Menzoid Essay: SuperBowl Sunday

In just a few short days, Super Sunday will be here yet again. The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens shall vie for Super Bowl Roman Numeral X-L-V-I-I (or Number 47 for those who are still a tad uncomfortable with Caesarean math.)

But forget the game action taking place on the gridiron – for the last few decades, a big part of the fun when it comes to watching the Super Bowl on TV actually takes place in-between the live action when the network breaks for commercials. Indeed, it has become a tradition for several Fortune 500 companies to trot out advertisements that boast big budget Hollywood production values that rival Avatar.

The Menzoid’s personal all-time favourite remains Audi’s “Green Police” spot from 2010, an ad that is equal parts humor and horror in its depiction of an emerald-hued Al Gore-inspired Gestapo:

This year, unless it is yanked by game time, one of the ads you might see on Sunday is for the Volkswagen Beetle. But alas, the ad’s content has already caused a storm of controversy in certain circles. Why? Well, you be the judge:

Don’t know about you, but The Menzoid thinks the spot is charming. It generates smiles and chuckles; not outrage.

But according to the rank and file of Perpetually Offended Incorporated, VW’s Super Bowl spot is racist.

Apparently, it is racially insensitive to feature a middle-aged Minnesotan who loves his Volkswagen so much that he meanders around the office spreading cheer and well wishes with a Jamaican accent.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow and Wall Street Journal’s Christopher John Farley say the ad is like the audio version of blackface. And evidently superimposing a Jamaican accent on a non-Jamaican actor crosses some imaginary line in the politically-correct sand.

All of which has come as a shock to the folks at Volkswagen. After all, the company actually consulted with 100 Jamaicans to ensure the accent’s authenticity according to Volkswagen America’s marketing officer Tim Mahoney.

But the progressives out there who believe systemic racism lurks behind every corner likely believe those 100 Jamaicans are just too stupid to realize that they should be offended.

Furthermore, is it even possible to be racist by depicting a person in a good light? Is highlighting a positive stereotype still a stereotype nevertheless and therefore must be avoided at all costs?

The fact is, whether it’s due to the endearing legacy of Bob Marley or a nod to the laidback Caribbean lifestyle, many people perceive Jamaican culture and the Jamaican accent to be “cool.” Again, where’s the egregious offense, folks?

Alas, it seems as though those who are accusing Volkswagen of racism do not know the definition of the word – i.e., the belief in the inherent superiority or inferiority of races.

If anything, one could make an argument that the Beetle ad is racist against white people for depicting most of them as being miserable, humourless, and uptight.

Incidentally, the outrage by some that a “white man” is speaking with a “black accent” doesn’t pass the sniff test either. After all, there are indeed white Jamaicans who do speak with such an accent. And even if this wasn’t case, how exactly is the appropriation of a dialect even remotely racist?

Besides, to ignore the fact that every culture has its own stereotypes would be just downright foolish. Are we really so uptight about issues of race these days that we can’t even poke gentle fun at people of an identifiable group? What is so wrong in parodying such stereotypes?

And is there not a double-standard at play here? The Menzoid is of Scottish heritage, and he can tell you that when the advertising community needs to depict a character who is a blowhard cheapskate, it’s a sure-fire bet that he’ll be speaking with a Glaswegian accent and wearing a kilt. Check out this whopper from Money Mart:

Oh gracious, where are the grief counselors?!

Actually, The Menzoid isn’t upset at all. That’s because a key element of having a sense of humour is having the ability to laugh at one’s self.

Besides, let’s put racism and cultural insensitivity on the backburner for a second and talk about sexism in ads. Which is to say, if there is a male and female character in an ad and the script calls for one of them to be an absolute doofus, you can bet the ranch and all the livestock that the actor with the Y chromosome is going to be cast as the village idiot.

There you go – man as infantile moron, which is one of the most prevalent trends in advertising today. And yet, where, pray-tell, is the outrage?

Thus, to all those searching for racism and evil and malice in a genuinely good-natured and humourous Volkswagen advertisement, park the witch-hunt already. Hey, as the dude says, “Don’t worry, be happy, mon.”


Menzoid Essay: Not So Super Sunday

By The Menzoid

Savvy Canadian shoppers have undoubtedly noticed signage at retail stores that read, “Shoplifting costs us all.”
And it’s true, of course. When retailers experience “shrinkage” – that kinder, gentler word for thievery – it adds to the cost of doing business. The retailer either sucks it up by making less profit or increases the price of the merchandise to make up for lost revenue. That’s Capitalism 101.
But there’s another hidden cost that hurts the bottom lines of retailers… and the culprits here aren’t thieves, but rather, disingenuous cheapskates.
You see, as we head closer to the first Sunday in February – a.k.a., Super Sunday – you can expect the nation’s sporting skinflints to take a stand… and hurt the economy.
In the days leading up to the fifth of February, electronic retailers will typically experience a significant blip in sales of big-screen TVs. After all, nobody is going to invite the guys over and watch the big game if the rec room is festooned with a circa-1979 26-inch Zenith.
No, we’re talking at least a 55- incher if you plan on hosting a Super Bowl party in 2012. And if you can spring for a 70-incher, all the better.
But here’s the rub. Just as electronics stores experience an uptick in sales in the days prior to the Super Bowl, they also experience massive returns post-Super Sunday.
Oh, it’s true. You see, the sporting cheapskate only wants to impress his friends with the latest whiz-bang TV for the game but has no intention of living with the big ticket purchase for the months and years to come. So, within the prescribed 30-day period, those big TVs are returned along with some bogus excuse as to why the high-tech telly isn’t suitable anymore.
Of course, this all adds to the cost of doing business, and that means higher-priced electronic goods for the thousands and thousands of honest Menzoid Maniacs and trustworthy Adler Acolytes who wouldn’t dream of playing such a game.
But this year, The Menzoid decided to take a stand to reverse this odious trend.
Namely, for a few days, he patrolled the entrance ways to various Future Shops and Best Buys in the Rich Man’s Hill area, diligently keeping an eye out for those people who were purchasing large screen TVs in late January.
Clad in a rented naval uniform and wearing a pith helmet (which conveys an aura of authority), The Menzoid approached big-screen TV purchasers and asked them for a few moments of their time. That’s when The Menzoid went into his speech about how returning a TV post-Super Bowl is neither moral nor ethical. Please note, The Menzoid was not being paid by Future Shop or Best Buy. Rather, as previously noted, educating others is what The Menzoid likes to do.
As for the results of the impromptu Q&A: not a single shopper actually admitted to the fact that he or she was planning on returning the merchandise post February Fifth. But The Menzoid could see through their lies. How so? Simple. The Menzoid was also carrying a clipboard with a declaration which stated the following:
“I swear to God that I am not purchasing a television primarily to watch the Super Bowl and plan to return the television after the Super Bowl. I have been informed by The Menzoid that this is an unethical practice, and I hereby swear by all that is holy that I will keep the merchandise I have purchased for its normal lifespan. If I am lying, I hope I go straight to hell.”
The Menzoid then offered up a pen so that the person could sign his or her name in the space below the declaration.
Alas, The Menzoid is profoundly saddened to report that not a single one of the 40-plus customers he interviewed – not one! – agreed to sign his documentation. In fact, when The Menzoid began insisting on a signature as a show of good faith, many individuals became verbally abusive. One even dropped the F-bomb. Please keep in mind The Menzoid was, at all times, wearing a naval uniform and pith helmet.
Needless to say, The Menzoid was left shocked, saddened, and dismayed by the type of customer patronizing big box electronic stores today. The Menzoid is also ashamed by the lack of respect shown to authority figures given that The Menzoid would never dream of speaking with disdain to anyone wearing a pith helmet.
To add insult to injury, not a single employee or manager at any of the stores The Menzoid patrolled even had the common decency to thank him for his tireless service, which was sometimes conducted in sub-zero weather conditions.
Moving ahead, does The Menzoid have a solution to this problem? No. But let The Menzoid’s experience be yet another tell-tale sign indicating the ongoing degradation of the human condition.
Indeed, perhaps if more honest consumers of electronic products chastised those who buy big screen TVs in late January, we might be able to collectively turn the tide of these boorish borrowers. After all, The Menzoid simply cannot do it alone –even when clad in a naval uniform and pith helmet.
You’re welcome.

Menzoid Essay: Lance!

That’s right, folks. “Jaws was never my scene and I don’t like Star Wars.”

And yes, The Menzoid doesn’t believe in Frankenstein or Superman either, although he very much did believe in Lance Armstrong… the man who was once Superman, but now has way more in common with Dr. Victor’s freaky Franky.

But let it be said, like so many other constituencies, The Menzoid does indeed have skin in the Lance Armstrong lying and crying game.

For example: The Menzoid was such a Super Lance fan that he ALWAYS purchased cycling caps with the Lance Armstrong sponsor embroidered upon them. First it was the U.S. Postal Service; then it was The Discovery Channel.

And as The Menzoid would peddle along the highways and byways surrounding Rich Man’s Hill, he would beam with happiness and joy knowing that the cycling chapeau atop his cranium was the very same one Lance Armstrong would be wearing as he’d peddle to victory at the Tour de France.

But after the stunning revelations served up to Oprah recently, turns out Lance was a cheater. And for being a cheat, he will now pay a price.

For starters, the IOC has already stripped him of his Olympic bronze medal.

As well, The Sunday Times in the U.K. is suing Armstrong for more than $1.5 million. Back in 2006, The Times had to pay almost half a million dollars to settle the case after it reprinted claims from a book that Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs.

But what was libelous, vile gossip in 2006 is now the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in 2013 – and straight from the horse’s mouth, at that! Or is it jackass? After all, it’s now clear via Armstrong’s own admission to Oprah that despite his original protestations, this guy was the fastest drugstore on two wheels.

And consider this: earlier this week, two men launched legal action in California claiming they were “duped” and “betrayed” by Armstrong’s two books, which detail how Armstrong overcame cancer to win those Tour de France titles.

The men said they bought the books, It’s Not About the Bike and Every Second Counts, because they believed Armstrong’s heroic tale of returning to compete drug-free after battling testicular cancer.

The plaintiffs say they felt “duped”, “cheated” and “betrayed” following the Oprah TV interviews given that the books – which were billed as inspirational true-life memoirs – were indeed filled with lies.

The point of all this preamble? Well, The Menzoid isn’t going to miss out on the 2013 Lance Armstrong Apology Tour.

Whereas Lance’s vehicle of choice is typically a racing bike, these days, Armstrong is now piloting a gravy train. And you can bet your ball-bearings The Menzoid wants a piece of the action.

Which brings us back to those cycling caps the Menzoid bought several years ago.

You see, The Menzoid recently peddled over to his friendly neighbourhood bike shop where he had purchased the caps, Evolution Cycles in Rich Man’s Hill. He plunked the tattered and sweat-stained caps on the counter and then frowned at the proprietor, Mike Horlick.

“What’s this?” asked Mike.

That’s when The Menzoid read him the riot act: “Mike, you sold The Menzoid Lance Armstrong cycling caps that The Menzoid wore on his head – IN PUBLIC. The caps were bought because The Menzoid thought he was supporting a true role model. How could you?”

The Menzoid then demanded a full refund (about $40 for the caps) plus he asked for a three-figure sum of money for pain, suffering and humiliation. (And yes, The Menzoid does plan to donate a portion of the proceeds to charity, although you can bet it won’t be the Live Strong Foundation.)

Mike sputtered some sob story that he didn’t know at the time Lance was dirty and that, in fairness, The Menzoid did get years of use from the caps, and that he’s a small businessman and besides, The Menzoid doesn’t even have receipts yadda-yadda-yadda…The usual song and dance routine, folks.

And so it is that with a heavy heart that The Menzoid shall be peddling over to small claims court in the days to come to file a lawsuit against Evolution Cycles to make up for the pain this cycling shop has caused – and continues to cause. After all, The Menzoid, who is pure as the driven snow, was fraudulently enticed to support a fraudster. And somebody’s gotta pay.

You’re welcome.

Menzoid Essay: Convoy!

The other day, The Menzoid was listening to one of those Oldies stations on his car’s electric car. And out of the blue came a former number-one-with-a-bullet hit tune that he hadn’t heard for more than 35 years: “Convoy.” Very soon, memories of a very oddball fad during a decade that spawned numerous goofy crazes came rushing back.

The song “Convoy” begins with a discussion peppered with C.B. radio slang; then the trucker jargon-laced lyrics really shift into overdrive:

Ah yes, “It was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June…”
And no guff, folks – those are indeed the opening verses of a chart-popper from yester-decade.

Granted, hit songs about automotive culture come and go (although, alas, there does seem to be a dearth of car songs these days – but that’s a rant for another time.) Yet, the thing about “Convoy” is that it wasn’t “just” a car song but was also the high-water point of what was surely one of the most inexplicable fads in recent memory: the trucking/C.B. radio craze of the mid-’70s.
Indeed, by way of coincidence, it turns out that it was on this very month back in 1976 that “Convoy” soared to #1 on the Billboard charts. And yes, those who are old enough to remember this tune as well as the various other bizarre manias of this time period (streaking, the Pet Rock, Trudeau the First) are surely asking themselves, “What the hell were we thinking?”
By way of plot, “Convoy” celebrated the exploits of a rebellious trucker with a reckless disregard for highway toll booths and speed limits. The storyline is completely preposterous, of course. For example, at one point the National Guard is brought in to shutdown an ever-growing caravan of big, speeding 18-wheelers. Yet it does have a catchy beat.

As well, “Convoy” gave the gravelly-voiced C.W. McCall his biggest hit song ever. (Although it should be noted that “C.W. McCall” was in reality Bill Fries, an Omaha-based advertising executive, not a trucker.)

Still, as notes, Fries truly had a keen ear for esoteric dialogue. And he certainly had his finger on the pulse of that trucker/C.B. radio fad of the mid-’70s.
In fact, the song “Convoy” actually marked the peak of a trucking/C.B. radio craze that had millions of fan-boys and gals creating “handles” for themselves a la “Rubber Ducky” and lining up to see trucker-themed movies such as Smokey and the Bandit and B.J. and the Bear. (In our defence, there was no such thing as the Internet or the Xbox or even the VCR back then.)

And a true albeit embarrassing confession: in 1976, due to Convoy’s popularity, The Menzoid very nearly drained his bank account in order to buy a C.B. radio. The Menzoid was marooned in Newfoundland at the time. And looking back, The Menzoid has no idea what he would’ve done with a C.B. radio given that he didn’t own a vehicle… or even possess a driver’s licence. But such was indeed the power of that crazy trucker/C.B. fad. And this once-awesome, kick-asphalt song some 37 years ago.

10-4 and you’re welcome, Rubber Duckies…breaker, breaker…