May 13 2004

Something that bothers me, and this is somewhat inspired by [Tom][1]’s recent “Things I Hate” entry, is when advertisements not only insult my intelligence, but insult people around me. This is a subtle thing, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t lived in Japan for a year. Let me splain. In Japan it’s really important to show respect, not only in one-on-one situations, but in group-to-group situations. You should speak respectfully of others’ families, friends, companies, or other groups, while being modest about your own. So when you see advertisements, they are always in a very respectful tone. It’s hard to translate them into English without sounding dumb, but things like “a nice toothbrush for your honorable family” are the norm. Well, that sounds extremely dumb. The point is that the companies use very respectful language, or at least avoid bringing up anything unpleasant, especially anything unpleasant about the customer. The contrast to this is commercials I hear on US radio or see on US television, or billboards I pass on the highway: now, not only are most of them very, very stupid and annoying, but in addition, a recurring theme is making fun of certain types of people. Spouses, in-laws, and other relatives are particularly common targets. The example that comes to mind is an obnoxious commercial on WTAQ here in Wisconsin, which I have to listen to at work, in which they offer to help you with challenges in your life, but insist that they can’t do anything about your brother-in-law’s disgusting eating habits. To most people this is probably funny, or at worst annoying, but to me it’s actually pretty offensive. Not only do I have to listen every thirty minutes to a guy asking for someone else’s fat and gristle to eat, I have to take the indirect insult that the radio station thinks this is what my family is like, and that I can relate to the scene. Yes, it’s a rather roundabout and oversensitive way to take offense, but for some reason this kind of thing just bothers me. Well, advertising in this country as a whole bothers me to some extent anyway. Anyway, check out this bait dispenser! Woo! [1]: