As you know, occasionally, I like to deconstruct television commercials. I admire how they can be both seductive and abusive. They have the power to flatter us while they berate us. They dare to illustrate what we lack, and, brother, you’re a mess.
State Farm Insurance has recently added another commercial featuring their willing, genie-like agents that wink in and out of existence at the whim of any policy holder who knows the password. It doesn’t matter what the agent is doing prior. They could be sleeping, building a bird house, scuba diving, whatever, but when a policy holder says the magic words, they must appear.
And now we’ve learned that they have the power to carry whoever they touch with them through time and space. God help you if you summon an agent when he’s, say, making love to his wife.
All you need to do to make an agent appear is say the following: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
Hang on. As I wrote that, I suddenly heard something in my living room. Oh my God! It worked. How are you? That must have been very disorienting for you. No, I don’t have a claim or anything; I just finished writing “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” and…Wow, now there are two of you. Good Heavens, you’re bleeding! You say were donating blood? Good for you; what a great way to save a life. Let me get you a towel. Here you go; use it to apply direct pressure. So how does this work? Do I send you away again, or do you leave on your own whenever you feel like it? Wait, I wanna try something. “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary!” Gentlemen, meet Mary.
Now, while Bloody Mary is chasing them around the living room, trying to rip their faces off, let’s examine that jingle, shall we?
I won’t repeat it for obvious reasons, but the crux of it is that neighbors who are “there” are good, and since State Farm is also “there” although not a neighbor per se, by the transitive property (If A=B and B=C, then A=C), State Farm is also good. It follows that you should then purchase a policy (or several) right away lest you be unworthy of all that is good.
My issue with this assessment is that the commercial fails to accurately define “there,” which is crucial in substantiating the claim of “good.”
If by “there,” the commercial means “where my neighbor currently is,” then the neighbor’s mere proximity in a home adjacent to mine is therefore grounds for goodness, which, as those for whom Jeffery Dahmer was a neighbor will tell you, is patently false.
And does that mean that wherever the neighbor is (i.e. rifling through my garbage) it is a good place for my neighbor to be? After all, wherever my neighbor goes, “there” he is.
But perhaps the commercial defines “there” as something more esoteric. For instance: “If you ever need to borrow a tool, talk about work, or require a kidney transplant, I’ll be ‘there.’”
In which case, the neighbor’s availability is, in fact, the source of the “good,” and not necessarily the neighbor’s location. However, clearly, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is available to you, albeit reluctantly” is not as rhetorically graceful.
Another assumption is that I like or care about my neighbor in the slightest. What if he was downright annoying? Then, his being “there” would be the furthest thing from “good,” and I doubt State Farm would want to be associated with those feelings.
In conclusion, State Farm’s comparisons to our neighbors and their innate “goodness” by virtue of their displacement of space and time are risky propositions.
Please join me next week when I address the juxtaposition of talking babies and investing in a volatile stock market: Hilarious or merely delightful?