the entire cabin, pulled the emergency cord to activate the inflatable escape route and then, after grabbing a few brews, slid his way to unemployment and news cycle notoriety. The first twenty-four hours or so saw him hailed as working class hero fighting back against the thoughtless cruelty endured by blue-collar toilers everywhere while the period hence has been more directly focused on how much of an angel Herr Slater actually was. Bottom line: Dude quit his job in one of the coolest ways possible and for that he will most certainly find himself included in at least a few “the year just passed” round-ups come New Years Eve 2010. I did want to note that, for the record, if McDonald’s had had any sort of inflatable escape hatch my own dramatic leap into unemployment would have rocked way harder than it actually did (Sorry for throwing that tube of McChicken sauce Eddie).
Anyway, the image of a guy sliding his way to freedom from a jet was set in our collective consciousness and the GOP, that stodgiest of US political power parties, picked it up and turned it into an awesome smackdown of their supposed opposites, the Democrats.
In the spot, we see a South Park style animation mock-up of Air Force One sitting on a run way. We cut inside the cabin and Mr Hope and Change himself (as Captain) is announcing to a plane full of his “fellow Democrats” that he’s just about ready to depart Washington and go on a national fundraising tour to “your home states.” Camera goes tight on “Captain” Obama. “That’s right, I’m coming to your home towns.” He intones. Let the panic begin. Terrified, the Dem politicos all start jumping ship (Steven Slater-style) as various news clips and interviews justifying the image as presented are featured on a TV insert adjacent the cascade of political asylum seekers. The commercial is hilariously spot-on, both for its animated style but also for the speed with which it was executed. You can’t wait around when the universe hands you a “zeitgeist moment” like Steven Slater and for once the party of elephants didn’t. To take their opponents internal issues and affix them so perfectly to a meme like this is a work of evil genius (more evil than genius though, if one were to ask attractive rocker and toilet paper freedom fighter, Sheryl Crow).
Anyway, I’m sure it was an aberration as the Republican brain trust is likely hard at work dissipating whatever default goodwill they’ve received thanks to their equally mutton-headed opponents. Great ads aside, what I think we all need is a lot less politics and a whole lot more anarchy. Revolutions seem fun at first (pulling the cord and jumping down inflatable slides) but once the excitement dies down you still find yourself up on charges with the rulers of the day. Living out your twilight years as some honoured guest of a political gulag isn’t any fun, and it doesn’t matter which party is running the show. At least with anarchy (or a softer version of it) there’s no illusion of structure. Real freedom is kinda scary, isn’t it?