Over the years I've noticed that commercials have gotten quite bold with their approaches. Nowadays, to catch our attention commercials are designed to be shocking, repetitive, annoying, humorous, catchy, viral, cool, epic, inspiring, tongue-in-cheek, familiar, or classic. Some commercials like this one and this one are outstanding works of visual storytelling. The quality of such commercials rival that of most films.
Today I wanted to elaborate on the quality of being weird and its capacity to encompass all of the types of feelings and responses. Weird is the word that we ascribe to feelings that we don't quite understand and that we can't quite put into a neat category like the ones I listed in the introduction. Weird has a way of taking us by surprise, making us laugh, revealing an inspiring side of things, being cool (because it's different), catching on, and/or just being bad.
In some ways being weird (ie. mixed and muddled, crossing across categories/boundaries) is more reflective of real life than being anything else. Humans are complex beings. When we're happy, we're not just happy. We're a lot of things. A lot of emotions and thoughts exist in the background of all of our emotions. The deeper you look, the more you'll come to see that every moment in life is a little weird, and every emotion is more compounded than a 3 letter word.
To highlight some of the very best weirdness I've come across, I've selected the Skittles commercials. Commercials make perfect examples because of their brevity. Like (relatively short) poems, commercials can studied and examined repeatedly without consuming much time at all. For each Skittle commercial, I will supply commentary that will bring the full weirdness to light.
- Everyone is equal, right? Black, Hispanic, Filipino, Thai, and White. In this commercial, we see a white man getting fitted for a suit. In each of the 3 mirrors, the suited man is reflected as a difference race. Everything is going fine, until he realizes that he doesn't have any Skittles like the Filipino man in the mirror. Apparently, the suited man and his reflections aren't all equal.
- When the issue is brought to the storeman's attention, he proceeds to argue with the Filipino reflection. Their words aren't subtitled, so we're awkwardly pushed to the outside of the dispute. The conflict escalates until the Filipino reflection kicks the mirror and takes himself out the picture.
- After this shocking and sudden debacle, the stunned suitman looks to the storeman. The storeman smilies in such a way that seems to say "nevermind what just happened. please buy the suit." After all, the store isn't a fancy, high end looking place. Instead the store is small and homey. I can imagine that the storeman could use the business. But what are we (from the perspective of the suitman) supposed to believe in after our views on equality have been shattered?
- The reason why the awkward ending is so impactful is because all of the characters (reflections included) in the commercial treat the supernatural conceit of the commercial (magic mirrors) as a common thing. The suitman isn't taken aback because one the mirrors shows a him that isn't "him." Rather, the suitman is shocked simply because he inadvetenly started a conflict that ended up with a broken mirror. In other words, when the characters in a fictional conceit treat the fictional elements as common, everyday occurances the attitude is translated to the audience. In this way, this commercial doesn't create a sense of weirdness because of the mirrors. The weirdness comes from the racial tension. The mirrors are simply a very effective visual metaphor.
- Some people think it's foolish to believe in things that you can't see or touch. But we can all agree that it's foolish to question the existence of a rainbow that you're sitting on high in the sky. I wonder what kind of person would question the existance of the very support that's keeping him/her safe. Perhaps the commercial implies that no matter where you are or what kind of situation you're in, there will always be the non believer. In a world where rainbows are physical, literal metaphors, it's "believe the rainbow" or else.
- How these kids got up onto the rainbow in the first place, I can't say. Perhaps we've all been resting on a "rainbow" in our own lives. Enjoy it while you can like the other two youngsters do in the commercial. For to believe is a sweet deal; like a mouth full of Skittles no doubt.
- "That fool got what he deserved," or so we're left to think by the end of the commercial. "I'll never be that stupid" we might think as we go about our lives waiting for our chance to sit upon a rainbow and not make the same mistake.
- The commercial opens with a strange man poorly impersonating a fledgling bird: "Quack. Quack." An eagle flies by and deftly opens a bag of skittles. After dropping a few into the man's mouth, the eagle flies away.
- The commercial up to this point is weird enough because both the man and the eagle are acting out of character in two very different ways. After the eagle flies away, the man breaks the charade and thanks the eagle for the Skittles with a common phrased typically used between humans: "Thank you. Thank you very much."
- By the end of the commercial all of the established ideas are nullified. The bird-man returns to being a man-man. The seemingly normal eagle dexterously opens a bag of skittles and feeds a man. All the ideas contridict each other execpt for the nourishing Skittles and the thank you. If everything around you makes no sense, at least there's nourishment (Skittles). And that's something to be thankful for. The look on the man's face says it all.
Stay tuned for more weird Skittles commercials.