The Fake Heaven of Claritin
Here are some additional ideas on The Fake Heaven of Claritin:
1. Like most commercials, the commercial for Claritin is a montage of video, computer-generated images, music and lyrics, graphic lettering, and narration, all of which work together to communicate directly with our primitive, emotional side, and evoke our fears and desires.
2. The commercial explicitly promises only seasonal allergy relief. All the rest -- the promise of transcendence, clarity, optimism, weightlessness, joy, love, richness of life, intimacy -- are conveyed by shapes, scenes, color, lighting, music, tone of voice, poetic lyrics, and so on. These claim nothing but indirectly promise the world.
3. Claritin also turns a negative into a positive by promising a "low incidence of side effects." It has to warn viewers of side effects so it turns the warning into a form of bragging.
4. The images, narration and music are intended to evoke identification in viewers, so we will put ourselves in the place of the characters and vicariously sense the kind of joy that awaits the Claritin user. Here, we can see that the sense of good feeling induced by the commercial comes, at least in part, from two sources. First, it comes from the expressions on the faces of the characters and other body language, which we have the urge to imitate in the act of identification. And second, it comes from images of the environment that the characters are in. We take in the total scene directly but we also take it in by seeing this wonderful world through the eyes of the characters.
5. The commercial shows people on the ground looking up at people in a balloon and it shows the people in the balloon looking down at those on the ground. This creates a "density" of imagined social interaction in which we identify with the characters as they relate to each other. The fact that they (and we, in our state of identification) interact with each other across a stretch of sky adds to the feeling of expansiveness.
6. Here is an exercise in imagination, which, admittedly, includes some leading questions: try to envision what media creations will be like once they are immersive so they surround us, or appear to do so, and perhaps also so we can seem to navigate through them. What would it be like being inside Claritin's phony heaven? I suspect it would give many people a rush of good feeling and a sense of optimism and joy. Those are the emotions Schering wants to evoke in us. Imagine how much more effective creations such as this will be as tools of manipulation once advertisements are immersive. Will humanity choose to spend much of its time in simulated paradises such as this? Would spending long periods of time in a Claritin commercial that is all joy and no challenge be more like heaven -- or hell?
7. Here is another exercise: Examine these two pages on Claritin. Can you discover forms of manipulation in these pages? Is the author (me) implicitly presenting an idealized image of himself, the way Claritin does of itself? Do the background, images, lettering and words work together to create the impression these pages are a fixed, unalterable, form of authority or that they are something objective? Does anything undercut that impression? If these two pages had been harsher in their judgment of the Claritin commercial, would you have begun to get angry at the pages or their author and would that have undercut the message?
Do you feel that Claritin has been treated fairly? Does the author have an ax to grind? What might Claritin say in response to these criticisms? What purposes do the links and communications on the bottom of these pages play? Are they advertisements?
8. Finally, one more exercise: Reflect on yourself and your reactions. If you've seen the commercial, do these pages "match" your intuitive sense of what the commercial does? Were you inclined to view the commercial uncritically or read these two pages uncritically, before you came to these questions? Do you present an idealized image of yourself? Do you sell an image of yourself the way commercials do? If Claritin and you and me all present idealized images of ourselves and all have the capacity to see through each other's idealizations, then does anyone have a privileged position? And is the act of exposing the falsehoods inherent in image an effort to find the truth or is it a form of aggression and one-upmanship? Can we separate the two? What would a world be like in which everyone presented a more honest image of themselves or a world in which people were more aggressive about deflating images? Do these questions challenge the social critique of the Claritin commercial or does it remain intact even after many of these ambiguities are taken into account?