(U-WIRE) As I watched Will Smith desperately searching for a cure for a disease that turns humans into zombie-vampires who seem to enjoy baiting humans with mannequins, I couldn’t take my eyes off the slick Mac he was furiously typing away at.
Being a Mac-hater ever since one decided to eat my 10-page essay on the invention of movable type, I couldn’t understand why one of my eyes continued to roll toward the Mac. It seemed not to reflect the darker demeanor that engulfed the scene. Rather, it seemed as if there was a spotlight glowing on it, highlighting its minimalistic structure and clean white case. I always felt the Mac was a near-useless piece of eye-candy, but if Will Smith could use it to fight zombie-vampires … who knows.
I quickly shook that thought from my head and realized I was getting attacked by advertising comparable to early cigarette ads. All through the early half of the 20th century, movies and television were full of actors and actresses puffing away on cigarettes. It made them look “smart” and “independent.” A clean-cut young man with a striped zoot suit would come casually strolling into the room, carelessly letting a cigarette hang from the corner of his mouth. He then would say something “cool” and one would think, wow, it must have been the cigarettes that filtered those words into his mouth. He would nod toward the camera as if to say, yes, it was, and then pull a box out (making sure the camera saw the logo) and grab another cigarette.
Apple Inc. is taking the same route the cigarette companies took. They want their viewers to believe if they have a Mac, they will be viewed as creative, intelligent and independent. They want the viewers to feel that the Mac helps Jack Bauer catch a criminal within 24 hours, tells Donald Trump who he should fire next, and has a special feature that allows Batman to call his Batmobile. The viewer is left with a subconscious screaming, “If you buy a Mac, people will think you’re unique, just like everyone else. And you may just be able to fly!”
This Mac + you = unique/cool formula has started to trickle out of the low-key movie and television spots and into Mac’s commercials, which don’t try to down play the stereotype.
It started in 1984 with a “1984”-style commercial that ended with the slogan “Think Different.” Today, everyone is doing anything but thinking different. They take the “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” commercials as fact. They’re instantly hit with the idea that Macs equal cool and PCs equal not cool, which is comparable to a puff from a cigarette being connected to a person’s independently calm persona.
Even the names of the Apple’s products insinuate individuality. They make iBooks, iMacs, iPods, and i(really-want-to-be-seen-as-unique)Phones. Maybe next year they’ll make iShoes that make me feel as special as everyone else that is wearing them.
But this media-inspired idea that what you own is relevant to who you are is common in America. Driven by advertising, people wouldn’t hesitate to buy a Hummer, were it cheaper, because it allows the owner to feel powerful and thus adds four points to the ego. Nor would they deny the shiniest new touch cell phone because it might just catch someone’s small attention span and give them their first contact in their phonebook.
Much like cigarettes, Macs and other gadgets are more about the idea that rides them rather than their function.
People need to stop letting advertising define them and start defining themselves through their actions and words rather than a shiny toy they rattle around in their hands. They need to stop being mesmerized by their reflection in a new phone and using that gadget as a substitute for their identity. People create themselves through themselves and others — not through personified objects.