Monday, February 25, 2008

Your Call

I’ve done something I’ve never done before. Let me first explain, I've studied media and marketing, and that I know just by talking about it, I am promoting this product, that marketers no longer seem to care about negativity, only that their product is mentioned. I'm doing it anyway.

After seeing a commercial twice on TV, I called the Frito-Lay company and complained about their commercial made by Goodby, Silverston and Partners. The commercial in question takes place in a laundromat with two women. In a snotty voice the tired older woman tells the younger, who has just picked up a piece of the woman's clothing from the floor, ‘that other people are trying to do their laundry, too.’ Huh? Did I miss something? Obviously the woman missed something, like she was being helped? You know you can't trust older people; they're blind, all kids know that. The girl sees an imaginary Chester Cheetah who tells her, ‘Felicia, those are her whites in the dryer.’ Where upon Felicia sneaks over and puts a handful of Cheetos in the dryer. Oh good a revenge prank! How funny. You can see this on You Tube.

Most of the comments about the commercial on You Tube seemed positive (probably from the 18 to 23 crowd who have never done six or more loads of family laundry in a laundromat — do you suppose this applies to those who dreamed this ad up at advertising company, too?), but I think most of the kudos were for the young actress, Felicia Day, who has at least five comedic episodes about a group of computer gamers she wrote and acted called ‘the Guild’ on You Tube. Very funny stuff. The commercial has the same insouciance as the You Tube episodes. Since I haven't seen this commercial lately on national TV, I'm assuming they placed it on You Tube to reach their target market.

The woman from Frito-Lay® (I had to go to their Cheetos® website and with a little searching found a number — and guess what? The website is aimed at children) was very polite and said Frito-Lay® was always interested in their customers' views, both good and bad. I explained I love Fritos® (good kayaking snack), I love Cheetos®, too (just have to contain my love for these fat laden products), but told her what I thought about the commercial. She offered me some coupons, and I accepted and hung up. A few days later I received an envelope in the mail with three coupons for any Frito-Lay® product up to $3.49 and a letter. I guess I wasn’t the only one who was appalled at the ad's message. The letter stated the commercial was ‘intended to be a tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted way for us to talk about Cheetos®’ … and … ‘In the adult-focused advertising, Chester Cheetah has gone from a larger than life character to an inner, mischievous voice for adults.’

Speech fails me. My mind reels and spirals downward on so many levels over this whole episode. If interested, go view the commercial and form your own opinion. If you like light-hearted mischievously vengeful, well hell, I’ve just passed into the old fogy part of my existence and my steps have slowed too much to keep pace with today’s society. If you are impressed or unimpressed, call Frito-Lay® at 1-800-352-4477. They answer the phone Monday — Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Central Standard Time. At least the coupons pay for your time. I wonder if Frito-Lay® is going to pay for all the re-dos of white laundry loads? Because you know some young 'adult' is going to think its just too funny to pass up a prank opportunity and snippy elders abound in laundromats.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Allegory from an Unknown Age

I love science fiction and fantasy even though I’m selective in the types I read. I think all this conglomerate genre’s readers are. For instance, horror has never interested me. I’ve found enough of that in real life. There are millions of devotees, though. My preference is for space opera and other world fantasy. Lately I’ve also enjoyed some urban fantasy and paranormal selections. The thing is, the genre must constantly change. You can only read Lord of the Rings retold a finite number of times.

Why have these themes been packed into this genre? Probably because they all exist in a time and place that never was whether the setting is the past, the present or the unknown future. They are based on the ‘Once upon a time’ premise, the world of the folktale.
Now you and I both know that all fiction is, well, fiction – made up, a fantasy of the author’s mind, so in fact all fiction is fantasy. However, most fiction is placed in the world we know, the real time and place of our earthly reality.

Study of mythology, folk tales and fairytales has given new insights into these often scary stories passed on by oral tradition to the next generation. By consensus it is fairly well established that these forms are allegories. Life lessons presented as entertainment.

To refresh your memory, an allegory is a story in which the characters and events represent abstract ideas, so that two stories are told, that of the literal words on the page and a second, parallel story deep with symbolic meaning.
From my reading of the genre I know the best often offer a deeper message, one of hope or warning, or one that deals with controversial issues in a less threatening make-believe world. Isn't that truly what scifi/fantasy is? A genre of allegories from an unknown age for readers of every age. Doesn't that work better than some critics who believe scifi/fantasy to be the blathering of someone's too wild imagination? Don't all stories come from the collective consciousness of mankind?

So here, I think, is the attraction of scifi/fantasy, the once upon a world that might have been or has yet to be.