Surely you’ve seen those army commercials that have been airing for about six months now? Are you as sickened as I am? Well, I don’t know about you, but they represent yet another shining example of some things that really BURN MY ASS!!
Despite searching the internet and the army website, I could not seem to find clips from the current TV ad campaign, so here is my biased, inaccurate, impressionistic rendition of three of them:
COMMERCIAL NUMBER ONE
Young guy, prime army age, in some jukejoint with his dad, playing pool. The dad is a tough, gruff sort. Obviously, the kid is eager to please this crusty authority figure, whom I gather has pooh-poohed his son’s cockamamie career and life schemes many times before. The kid tentatively tries to chip away at dear old dad’s skepticism, gingerly approaching the subject at hand.
Here’s where the dialogue becomes hazy, but this is the gist I got.
Kid: Trying to be casual: “I think I’ve decided what my next step is.”
Dad (No eye contact, of course, thanks to being absorbed in setting up his next shot, etc. “What’s that?”
Kid: “The army will give me money to go to college. I can study any field I want.”
Dad: “But it’s the army.”
Kid: “It’s the reserves, so I can stay at home until they need me.”
Dad: “It’s the army.”
Kid: “They’ll train me; really cool stuff.”
Dad: (suddenly looks up; close up to his craggy face with a glint of hope in his jaundiced eyes) “Good training?”
Kid: (a tad smugly) “It’s the army.”
The presumed aftermath:
Ol’ Grizzle Pop is convinced at last that his directionless, spoiled brat of a son will finally be in good hands, safely and swiftly on the road to clean-cut normality. Because it’s the reserves, he’ll be at home til they need him (like, yesterday). Doubtless the rigors of army life — the strict discipline, the humiliation of basic, the unyielding hierarchy — will make a man out of him yet. Plus, the kid is obviously starving for atttention from a stern but emotionally distant father figure, and his homicidal drill sergeant (“Get after it, you maggots!”) should fill that role quite quite nicely indeed.
COMMERCIAL NUMBER TWO:
Kid sits down at the kitchen table with his moms for a little heart to heart.
Kid: “Mom, I know what I want to do with my life.”
Mom: (with a world weary “I’ve heard it all before. What now?” expression) “Go on.”
Kid: “I’m going to join the army, mom. I’ll get money to go to college. Now, wait a minute, mom…”
Mom: (mentally rolling her eyes) “Yes, go on…”
Kid: “Mom, it’s time for me to be a man.”
Mom: (settling in for the Talk of a Lifetime) “Ok. Tell me more.”
(Fade to black)
Kid: “Well, I was thinking I’d like to be an engineer….”
The presumed aftermath:
Beleagured mom can finally stop worrying about her kid getting into trouble, not being a “man,” and all that nasty stuff. He’ll be out of her hair, on the road to a good career, and last but not least, she can have the run of the house again without having to pick up his dirty socks or make his bed. Hey, not too shabby, this army stuff.
COMMERICAL NUMBER 3:
Coffeehouse on a rainy night: dad has just picked up his son at train station. The son’s on leave, in uniform. They sit at counter, apparently having stopped for a quick cup of joe before heading home to mom.
Dad: “You’re a changed man.”
Son: “How’s that?”
Dad: (too overcome to look at his boy) “Back there, when you got off the train, you did two things you’ve never done before at the same time.” (Pregnant pause) “You shook my hand, and you looked me square in the eye.”
(Shot to dad looking his son square in the eye; shot to son who seems to have an oh-so-slight smirk on his face.)
The presumed aftermath:
Sonny boy was on a one-way trip to Deep-Shitsville. Then somehow he found his way to the recruiting office, and now he is a fine, upstanding, (albeit slightly cocky and smirking) young man who can finally perform two social skills simultaneously.
Bring us your brain fried, your poor, your teeming n’er do wells yearning to break free and stay out of the joint…
This brand new campaign, started recently, is quite blatantly aimed at the parents of potential recruits. Doubtless it is designed to quell some of the anxieties mom and pop might have about having their sons and daughters sent into harm’s way. Typically, the target market is those young people whose parents have not had the means/wherewithal to send them through law or med school, let alone the college of their choice.
The impetus for this current campaign was apparently the distressing fact that recruitment figures and quotas are down, at a time when active troops are being pushed to the limit, sometimes obliged to extend their tour of duty in Iraq much further than they had originally bargained for.
These new ads — which sport the tagline “Help them find their strength” — replaced the pre-Iraqi war “Army of One” campaign, aimed at Gen Y’ers — especially African-American men — who were used to a youth culture based on individualism rather than blind obedience to authority. Those ads, as I recall, focused on the image of recruits as glam Tom Cruise types a la Top Gun: out there performing their one-man missions from God in really cool fighter jets, doing those super keen ego enhancing swoops and 360s in a pure, clean, cloudless, American sky. Sexy, cocky mavericks who make their own rules –including maybe squeezing in a little schtuppy duppy with their hot training instructor (hey, if you believe Tom Cruise is capable of that, you can believe Joe Schmoe might have a shot at it too).
Turns out that the long standing Be All that You Can Be ad campaign, while still a morale-boosting touchstone for those already in the military, was no longer too effective for recruiting new youngsters. But that catchy little jingle was ubiquitious enough to become hard-wired into the collective unconscious.
In any case, the new ad campaign disgusts me, on several levels.
If you’ve ever seen Private Benjamin, you may recall that Goldie Hawn, a spoiled Jap, marries a guy who dies on their wedding night and then escapes into the military to get away from it all. Her recruiter plays up army life as a kind of country club, and she envisions herself basking in luxe suite accomodations, with ample time to kick back, try on new shades of lipstick, and do her nails. The reality hits her, and hits her hard, on her first morning of basic, when the tough female drill sergeant literally slings her and her mattress onto the floor after she tries to snuggle and snooze through wake up call. She tries to convince the brass that there’s been some mixup — some terrible mistake — she must be in the wrong company. But she’s stuck, and she does, indeed, become a fine figure of a woman, after numerous Lucille Ball style misadventures.
This may be very funny, but I know of at least one woman who was similarly misled by her recruiter, and it was definitely no joke. In a word, she was lied to and swindled. And I’m sure she’s far from the only one.
I can only wonder how many millions are spent on these ad spots. Don’t even get me started on that.
Originally posted in Shithouse rat.Powered by Sidelines