A stranger yelled at my wife the other day in the park. She’d taken our terriers off leash and a pedestrian took offense. Apparently, this other woman didn’t just get mad, she was irate, letting loose a torrent of expletives. My poor wife said she was too dumbfounded to respond, she just stared at this strange adult who was screaming at her.
Of course I felt bad for my spouse. On the other hand I’m pretty sure there’s a law against dogs being off their leashes. Even cute little buggers like ours. Regardless, that’s not what I want to discuss. What stood out for me about my wife’s tale: how rare situations like hers actually are. As mad as we might be personally, professionally, societally, we don’t yell at each other that much. Remarkable when you think about it. So let’s.
When was the last time someone not related to you yelled at you? For me, I can’t even remember. Maybe someone gave me the bird a few weeks ago from his car. But that’s about it. I’m guessing the road is where most verbal outbursts occur, yet people are generally moving and not in each other’s grill so to speak. I’m talking about screaming in your face. Like what happened to my wife. It’s pretty rare.
Turning the tables when was the last time you yelled at someone not related to you? Even more rare, isn’t it? Civilized people like us just don’t go off on each other.
Expressing anger, even righteous anger, is fairly uncommon. We may get or be pissed off on a daily basis but we seldom, if ever, express ourselves that way. It’s just not in our nature. Or it has been mightily repressed. Either way, when someone does go nuclear we not only notice we are also genuinely shocked by it. It’s ghoulishly fascinating. Which is why Reality TV is so full of drama queens and douche bags: folks wouldn’t watch otherwise. It’s also why these shows are so un-real in the first place. The characters are coached into tantrums. Really real adults seldom yell at one another, let alone five times a day.
Unless of course they’re mentally unhinged, intoxicated or, as I implied earlier, related. Sad but true. If you add your children or spouse or a parent into the mix suddenly the outbursts aren’t so infrequent, are they? Admit it. I am. In some ways I think our inability to lose it with strangers fuels are propensity for grousing with our kin. There’s definitely wisdom to that lyric, “you always hurt the one you love.”
My wife’s experience prompted me to think about yelling and screaming… again. Many years ago I learned that I couldn’t handle anger very well. I seethed. My IQ dropped. Upon outburst I was an incoherent buffoon. Kind of like Homer Simpson strangling his boy. As Doctor Bruce Banner (aka The Incredible Hulk) put it, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
I still get angry, yes. But I try very hard not to lose it. What’s the point? I’ve discovered that even when I “win” an argument I still feel like crap. Probably why I drank too much. And I had to stop that, too. For me “emotional sobriety” is damn near as precious.
Anger is a gateway emotion to hell. When one opens his or her trap in response to it, we get a glimpse into that hell. Thank God, then, it’s infrequently we do.
March 31, 2014
The Walking Dead season finale contained one of the most violent scenes I’ve witnessed in a film of any kind and it didn’t involve zombies at all. A ruthless gang of survivors had the protagonists of the series dead to rights. And then the heroes turned the tables, eliciting vile payback. Rick bit open the throat of his captor and then guts the heathen who was about to rape his son. More death. Like that.
The previous week’s episode featured the entirely unexpected murder of a young girl, who’d lost her mind and killed her sister trying to prove that her subsequent “turning” would be evidence that the undead were, what, normal? These episodes were brutal, nihilistic and, basically amazing.
The living people have become the walking dead themselves. They move forward killing everything in their paths, like zombies. The flicker of hope for humanity grows ever more dim. It’s barely there.
During a commercial break (yes, I watched the network broadcast) was a preview of a sequel to The Purge, a film about legalized crime including (and especially) murder. I didn’t see the original movie but enough people did to warrant a sequel.
Then came a Hyundai spot where you can build your own zombie killing car. Benign in terms of mayhem the spot is meant to be funny. I suppose…
My, oh my. So many visions of the Apocalypse! We Are What We Are is the title of a film about modern day cannibals, itself a remake of a Spanish film about people eaters.
I’ve been a horror fan since I can remember. The first real book I ever read for “fun” was Salem’s Lot. As a boy I thrilled at Hammer’s vision of the undead. Christopher Lee’s Dracula and his gory sexy brides formed my world view –or at least provided lurid escape from the sketchy real world: my parent’s divorce, step-father’s suicide, gang-bangers on every corner, teachers that didn’t give a shit, friends who had it worse than me and acted accordingly.
By comparison, fictional evil was somehow… attractive.
For me, hanging out with miscreants on the street corner was far more threatening. Pretending not to be scared in real life was a lot harder than bearing monsters in books and on screen. Enduring evermore-gruesome fictions was (and is) a way for a young man to demonstrate courage. It’s a theory.
And now you feel it don’t you? The mainstream embraces horror like never before, as I did as a teenager and still do. In films, books, comics, games, television, music and even commercials. Always profitable but formerly seedy, the horror genre has risen from the grave!
You have become like me, God have mercy on your souls.
Let’s be real. A good copywriter creates sweet myths because of and despite the bitterness of reality.
March 27, 2014
If the story is good does the truth even matter?
Watch the above clip from Mad Men, where the inimitable Don Draper delivers a moving story to a group of silver-haired Hershey clients in a pitch for their business. Then pause the clip. Think about what he said. It’s a gorgeously romantic picture, linking the venerable chocolate bar with all that is great about childhood, parenting, and indeed life in these United States.
And then he tells the truth.
With a roomful of happy clients, and as the media guy is going in for the close, Don does an about-face, a shocking one: admitting that, in fact, he was an orphan, raised in a Pennsylvania whorehouse. The story only gets sadder… and weirder. He ends it by recalling one of the prostitutes buying him a Hershey bar if he’d stolen enough cash from her john’s pockets while the pair were off “screwing.” Understandably, Don’s clients and partners are mortified. This grotesque portrait is the antithesis of Draper’s previous story. It is another brilliant glimpse into why this show and this character are so freaking special.
I think Don’s ability to create the first tale in spite of the second is precisely why Hershey should hire him anyway. The man is remarkably capable. That he can spin such a marvelous yarn while having no actual basis for it make him the consummate copywriter.
Occasionally, I, too, have had this morbid fantasy (death wish?) of exploding a pitch by telling the unvarnished truth. It’s not that I desire losing. Anything but. It’s just that sometimes I feel compelled to remind everyone in the room that we are all in the business of telling stories, that what we are creating together is grandiose fabrication. Strategy is merely the plot.
Though I wasn’t orphaned in a brothel, by most standards my childhood was far from ideal. Chances are neither was yours. The point is some of us were able to transcend our compromised upbringings by creating stories in our heads that made us, well, happier in our conditions. This ability may have started as a coping mechanism, then evolved into a means of survival. For me it became a vocation. I found I could create stories for brands that in turn made them “feel good.” I could make people want things they did not possess the same way I filled these wholes in myself: with myths.
Left brain thinkers often fail (refuse?) to realize that emotional connections to brands can be the result of deep seated anxieties or longings. Apple’s iconic “1984” commercial made obvious virtue of negative emotions, supplanting societal angst over a computer driven society by introducing the first personal computer. When Coca Cola made its epic “Buy the World a Coke” commercial it was interpreted as a love anthem, which it was. But beneath that song was perhaps a yearning by the copywriter for a world that absolutely did not exist, empirically and personally. Can you say Viet Nam? And it’s not just in ancient TV commercials. So much of what we do now –interstitially, experientially, et-cetera- is totally based on creation myths. Even a lowly banner beseeches us to take stock of our present situation and, upon finding it lacking, to take action. Click here for relief!
Critics admonish this ‘gift’ as duplicitous, which of course it is. Even the subhead of my own blog suggests as much. Sigh. It’s called copywriting. For most people the real world is deeply challenging. We believe in God to make us feel better. Well, guess what? We are made consumers for the same reason. Think about that next time you’re noshing on a chocolate bar.