Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indiana Jones and The Zimmer Frame of Doom

I haven't seen the current Indiana Jones flick, so don't take the title as a slam on Harrison Ford or the movie franchise. Ok, you can take it as a slam on Temple of Doom, but I think everyone here would rather pretend it just didn't happen. What I'm trying to talk about, and will get to eventually, is the power of marketing not only to shape our perceptions, but the fabric of the very reality in which we sit. Note to those of you who stand while reading the internet: Siddown!

For the past few days I haven't been able to move the left side of my face. [Don't Panic. They think it's Bell's Palsy, and temporary.] No particular reason, really, I just lost a little function Friday night, and by Saturday it felt like I'd just come home from the Dentist in a tingly-novacaine-about-to-wear-off kinda way. The odd twist came when I realized that my left cheek and surrounding area wasn't numb, it was paralyzed, in an Hey-My-Face-Doesn't-Work-Anymore kinda way. To stifle the immediate reaction of an undisclosed number of You People out there, I am aware that there are some for whom my face has never worked. However, it has always worked for me. (And for Steffi Graf? You'll have to ask her. That's all I've got to say about that.) Now hush.

Faces are, on the (and when) whole, wonderfully handy things. Handsome faces even more so. Being able to blink your eye fully closed keeps it moist and irritant free. Being able to control your lips helps you spit instead of slobber, smile instead of smirk, clearly annunciate your bilabial aspirated fricatives, and keeps other people from fleeing the table when you're eating soup. It also allows you to kiss beyond Junior High School Level. On the other hand, my hopefully temporary partial paralysis has done wonders for my Elvis impersonation*, and my People's Eyebrow has never been more convincing.

Faces also sell things. Babies learn early early on to zero in on Mom's face. It makes everyone smile (another facial skill) and the little tyke gets what he needs. And a baby that can do his own smiling can make even the coldest, meanest, orneriest sumbich melt like a Nazi in an Indiana Jones movie.

So when Harrison Ford's face shows up on a movie poster under the Leather Fedora, we whip out the cash and troop to the theater like good little drones. Because the marketing folks know what we like. Of course they know, they trained us. More to the point, when Harrison Ford's face shows up on a Snicker's Bar, we whip out the bucks and buy them too. But it's not just a candy bar. Not with Harrison Ford's mug on the wrapper. It's an "Adventure Bar". How about that?

So let me see. I can either swing through the mosquito infested rain forest, tracking down some antiquity of inscrutable origin and even more unfathomable evil, pursued all the while by Nazi's, henchmen, savage monkeys, (did I mention mosquitoes?), and I don't know what-all, OR (and here's where I get back to marketing like I promised) I can just eat a candy bar and have: Exactly. The. Same. Experience. Hmmm. Risk dismemberment, consumption, partial facial paralysis, or eat a Candy, no, Adventure Bar? Geez Monty, that's a tough one. Let me get back to ya. I got a guy on the other line about a set of white-walls.

*"Thank ya. Thank ya very much. Hey... uh.. C-can I get some more gravy on this?"

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