Wednesday 12 February 2014

The pathetic people - us


I have a wildly disproportionate hatred of the face and pseudo-persona of the woman above, who features in the Halifax Building Society adverts. (For foreign readers: a Building Society is a kind of bank.)

You may think this is a ridiculous obsession; but, you see, this woman's face is all over my life.

The TV adverts are on all the time, she is on billboards I can see from most bus stops, she is plastered all over one of the main city squares; and now - every time I log onto my e-mail - her bravely-smiling mug is unignorably staring at me from unwanted adverts just to the right of the text.


The back story is given by the adverts - this creature has been dubbed Linda Turner and is supposed to be a really diligent hard-working and ultra-helpful person at a Do-It-Yourself megastore. We see her not only talking to customers but (as above) demonstrating power tools...

Demonstrating power tools in a shop! Look at this woman's hands - she is well into her sixties - although like 99 percent of British old women she has her wizened face adorned with a hairdressers 100 quid masterpiece of simulated 35 year old hair to create the impression of a skull in a wig.

On Take 537 when filming the advert, Linda managed to hold the power drill aloft for three wobbly seconds - and provided the staggeringly unconvincing footage of her using it.

Then we see her driving a fork life truck and loading things on palettes. Because, of course, that is what geriatric female shop assistants do all the time.

But mostly we see her smiling 'bravely' because, apparently, she is a woman alone (nobody at home - maybe she is a widow, maybe a spinster, more likely an abandoned divorcee which would explain the desperate attempt to look young).

Anyway her function is to be a pathetic person - so that the bank can advertize a stunningly lame scheme to 'reward' reliable investors with five pounds a month 'cash back' or something - not even enough money to buy two cups of coffee - and the character certainly depicts pathetic-ness well.


I hate about Linda Turner that she is pathetic, bravely-smiling through her almost-tears and peeping out from her young woman's wig-hair - I feel sorry for her, and she makes me feel sorry for myself: and this is exactly what is supposed to happen.

She joins another hate-group of mine - the Pathetic People in the Lloyds-TSB adverts - which are like a whole world of Linda Turners.

These sad-happy, multi-ethnic fragile-stick people have been around for ages and ages; pitifully stumbling through their pathetic and courage-sapping lives.

Presumably the way in which we, the customers, are being depicted as pathetic people reflects, on the one hand, how mega-multi-national corporations regard us - and on the other hand how they want us to be.

We see these adverts and we feel close to tears at the image of our own aspiring yet timid helplessness in the face of overwhelming reality - and we turn to the welcoming arms of exploitative capital.

Or maybe they are just glorying in their strength and our submission, like Nietzschian supermen....


Anyway, Linda Turner and the pathetic people are a glimpse of our Godless world of atomized individuals where family and community have been replaced by the trained nice-ness of shop assistants - a fantasy in which the height of aspiration is selling-ourselves into slavery to kindly masters who will kindly look after us until our purposeless, meaningless existences dwindle-away into nothingness.

A world without courage, a world without love.

THAT is why I hate Linda Turner and her stupid, simpering face. Hate her with passionate zeal. 



Don said...

I must admit the same has happened to me. In fact _just_ before I read this and my wife reminded me about judging others. I doubled down and said judge me as I judge this guy because the next time you catch me acting like that will be the first. It is not good for our soul to hate even a stereotype. If we treat them in our mind as 'real' even if just what they represent to our subconcious they might as well be real. Do we commit adultry if we lust after actressess we've never met? Is Elizabeth Hurley on tv any more real than 'trying too hard spinster'? I understand you're talking about what she represents but is it the same type of moral dilema?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Don - When I post funny photos it is a signal that I am engaged in humour - especially hyperbole. It is true I hate Linda Turner, but in a humorous and hyperbolic fashion. This is not a sin!

George said...

Yes! It's like "don't observe I'm 60, thats not fare it shouldn't be my fault if I drop this and hurt someone" or "don't point out I'm not a real athlete or competitive, that's not fair and I want to be!" and we've summed up all of today's public social interaction.

Adam Greenwood said...

In classic fiction, you identified with the hero because he was an everyman or because he was an idealization of manhood. Ditto for women.

But more and more the heroes are gay werewolves. But apparently people buy and read this stuff. How do they identify with the hero? I realized recently that they can identify because they understand themselves as victims.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

A world without courage, a world without love.

Thus, a world without truth, a world of lies. So pathetic and so misled that sarcasm is our means to disguise the reason of our tears.

MC said...

"How do they identify with the hero? I realized recently that they can identify because they understand themselves as victims."

Alternatively, most of us are not especially heroic, but it used to be that we aspired to the ideal. Now everyone just wants hero status for being themselves.

Also, I think I see in modern advertising an inability of the creative types to hide their disdain for the people they're pitching to.

The Continental Op said...

I love a good clean hate.

The Crow said...

You should see the content of Canadian commercials. On second thoughts, maybe it's better that you don't...

heaviside said...

Pity is the worst feeling.

Googling that sentence returns mostly results on self-pity, which I feel is a probably very different creature. I have the fuzzy intuition that the preoccupation with self-pity is a bad thing.

The impression I got of this post was one of deadly-seriousness, and though I haven't seen any of these advertisements, it sounds like a sentiment I would agree with. It also struck me as very Nietzschean.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

I love a good clean hate.

This reminds me that passions (love, hate, anger, pride) are neutral in themselves. They are indeed good and clean if their object is the good and the corresponding repulsion for evil.

Dave Jones said...

Fantastic piece, she creeps me out big style, well said