An Inclusive Litany

7/23/02

Writing in Salon, Griel Marcus deconstructs a television advertisement for the Subway sandwich chain, July 23, 2002:
One "Jim" ("a Dennis Miller-type of guy who tells it like it is," says Subway publicist Les Winograd) pulls up to a burger joint in a car full of buddies. He's about 40, tall, well-exercised: "Turkey breast, ham, bacon, melted cheese, Dijon horseradish sauce," he says in the drive-through, exuding an aura of Supermanship all out of proportion to the situation. "That's, like, not on our menu," says the young, pudgy, confused person taking orders. "It's not only not on your menu," Jim says, "it's not on your radar screen!" "Do we have a radar screen?" the clerk asks a supervisor as Jim peels out. "Think I made that burger kid cry?" Jim says to his pals, all of them now ensconced in a Subway with the new Select specials in front of them.

It seems plain that, finally, George W. Bush is making himself felt in culture. The commercial takes Bush's sense of entitlement—which derives from his lifelong insulation from anything most people eat, talk about, want or fear, and which is acted out by treating whatever does not conform to his insulation as an irritant—and makes it into a story that tries to be ordinary. But the story as the commercial tells it is too cruel, its dramatization of the class divisions Bush has made into law too apparent. The man smugly laughing over embarrassing a kid is precisely Bush in Paris attempting to embarrass a French-speaking American reporter for having the temerity to demonstrate that he knew something Bush didn't. (Real Americans don't speak French.) Even someone responsible for putting this talisman on the air may have flinched at the thing once it was out there in the world at large, functioning as public discourse, as politics—the last time I saw the spot, the final punchline had been dropped.

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