Monday, February 28, 2005

Buy This Car Or We'll Kill Your Children

The magic that is a Chevy Blazer

I settled in last night to watch the Oscars primarily because I wanted to see what Chris Rock would do (Sean Penn: chill out man, you are becoming wicked pompous. You and your actor colleagues are fragile millionaire talking meat sticks. Want socially important work? Run a homeless shelter). It was the usual farago of silly people talking about emphemeral celluloid treats for a mostly white intelligensia (Rock's visit to a multiplex where we learnt that "White Chicks" was many peoples' favorite film of 2004 underscored the point) and good fun for all that, not least because of the unexplained off-screen bangs and crashes that accompanied many of the award introductions (that's the last time the Academy signs a deal with the Union of Klutzy Stagehands, Local 43). And of course, I was looking forward to the commercials.

The sexist cliche is that the Oscar commercials serve the same role in women's lives as Superbowl ads do for men (most women I know were into the game on Superbowl Sunday- maybe its a New England thing- and the ads seem to be endlessly disected by everyone regardless of gender) and so there were lots of JC Penney, make-up, and "your house/clothes/yoni smells terrible" spots. Every year however there has to be one exceptionally sleazy and grotesque ad and this year the winner is... General Motors.

GM didn't advertize any particular line or model of car but rather ran testimonial ads featuring kids and teenagers talking about being in car accidents. In each case it was heavily hinted that a GM car provided your family the best chance to survive a crash and that if you love your family you had best rush out and buy one of their vehicles. A case could be made that the message (air bags, seatbelts, on-star=good) was reasonable but the delivery was heavy handed if it wasn't for news like this:

Safety alert as GM recalls cars
"The world's biggest carmaker General Motors is recalling nearly 200,000 vehicles in the US on safety grounds, according to federal regulators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the largest recall involves 155,465 pickups, vans and sports utility vehicles.

This is because of possible malfunctions with the braking systems. The affected vehicles in the product recall are from the 2004 and 2005 model years, GM said.

Those vehicles with potential faults are the Chevrolet Avalanche, Express, Kodiak, Silverade and Suburban; the GMC Savana, Sierra and Yukon." (The rest is here)

As CNN pointed out in a related story: "GM, the world's largest auto manufacturer, recalled more than 10 million vehicles in 2004, in a year that saw a record number of recalls across the industry."

If you drive a GM product, at least you'll be able to press the on-star button to summon help as you spin out of control after your shoddy brakes fail. Just remember to press it before the "smart airbag" smacks you in the face.

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