copyright May 20, 1999  Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved



Crank's Corner: Commentary by Linda Marcas



Please Hold the Hyperbole

   It might have something to do with getting older, but I seem to have lost my tolerance for
hype.  This week, it is the rampant Star Wars lunacy that has set me off; the last straw, so to
speak, for I was already mightily annoyed.

   Half a lifetime ago, I went to see the original Star Wars movie.  I liked it just fine, back
then; I went to see it four times.  But I most certainly have not been holding my breath in
anticipation of a "prequel" (ugh!) for the past twenty-two years, and I doubt that anyone else has,
either.  Life does go on, whether the Force is with you or not.

   The recent media coverage of the new movie is not news, it is free advertising.  If people
going to the theater cause a traffic jam, the traffic jam will be the real news.  There is a war going
on in Europe, but you'd never know that from watching local television this past week.
Here's a thought for you: Corporate America is the modern version of the Roman Empire,
colonizing the world while keeping the citizens at home quiet with the bread and circuses of fast
food and action-packed, special-effects laden movies that are short on plot but long on tie-in
merchandising.. Collect all the toys, buy the T-shirt, don't get left out, be part of this exciting and
brave new world!

   What is behind all the smoke and mirrors; what is it that we aren't supposed to notice?
Maybe we aren't supposed to notice that hyperbolic advertising tends to imply that our lives are
empty and pointless until we buy a particular product.  Maybe we aren't supposed to notice that
they're selling us the fear that we might miss something, or the fear that we might not get our
share, or the fear that we will be ugly and outcast.  Maybe we aren't supposed to notice that
they're keeping our attention focussed on trivial things, in order to keep us from noticing the
important stuff.

   What is the important stuff?  Well, sorry, folks, you have to decide that for yourselves,
instead of having it spoon-fed to you by someone who wants to sell you something.  It requires
thought, which is why many people avoid making their own decisions and just let the
commercial hypesters decide for them.  But here are a few of my personal notions, just to get
you started.

   There are many things wrong with fast food, but I still enjoy it.  However, in a country
where many people are unhealthily overweight, I don't enjoy the hype that inflating an ordinary
burger meal with larger servings of fries and soda-pop is the smart and stylish thing to do.  I'd
prefer that they would offer me a whole instead of a half-slice of cheese on my fish-wich, but
that would be like advertising, "Hey, we skimp on cheese!" and not likely to happen.

   The must-have toy last Christmas was some sort of interactive virtual pet that learns
things and develops a personality.  Thanks to a lot of hype, people spent lots of money and
hours in line to buy them.  Each year, millions of unwanted flesh-and-blood animals are killed
by shelters that have no more space or money to care for them.  If a virtual pet "dies," it's just a
broken toy.  A machine can be programmed to wag its tail, but it is not capable of loving you.
If you think a virtual pet will provide companionship or teach your child a sense of caring and
responsibility for living creatures, you're kidding yourself.

   Khaki is not a lifestyle, it is a color, currently popular.  If people frequently tell you to "get
a life!," buying a pair of tan pants probably won't make them stop.  If you still want a khaki
lifestyle, join the military; they are expert at telling people what to wear.

   A high-school prom lasts only one night; preparing for a prom should not entail the same
amount of frenzy and expense that goes along with preparing for a wedding, a ceremony that
marks the start of a marriage that lasts forever (in theory).  But thanks to the magic of hyperbole,
prom-related businesses can cash in on gullible teens and their doting parents year after year after
year.  At least skip the tacky souvenir stemware, kids; the thrift stores are already crowded with
these precious mementos of Your Night to Remember.

   I have an answering machine.  I can screen my calls when I'm home and hear messages
from people who call when I'm not.  Please don't try to sell me another little box that displays the
name and number of the caller before I answer; if I want to know who it is, I'll wait for them to
say something.  And please don't imply that my life is so vacant that I need to know who called,
even if they didn't leave a message.  If they didn't leave a message, it must not have been
important.  I don't care who called.  Really.  I'll live.  Curiosity won't kill me.  I promise.  IT'S
JUST A PHONE CALL!

   It's just a phone call.  It's just a school dance.  It's just clothing, a toy, a quick meal.  All the
hyperbole in advertising and in media coverage of the actions of my fellow consumers won't
change my attitude, because I'm looking beyond it to The Big Picture, and by that I do not mean
the new Star Wars flick.  Star Wars is not The Big Picture.  Star Wars is just a movie.