Sunday, December 14, 2008

As long as you really believe in yourself (and everyone else does, too), you'll be just fine.

Was watching the Ravens-Steelers game when I saw the above AmEx spot, which trumpets personal empowerment and the like. The ad features (cardmembers) Dave Matthews, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brian Grazer* and Tina Turner. Its apparent theme is that it's important to believe in yourself...and also important to have other people believe in you.

Well, wait a second now. Which is it?

Granted, the two are not, technically speaking, irreconcilable. However, it is a somewhat dissonant message (and certainly in the pop-culture sense, it's an outright oil-and-water affair). The demigods of PMA tirelessly emphasize
as Randy Pausch put it in that instant-classic inspirational linethat "brick walls are stop the other people." The idea is that you can do ityou will prevailas long as you really believe in yourself. The idea is that you're not supposed to let anyone else rob you of your dreams; you're not supposed to let the skepticism or negativity of others stand in your way. If that's the case, then validation shouldn't matter. Should it? In fact, if you require validation from others in order to really believe in yourselfthen you don't really believe in yourself. Do you? Because the kind of belief that the PMA crowd preaches is the kind that confronts any foe, climbs any mountain, chances any odds, perseveres in the face of constant defeat and rejection, blah, blah, blah....

See, I thought the point of a PMA
—as currently framed by its foremost advocateswas to believe in yourself when no one else does. I thought the point was to have everyone telling you you're wrong, yet you forge ahead anyway.

How hard is it to stick to your guns when you're being validated by others?

I guess advertisers don't expect anyone to actually think about these things. They figure that if they throw a lot of thrilling images and nice-sounding phrases up there, it'll all wash over us like th
e pleasant hash highs of my misspent Boomer youth.

I dunno. It seemed worth mentioning to me.

Incidentally, seeing Tina Turner strut her stuff in that ad made me think about Beyonce. Who was it, exactly, who told Beyonce that she could dance? Yeesh. Her bodily movements are so forced and awkward that I'm tempted to make her the inaugural recipient of the David Hasselhoff Memorial Award For Thinking Your Skills As An Entertainer Extend Well Beyond What They Manifestly Do.

We could call it...the Hoffer!

* producer of A Beautiful Mind and 8 Mile, among others, as well as long-time film-making partner of Ron ("Opie") Howard.


Anonymous said...

We could call it...the Hoffer!

Presumably in homage to Eric who wrote the classic 'True Believer' about the perils of an all- pervasive PMA.

Cosmic Connie said...

Alicia Keys is an even worse dancer than Beyonce.

What I find most repugnant about the commercial you cited (at least when I think about it) was the implied message that no matter how famous or successful you are, a friggin' credit card is what really defines and validates you. But...sigh...that's just marketing.