Is there anything sadder than a government add campaign self-consciously endeavouring to relate to Teh Young Peoples? I mean, seriously – how stupid do these people think teenagers are? I don’t care how it was back in the Good Old Days Of Yore, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and John Howard was still the lifeblood of the Young Liberals, because nowadays, people don’t look upon advertising as a natural Goddamm phenomenon. It’s not like the weather. It doesn’t just exist in some pristine, impartial state. This is not the 1950s. We know where advertising comes from, and what it is for. The fact that the government is endeavouring to promote law rather than a product grants them a unique legitimacy, especially as the intended consequence here is to save lives. But these ads, right here? They are the televised equivalent of entering a valid argument in full possession of the relevant moral highground, and then proceding to answer every statement with inane schoolyard insults. The government is trying to relate to young people, but instead, it is insulting their intelligence.
A small interlude, by way of comparison. Consider the following recent ad, wherein ANZ has created the (admittedly amusing) strawman of Barbara, a bank manager who lives in Bank World, and who is described as being the diametric opposite of an ANZ employee. I laugh when I watch this ad, because I have encountered people like Barbara in my travels, but I am not fooled into thinking that ANZ’s recognition of the stereotype equates to their having eradicated it. The point being, I am meant to find Barbara repulsive, because the ad works on the assumption that I, its intended audience, am not a Barbara myself. Furthermore, I do not want to be Barbara; I am not friends with a Barbara; I should, in fact, have nothing to do with her (wait for it) barbarous kind, and therefore – it is hoped – the humour and disgust I feel when looking at Barbara will lull me into accepting the premise of the ad, which is that ANZ is home to bunnies and light and sweetness, while all other banks are slavering, scabrous bastions of cruelty and disease. Or, like, not.
The government, in its infinite wisdom, has elected to mock emos and redheads as part of its campaign. Question from the gallery: are there emos and redheads among the teenage population? Ding ding ding, that’s an affirmative, Captain! And are they friends and associates of other teenagers who, although neither emo nor redheaded themselves, are likely to be outraged on their behalf? Double jackpot! And now, for the winner: assuming the remaining population of phone-wielding teenage drivers who like to mouth off their hatred of emos and redheads find these ads funny, what are the chances that their mirth will translate into careful driving practices, rather than – as seems infinitely more likely – serving as justification for their bigoted trashtalking? Do I hear cries of slim to none from the audience? Hallelujah! Thanks for playing another tedious round of Yet More Proof The Government Is Run By Crazy People With Little Or No Grasp On Reality And The Social Intelligence Of A Concussed Trout! I mean, Sweet Zombie Jesus!
Some days, I hate everything.
Look, dudes-in-government: there’s no shame in being so hopelessly out of touch as to qualify you as having only four working senses. Well, tell a lie – maybe there’s a little shame, but that’s only because you can’t bear to admit it. You like the idea of being in touch, because you’ve made a career out of popularity, and deep down in the tiny, scum-encrusted carapace of your stunted souls, you can’t bear to think that there’s a demographic alive you might not be able to sway, should you desire it – but you are not in touch. And most of the time, we, the Thinking People Under Thirty, don’t particularly care, because it’s what we expect. But when you do something like this, it makes us sit up and take notice, and not in a good way. Suddenly, we smell the lies on you, the way dogs smell fear; we curl our lips and remember why we are so fucking disinclined, by and large, to take your advice in the first place. You, with your forced joviality and condescention, you make yourselves resemble a set of creatures we have no wish to become; but inevitably, we will grow up, and when that happens, we do not wish to be scrambling for the approval of our juniors, as you so clearly are, but earning it through a demonstration of the idea that maybe, just maybe, our older selves are something worth imitating.
Today, you failed at that. You failed hard.
Try and learn from it.