Last night during the Venture Bros. season premiere, Adult Swim aired a Diet Coke ad with Taylor Swift, and we - those of us who were watching it together - were annoyed. And we talked about it for the entire commercial break.
We talked about how ridiculous it was that Coca Cola believed that putting T.Swift in an ad about "songwriting" and Diet Coke would make them actually sell Diet Coke, we talked about T.Swift's perception in society within our demographic and others, as a guilty pleasure and an artist, etc. etc. etc.
And then at the end of the commercial break I said, "But see - the ad worked, it doesn't matter if we want a Diet Coke or not. We just talked about their ideas for five full minutes and tried to make sense of them. They win."
Whatever we talked about is irrelevant, whoever they put in the ad is irrelevant, whatever the ad portrays is irrelevant.
Our job is not to buy Diet Coke - people are going to do that anyway. Our job is to give a shit about Diet Coke, our job is to make it relevant to our lives, which we obviously just did by even thinking about it at all to the point where we discussed it for five minutes and I still can't stop thinking about it.
I mean, I'm not gonna stop buying Diet Coke when I'm hungover just because they put Taylor Swift in a commercial.
There are certain types of places that I hate spending my free time, but I will inevitably do it anyway because people I love want to spend their time there.
When I say "places" I mean "bars," really. Not all bars - some are fortresses of comfort. I'm talking about plastic bars.
They're fucking toxic. They're awful. I was at one on Friday.
Plastic bars are vast, loud, terribly lit places. They have obscenely high ceilings, giant bars full of 100 kinds of vodka, black walls. Bars that have multiple giant rooms. Bars where you have to yell for the bartender to hear your drink order. Bars where drinks are expensive and watery, where everyone is dressed the same and you have to wait in a line to go to the bathroom, and it doesn't even matter if you know that the people there are individuals with feelings and thoughts, it doesn't even matter if you care about them because once you get into there you are immediately part of the herd, and your environment is specifically designed to keep you into that herd.
The amenities - beer, food, chairs, tables, dance floor - are designed to keep you in a room, the room is designed to amplify the sound of the music, the music is designed to make you feel a beat, and the beat is designed to make you fall in line with the herd, it's designed to keep everyone feeling the same thing and doing the same thing and drinking the same thing and wearing the same thing.
Temple Grandin. You know Temple Grandin? She's amazing. She's an autistic woman that designed the modern slaughterhouse that is specifically designed to make cattle feel safe and part of the herd and not like they're about to be murdered and ground into Whoppers.
That's the kind of bar I'm talking about.
Sure, they think they're retaining their individuality because they're wearing different colors or a different cut, but it's all designed by the same people and part of the same brand and they didn't choose those clothes, no matter what they think - those clothes were designed and marketed to them in a specific way so they would think they had a choice in the first place. That's how branding works. It creates a herd, gives them infinite choices of the same thing, gives them the allusion of individuality. But they all have the same goals, the same taste, the same job. They don't think so, but they do. And I share a lot in common with them. I know I do.
Most importantly: I don't look down on being part of the herd, even though people think I do. That's their own insecurity. It's just another way of being, and as long as you're being something, and you care about it, I think it's rad.
I cannot stress that enough.
Here's what separates me: I know what's going on and I'm actively trying to not be a part of it. It's hard. It's easy to dismiss it, and say "that's the way things are" and just leave it alone and go about my business. People say I'm overreacting. That I'm looking to hard for something that isn't there. I say they're idiots because they're willfully ignoring something in front of their face because they don't want to see it. But there it is, and I want no part of it.
The herd is not nice to outsiders.
I'm the type of person that people stop on the street and ask for directions. I'd say this happens to me once a day. People have yelled at me from their cars and asked for directions. I don't know why this happens, or what it is about me that makes them choose me - but they do, which means I give off some sort of vibe that either says "I know where I'm going" or, more likely, "I will answer your question."
On top of that, I give off another vibe: I'm not connected to you. It will take me awhile to connect with a person. Like a year. Or so. Since I don't believe I'm connected - my connection has to grow.
And people who believe they're connected and a part of things - they cannot understand what it's like to feel disconnected. They don't understand that it's not something you turn on and off, it's a belief. I cannot just stop believing something because you think it's a good idea. Welcome to religion.
So back to the herd and the people I know and love that can vibe in the herd: we've already connected, so I don't know if they see the outsider part of me or not.
But strangers can smell it. They attack and do their best to make me feel uncomfortable. AND I'M IN MY THIRTIES. WE ARE ADULTS. THEY STILL DO THIS.
Again, like the commercial, the details aren't important. The point is that it happened. It happens. The point is I'm still thinking about it.
The point is I hate it there. Everything about it feels wrong to me. It makes me uncomfortable and angry and sad, it makes me question my existence and my purpose. An environment that is specifically designed to make me feel one with my surroundings makes me feel lonesome and alien.
The point is that I will keep going back to these places because I don't want to lose the connections I have, but these places stress those connections more than strengthen them.
It's inevitable that someone is going to tell me to stop caring what people think. No. You aren't paying attention. That's all there is. All I am is the people I care about, and what they think is important to me. Whether we agree is irrelevant. The point is not that our thoughts and feelings are the same, the point is that we care in the fucking first place.
I am a paradox.