Sunday, January 29, 2006

Nothing Cooler Than A Dry County

When you're filling out your tax forms this year, I'd like to remind you what the government's taking your hard-earned money for. There's only about a quarter of a trillion dollars for the war in Iraq and the $450 million bridge to Nowhere, Alaska (although we did get to see cantankerous old senator Ted Stevens go apeshit on the chamber floor when slightly more rational senator Tom Coburn argued some of that bridge money should be redirected towards New Orleans — you know, these crazy old coots like Stevens and Zell Miller ought to charge an admission fee for their lunatic rants and we can put the money raised towards eliminating the national debt. That's me — always thinking out of the box). But today I ran into what might not be our government's biggest waste of your money, but is certainly the lamest: the new ad campaign and website to keep kids from drinking.

It's basically the equivalent of having Alaska senator Ted Stevens — who's also your dad and who narced on starting linebacker Jeremy Hoffman back in October, causing him to get kicked off the team right before the big game against Valley — coming into your phys ed class and telling you guys that drinking won't make you cool. Well, no shit, pops! I'd be cool if everyone didn't blame me for us losing to Valley 22-3 and Jeremy didn't beat me up in front of the entire cafeteria.... I hate you, Ted Stevens! Why can't you just butt out of my life?!

Someone got a huge government contract to come up with the commercial's concept: There's these kids and they all look like they're from some sort of bizarro TeenNICK world where everybody's in middle school but no one's awkwardly proportioned at all. Even the antagonist here, he's got the greasy black hair and the knockoff-brand shirt from Wal-Mart that tells you he's from the wrong side of the tracks, and he probably reeks of unleaded gas and Virgin Slims, but even he looks like he had a smoother puberty than anybody I've ever met ever. Anyway, the kids are all getting together for a Satanic bloodletting and orgy... or maybe it's just one of those gratuitous parties kids throw and never invited me to. You bastards, now I'm scarred for life! The guests are ringing the doorbell, a couple at a time. There's this conformist dude who brings his guitar. There's these conformist goth kids with leather jackets — but they're not the sort of goth kids who scare the establishment because they've only got like one or two piercings (in their EARS, Mom, so don't worry) and there's no black eyeliner and the girl's dyed her hair hot pink so it's like festive or something. There's these conformist Asian kids, and their contribution to the fun is foodstuffs that I think is potato salad, and there's a black kid who brings Pictionary or something (it's the most ethnically diverse party ever thrown in suburbia), and maybe there's a magician or someone making animal balloons or whatever. We don't see the parents, but I'm sure they're around somewhere, embarrassing their son. Finally, our greasy-haired villain with his six-pack (and seriously, an entire keg couldn't light this shindig up) knocks on the door and our hero's like, "Sorry, dude, you can't bring the beer in."

I need to mention that I caught this commercial during the first-run rebroadcast of Veronica Mars this evening, which just makes me wonder if the government even has any idea who their target demographic is. Cause underage drinkers aren't watching Veronica Mars. No one's watching Veronica Mars, except me, TV critics, Joss Whedon, and maybe Kristen Bell's mom. (It's a shame, really.) Our government couldn't've eminent-domained some ad space from The O.C. or One Tree Hill or a show our vapid youth are actually watching? Or maybe, maybe there's hope that our kids are just a little too sophisticated for that, and when potato salad girl is placed side-by-side with Marissa Cooper's inebriated three-ways on her family's yacht, the kids'll catch onto the fact that temperance isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Back to the commercial, this poor kid's just been spurned by his peers, and he's obviously already got a self-esteem problem (hence the beer) and can the government just leave him alone to stew and write up death lists? No, the disembodied voice of some uptight authority figure has to taunt him: "You think you need alcohol to be cool? You think everybody else is drinking? Maybe you're wrong. Maybe you don't need to drink to be cool, motherfucker. Maybe you should just head back to that shitty trailer-town you live in and spend the night enjoying the rhythmic beat of your crackwhore mom banging every white trash loser in a two-mile radius. We'll be here at the party, eating our potato salad and rocking out to banal, soulless guitar riffs." That disembodied uptight authority figure voice gets pretty damn belligerent, but then he softens up: "For more information on how to resist peer pressure, log on to," and here's the kicker, ""

Brought to you by your government, which is incidentally led by a former alcoholic and cocaine user.

But could there possibly be any more glaring sign that you just don't get it than naming your anti-underage drinking campaign "The Cool Spot?" It's like calling your abstinence-education website Remember back in the presidential campaign, when that correspondent from MTV news with the inexplicable headwrap asked John Kerry if he was cool and Kerry, who's so square that even his freaking head is a rectangle, reminded us that there's nothing in the world less cool than letting everyone know how cool you (think you) are? Well, I've found something less cool: being a prude and letting everyone know how cool you are.

What really bothers me is that the tragically unhip also tend to be the most tragically ignorant, and they're never too unwilling to share that ignorance with the rest of us. Like the Catholic Church claiming that condoms don't prevent the transmission of AIDS, because frankly, if anybody should be sharing their thoughts on sex, it's a bunch of old dudes who are celebate at best. So for my amusement, I went to, where you can play all sorts of uninformative and condescending Flash games.

There's "Know Your Expectations," for example, which warns us, "Sometimes expectations are right on, but often they're totally off, especially when talking about alcohol. Check it out..." I guess this game is for teens who've already tried booze, because now they want me to choose what I expected from the drink. I'll be honest and choose "to relax or feel less shy or nervous." And I get... oh wait, I need to describe The Cool Spot logo: it's this psychedelic blob thing with arms that grow and shrink, and all the Cool Spot characters are these roughly-drawn cubist proto-anime creatures, so visiting The Cool Spot is basically like the most patronizing acid trip ever. Anyway, when I tell TCS that I drank to be less nervous, some character of indeterminate gender pops up and tells me, "Some people think alcohol will make them more relaxed or less shy or nervous. [Highlighting is theirs.]" And another weird misshapen dude comes up and says, "People may feel more relaxed," and don't we just love the third person here, so the government's not actually talking to me, "but alcohol can also relax their judgement. So they may do things they regret." Too true, dude with no nose and like seventy pounds of hair. Then our first character replies, "Yeah, like crying or arguing or getting into fights."

What follows is an absolutely retarded and useless series of suggestions for ways to get over your shyness. They basically boil down to: get over your damn shyness. Thanks, government! Finally, androgynous character number one wants me to tell him/her/it "what [I] do to relax or feel less shy." Here's what I put:

I take Prozac. Also Ativan, klonopin, and Paxil. Those are all okay because they're made by magical pharmaceutical companies who give you huge campaign contributions.
And what's the government's response? 403: Access Forbidden.