Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shit That I Didn't Get -- Part II

When I was about seven years old, there was a public service announcement on TV about the dangers of high blood pressure. It was a pretty dramatic ad; a shot of man’s naked torso with a ticking bomb device strapped to it. Then a solemn voiceover is heard, warning viewers that ignoring high blood pressure is akin to—-well-—ignoring a ticking time bomb strapped to your torso, which seems like a difficult thing to overlook. As the announcer goes on, the camera slowly moves in for a close-up on the time bomb. Then the voiceover finishes with a dramatic flourish (something along the lines of “Don’t let it happen to you”), the clock on the bomb stops ticking and the screen goes dark, implying that the bomb went off and the poor guy was blown to smithereens.

Needless to say, this ad scared the shit out of me. It also taught me that high blood pressure can make you explode into a thousand tiny pieces and die a gruesome death.

I started asking my mom a lot of questions about high blood pressure. When I asked what caused it, she replied with something like, “Oh, I think people who eat a lot of salty foods get that.” I then became the only seven-year-old on my block to express concern over my daily salt intake, shunning the savory snacks I loved like French fries and potato chips. This phase was short-lived, as I pretty much forgot about the horrors of high blood pressure and spontaneous human combustion when the ad stopped airing. I don’t remember it being on TV for longer than a few months or so: perhaps the Ad Council started getting complaints from parents of other impressionable young children who were freaking out over the possibility of getting blown up if they ate the wrong thing.

I tried like hell to find this ad on YouTube, but no dice. If anyone out there manages to get hold of it, be sure send me a link. Perhaps seeing the ad again will have a similar effect on me, now that I’m at an age where I actually should be watching my salt intake. However, I did come across a PSA that aired on TV around the same time. It is a lot more family friendly—no one blows up and dies in this one—but watch for the creepy clown who makes an appearance at 00:07 and again at 00:38, respectively.

Seriously, what is the deal with that clown? And what is he doing riding with the kids on that Tilt-a-Whirl thingie? I find that pretty disturbing, and I don’t share my generation’s near-pathological fear of clowns. I find clowns to be mildly unsettling—-that scene in Poltergeist where the clown doll attacks the big-toothed kid and drags him under the bed caused me a few sleepless nights when I was a wee one—-but overall that fear hasn’t really carried over to adulthood. I’m not as frightened by something as overtly creepy as a clown. A vacant-eyed oil executive in a $3,000 suit? Now that’s fucking scary.

Aside from the weirdness with the clown, I found this ad to be pretty damn heartwarming. I mean, look how happy that family is. And it doesn’t come across as a fake-y TV commercial sort of happy; they all seem genuinely happy to be together. This is the kind of family that every kid secretly wishes for, the kind of happy family that simply doesn’t exist in real life. It didn’t then, and it doesn’t now. But it is a nice thing to see, isn’t it?

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