Friday, April 17, 2015

Kings of the road

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth"

-Oscar Wilde-

The world we all take to be true isn't the real world and you don't have to be a Taoist to know it.  The real world is what we see in advertising and it's hard to find anything we hear or see that isn't in part or wholly a marketing venture.  The things we least need but spend too much money on are the things we seek to define ourselves with because image is everything, what's under the hood means nothing.

That adventure movie where the action hero drives an Audi and nobody can catch him?  The whole movie is an advertisement produced, directed and  payed for by Audi AG.  Audi (German Engineering, innovation) and BMW (German Engineering, innovation) and Volkswagen (German Engineering, innovation) have their respective images mostly to do with quality and performance, in some ways deserved and in others profoundly not and at least since the late 1970's the first two have shed their economy car image and taken on the robes of holier than thou status symbols, to be parked with pride and hipster panache in front of South Beach clubs or where your neighbors can see it.  They're hardly the only ones to be emblems of arrogance, even now that the BigFuckingTruck era shows signs of fading, but the priesthood of aspirational sales at Audi (German Engineering, innovation) have big ears, as the name suggests. They're as aware as I am of how drivers of aspirational vehicles behave, harassing drivers and assuming their 150 or ohmygod 200 horsepower cars are so much faster than 750 hp racetrack dominating domestic offerings and need to demonstrate it to my amusement and annoyance. As with all problems in the world, the best and cheapest way to fix them is with advertising.  The car kills people?  Advertize the Star Safety System, but don't say what it is.

All those purchases we make, those we aspire to make. Aren't they like masks or costumes, props we use to buttress the walls we hide behind?  It isn't a car riding my bumper until it goes into the ditch at the first corner. It isn't a car trying to jump in front of me at the exit ramp only to slow down, who has to add 2 MPH toe any speed I am driving at no matter the danger.  It's you.

If you don't read German, I'll tell you that the clip above says the most dangerous drivers in Germany are in BMWs (German Engineering, innovation) and that amongst all the colors offered, the black ones are the worst. But you knew that, even if you didn't know that you can use a Nissan 4 door sedan as a snowboard and that notoriously boring Toyotas are as thrilling to drive as a roller coaster. Hide behind the black mask and the real you comes out. You won't push and shove in the check-out line or on the sidewalk, but when we can't see your face? King of the road.

Have you seen the ad Audi (German Engineering, innovation) is running where the Audi (German Engineering, innovation) driver, without the traditional blacked out windows, offers the right of way to others and steers around the puddle so as not to splash the peasants on the sidewalk?  Yeah right. Sure, of course. And coincidentally he's followed by the black BMW (German Engineering, innovation) who overwhelms them with a wall of water.

Sure, it's the BMW, or anything else for that matter, not the AUDI  when it comes to aggressive, selfish, arrogant and obnoxious behavior. Sure. But of course Subaru drivers know how a Subaru means love and Nissan sedan drivers know their cars can easily make it on the NASCAR circuit, just like the Honda drivers feel like incredible hulks with their OMAGAWD 200 horsepower.  That's how you sell cars to the aspiring, striving, suffering servants of  the machine. Not by telling them one single thing about the real world, where Ferraris don't win races, and those "race inspired" vehicles aren't inspired in any way and those safetycars built with love are only as safe as the damned fools who drive them.

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