Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Insect Repellant

Something has been bugging me for over a year, now, like a mosquito bite inside my mind, one I have been unable to reach to scratch, so I've finally decided to go public about it.

For starters, I’m not really alone in my cause. Some years back, my sister-in-law got her undies in a bunch over the toilet tissue "quilters" knitting their quilt, and she wrote to inform the company that knitting and quilting were quite different, and she'd appreciate if they worked toward something a little closer to reality. Apparently, enough others did the same, so that now, the animated quilting ladies are actually quilting, when they do their little thing on-screen. A sigh of relief is breathed in our houses.

And my mother has had a little war with a fast-food restaurant chain, which she refuses to frequent, partly because they promote their mini-slabs of chicken breast meat as “boneless wings”. They may be boneless, but they are not wings, and never would have been. If Mom had a “TV Brick”, she’d throw it at the screen every time the commercials promoting them come on. Instead, she mutters and complains to me. And I agree with her. She’s preaching to the choir.

Our family seems to have a thing for truth in advertising.

So,what is it now, with me? Bugs. Or, more accurately, insects.

One commercial, for a prescription sleep aid, shows what is supposed to be a luna moth wafting through windows, bringing with it calm, serene gifts from Morpheus -- sweet dreams for an entire night. Very pretty. But what moth or butterfly has great floppy wings? As this thing moves about, it bends and curls as though its structure were silk, and not the more aerodynamic rigid structure which provides the actual lift on all insects. Dammit, butterfly wings are stiff! If you didn’t know that, you need to get out and sniff a few flowers.
You may think this is a small and petty complaint. Certainly, you could sleep through this moth’s silent passage across the television screen.

Not so, the talking bee promoting a nasal allergy medicine. This lovely bee, flitting over to its beloved flower, is a honeybee -- a worker bee, at that. Correct me if my memories from grade school science are off, but it seems to me the worker bees are all female -- the only males in the colony, in the hive, are flightless drones, there to service the queen. I’m not an entomologist, but something is wrong with the hive this advertisement draws from. The bee with the voice of Antonio Banderas is mighty butch to be flying.

This may not seem so much, but, in an age when Oprah Winfrey is defending a book of fiction and accepting its validity as a memoir because it “feels as though it ought to be right”, this is just one more step into the world of fuzzy thinking. When we are well-practiced at swallowing these small insects without blinking, we make ourselves more eager to follow suit with larger fictions. We see that which we wish to see, believe in gigantic, atomic insects of Hollywood, and come to their table with spoon in hand, waiting to be fed this enormous repast. Bit by bit, bite by bite, we consume the belief that “Glory Road” is a true story of a man and a team daring to overcome racism, when the true story was of a man and a team winning games, racism notwithstanding. We are expected to swallow that “Lord of War” and “Syriana” are true stories, taken word for word from the memoirs of men who were there, instead of wholecloth Hollywood revisionism to promote a political agenda. We are fed the belief that “Brokeback Mountain” is a great, romantic story about two cowboys and forbidden love, when it was a pretty but tawdry Hollywood piece about two sheep herders and forbidden sex.

These are not the high-rise ants of “Them!”, but a million tiny termites undermining the thinking ability and credibility of Americans. Every time we accept fiction as “true enough”, every time we accept that art may take license with fact and still call itself “real”, we let the world know we are that much less willing to take time to apply rational thought. Every time we accept a fantasy as truer than the facts, we make ourselves that much more vulnerable to snake oil salesmen, whether they be from Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the Holy Land, or Washington, D.C.

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