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7:00 p.m. - Saturday, Jan. 17, 2004
I keep thinking of those strange Hallmark commercials that were running before Christmas. In one, you see some people sitting around in awkward silence; it's a party teetering on the brink of miserable failure. Suddenly the hostess reaches down and activates the Hallmark Mr. and Mrs. Snowman figurine set on the coffee table. Mr. and Mrs. Snowman burst into a tinny rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," all the guests start laughing delightedly, and the party is saved. Cut to a brief closing scene, where the prospective hostess is standing in the Hallmark store with Mr. and Mrs. Snowman clutched to her bosom and a dreamy expression on her face: you realize that everything you've just seen is the prospective hostess's fantasy of how Mr. and Mrs. Snowman will save her party from disaster, if need be. Fin.

Second commercial: grandmother gets into car where granddaughter is sitting, listening to music at a very high volume. Granddaughter does not turn music down as grandmother tries to begin a shouted conversation. Grandmother places Hallmark teddy bear on dashboard and makes it start playing digital-chip music. Granddaughter finally turns down music. Says, "That's cute. Does it go any louder?" (Amusing.) Cut to closing scene — yes, grandmother in Hallmark store, teddy bear clutched to bosom, dreamy expression on face.

What I find so bizarre is that neither commercial shows the Hallmark customer actually buying the product. The commercial isn't saying: this is what our product did for this person. It's saying: this is what this poor, deluded fool thinks our product will do for her. You have to be a poor, deluded fool to think that a cheap figurine set with a digital chip can save a bad party, or that a cheap teddy bear with a digital chip can make your granddaughter suddenly become interested in anything you have to say. The audience knows this. The makers of the commercial know this, evidently, since they do not even attempt to present these events as anything except fantasy.

How did these commercials get past Hallmark's vetting process? I've never before seen commercials that come so close to open mockery of not only the customer but also the product. They are a crack in the façade of the commercial religion; they are a cough in the recitation of the commercial creed: "The right consumer product will fix your life."

Now that I've written this down I hope I can stop thinking about these commercials, because I ought to have better things to think about. And moreover, that grandmother needs to slap that granddaughter upside the head and make her turn that stupid music down.


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