Commercials lead away from true contentment

Nathan Grote, IV Leader Managing Editor

As I finished up my series of articles that wraps up on Page 4, I thought back to all the things from my trip that I couldn’t include.  Chief among them was a closer examination of the week I spent suck in Tennessee.
While in southwestern Tennessee, my car broke down, leaving me stranded in a mid-sized town for eight days.  And when I say ‘stranded’, I mean stranded.  Aside from a costly repair bill, I had to pay for food, drink, and a room at the illustrious Komfort Inn Motel.
Needless to say, all of that wasn’t in my budget.  I had no money to have fun on, but I did have a room, a television, and a liquor store attached to the motel.
For the purpose of this article, you need to know that I don’t watch television.  This is mainly because I cannot stand being advertised to, least of all in my own home.  I liken the feeling I get to how a Hooters waitress may feel, or the iconic woman walking past a bunch of drooling construction workers: the advertisers look at me like a piece of meat.  They don’t respect me; they’re just after my money.
So with nothing else to do, I figured I’d sit down and see what I had been missing.
The first days went much as I had expected. The sitcoms were puddle-deep and predictable, the cop dramas were visceral and reliably built on heinous acts.  Reality shows exclusively featured unequivocally attractive people, unless they were doing something crazy like hoarding or hunting alligators.  And Pat Robertson was always there to tell me what is wrong with everyone else.
After a few days of many hours watching that television, it all began running together.  In that motel room was me, a lot of ugly wallpaper, and an endless parade of fit, nicely tanned people with great hair arguing, complaining, having lots of casual sex, and being completely satisfied with various consumer products.
At some point I began to feel like the subject of some sick Clockwork Orange-esque experiment, incubated with an endless loop of narcissistic unreality.
Eventually certain patterns began to emerge in what I was seeing, particularly in the commercials. There was a sort of cause-and-effect aspect in relation to the different things being advertised.
On one hand, you are being told how good this new cheeseburger is, how you need this new car, and how great this cream or makeup will make you look and feel; then, when these things fail to provide any sort of meaningful fulfillment, the next commercial will be right there to offer diet pills and anti-depressants to help fill the void.
I’m sure these advertising tactics have been in practice for longer than I realize.  Even just going back a little ways to Ron Popeil’s amazing kitchen tools, one can see the sales strategy of presenting a problem, making it seem a terrible one, and then offering up a product to solve that problem.
But here’s the real problem: the ads have become so sophisticated, with beautiful photography, flashy graphics, and intensive focus grouping that they have become very hard to resist.
I began envisioning millions of Americans leaning back in their easy chairs, watching this stuff day in and day out, being promised happiness and satisfaction if they will but buy this product.
The tragedy is that they make it seem so easy , the trade of money for a product that promises to improve the quality of life, when these avenues are leading them directly away from the true elements of lasting contentment — spirituality, faith, reason, family, and friends.