Monday, April 18, 2011

You are getting sleeeee-py.....and irrrr-itable....Your throat is swelling shuuuut....

In a previous post I documented an hour of channel-surfing Japanese TV. Admittedly I devoted the lion’s share of my attention to the commercials because they are short and I could squeeze more material out of my self-allotted hour. I didn’t mean any disrespect to the actual programs, which by and large are always just as silly as the adverts.

Though I considered trying, it would be borderline impossible to write an equally bone-splittingly hilarious post about the programming here. Not because TV in the US is any less ridiculous than in Japan, but all four of my devoted readers live in the States so anything I say would be either redundant or offensive, and faster than you could say American I Dull down the drain goes my hard-earned fan base.

Fortunately two weeks ago my mom left the TV on in the den after the recent NCAA championship game.
This tidbit of happenstance exposed me to the most incredible commercial in advertising history (it has to be) and, in the space of thirty stupefying seconds shifted in seismic proportions the paradigm in which I view the potential for human stupidity. It also dumped right in my lap the fodder for this post, sparing me from any lingering thoughts of sitting through another hour of TV, in any country.

As it was happening I swore I had to be imagining the whole thing; but no, I quickly decided, no way I’d lose it like that from one measly rum and coke, twenty years removed from college or not. Probably just a normal, typically stupid commercial and I magnified the stupidity in my head I thought as I snapped out of my funk, somewhere in the middle of an SUV ad. If I had my way, this is where my thoughts on the subject would have died and mercifully decomposed. But a couple of days ago I saw the same commercial and I had no choice but to accept one simple reality: between me and the world, one of us was going crazy.

A pair of glowing green wings flitted through the night, going house to house and right in through these women’s bedroom windows. Radioactive butterfly with a fetish? I thought as the thing settled gently on the shoulders of one woman, then another. Both are awake; both have bed head and perfect complexions.

Sleep is here… came a voice like an angel. Rest is here…

Neither woman, by the way, has any clue there’s a glowing alien flying around the bedroom.

…helps you fall asleep and stay asleep…so you can wake up feeling rested.

The woman with the pillow voice goes on to advise against driving or operating heavy machinery or firing lots of automatic weapons while under the effects of some sleep aid that sounds to me like the name of a Roman goddess.

Walking, eating, driving or engaging in other activities…

I turn away, looking for the remote.

…while asleep…

Say what?

…without remembering the next day have been reported…

Have you ever stopped in the middle of a dream – or a commercial – and thought ‘God, I hope I’m dreaming’?

As the butterfly voyeur heads for the upper floors of a high-rise apartment building Miss Sultry gently warns against driving before fully awake. The Luminous Larva enters the bedroom of its latest victim, a man who, placed under the spell of the intruder, turns this grin that would make both Charles and Marilyn Manson proud.

…abnormal behavior may include aggressiveness, agitation, hallucinations or confusion…

Now I’m riveted; the guy is going to jump, or maybe get a knife from the kitchen.

…In depressed patients, worsening depression including risk of suicide may occur…

Wow. The butterfly has already struck another woman out in the suburbs – this thing moves fast – and is headed back out the window and across the lawn and I’m thinking I’ve seen that house before and this is Elm Street.

New victims keep appearing, all of them ostensibly asleep but either shifting around in their sheets or breathing heavily enough to reassure anyone watching they aren’t dead. Yet. Pillow Talk continues.

…allergic reactions such as tongue or throat swelling occur rarely and may be fatal…

If that isn’t enough to confuse the jury there are also these warnings (disclaimers? desperate assurances? notes for the defense attorney?) at the bottom of the screen: ‘…has some risk of dependency. It’s non-narcotic.’

…side effects may include unpleasant taste, headache, dizziness…

All right that's it. Look, the hallucinations and suicide risk I can deal with. But unpleasant taste? Hell no. Give me agitated confusion every day of the week you mother f – ‘

…and morning drowsiness…

Like I said, it’s either me or the world.

…Ask your doctor if it’s right for you…

The toll-free number flashing across the screen? Direct line to Dr. Kevorkian.

…Get yours for a $0 co-pay…

Through which insurance company? Maybe they’ll subsidize my rum and cokes.

And with this the butterfly disappears, another night's work in the body bag.

There is no chance I could write all this down in real time, by the way; I don’t know shorthand, and with my typing skills I couldn’t keep up with Mr. Magoo never mind this devilish angel reading through a who’s who of side effects. I was only able to properly, accurately document all this because the commercial was posted on YouTube - which leads me to the most amazing thing about all this: there are several versions of this commercial, along with a load of spoofs, that have been on YouTube for over a year. That means – and please, tell me if I am reading too much into this – that for over a year the people who make this death pill have been advertising it, and keep advertising it because (and this can be the only possible explanation) people are buying it.

In a psychology class years ago we were discussing (fine, they were discussing) an experiment involving memorization – in this case rows of numbers, increasing in length as the subject proceeded through his session. What they found was that people are much more apt to remember the first few and last few numbers in each row while forgetting most of the numbers coming in the middle, and quite predictably the longer the row the more numbers the subjects forgot. This may be why this death pill commercial is a full minute long; some marketing genius figured no one out there losing sleep is going to be able to pay attention for that long. Chances are they won’t even remember the thirty seconds of warnings and side effects in the middle. All any insomniac will have in his head is the green butterfly landing on the sleepless women at the beginning and the green butterfly flying away in the morning as these same women smile and stretch, sunlight pouring in through the windows as Miss Gentle Breeze, having just recited half the Physician’s Desk Reference, leaves them with this little beauty:

Sleep well on the wings of Lunesta…

The Japanese will never ever be able to match this.