Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dorian Gray, Just for Men, and a shakin' in the bed

I'm a nocturnal creature, like the bat, the mole, the owl, Dracula, the Wolf Man (the monster, not the Freud patient) and just about every other supernatural menace/cinematic homicidal maniac. (What is it about monsters that makes them afraid to show themselves in broad daylight? They're wusses, probably liberals.) When I am not immersed in a textual deconstruction of fin-de-siecle MittleEuropean literature, I can be found on my sofa casually channel-surfing -- and generally wiping out. For overnight TV is a gallimaufry of infospiels, a six-hour block of unending tele-hypnosis aimed at the insomniacal, the elderly and the hopelessly delusional -- the "Loser" demographic. A block of lost souls who are dying to be saved by Jesus, miracle hair replacements and ab-flattening apparati.

Thankfully, I have a relatively full head of hair, so the likes of Avicore don't arouse my insecurity. However, I have spotted a few gray hairs among the dark brown. And so I found myself suspending my index finger -- the remote channel-changing one at the appearance of a startling ad for Just for Men.

Maybe you've seen this ad in all its nightmarishly exploitational glory. It's the one in which a certain man's career is going great guns ... until he gets a few gray hairs, at which point he starts falling down an elevator shaft. Suddenly this guy’s perfect haute bourgeois life turns into a Hitchcock film. Having apparently survived the fall and/or escaped from a snake pit, he locks himself in his apartment, a self-identified pariah. He has no social life and soon begins to resemble a refugee from a Hopper painting. From his look of existential angst, it seems that at any second he could break into “the Scream.”

The message is scary in a kitschy, futuristic way: A few streaks of gray and you're kaput, defective, a drain on society. Buy Just for Men or throw yourself off the Brooklyn Bridge. Or maybe you'll be herded into camps by armies of slackers (assuming they could summon the energy). It's like a rewound "The Picture of Dorian Gray." (Note: Not to be confused with the adult video "The Picture of Dorian Gay," in which a straight man acts increasingly swishy, while his portrait turns into Liza Minnelli.)

Just as I was adding, "Buy 'Just for Men'" to my do-to list and pondering the implications of Madison Avenue agism, on came an informercial for the “Bean,” a snythetic beanbag-shaped device that purports to give you six-pack abs and is more stable than an exercise ball (sometimes known as a Physio ball). It featured heartfelt testimonials from people who claim that the Bean enables them to do their sit-ups and crunches without having to worry about the instability of the ball. Yes, these mostly young people admit that they're too lame and/or uncoordinated to sit on a large plastic ball without risking grievous injury.

Perhaps their ballophobia isn't their fault. Perhaps it's caused by the Devil. That's what I inferred from a televangelist show I switched to next.

Two women from Texas were discussing demonic mischievousness. One claimed that friends of hers had demons “shaking their beds.” But because she has such strong faith, there was no “shakin’ in her bed. "That’s because I tol' the devil ‘Get.’” “Not ‘Get.’ ‘Git’,” replied the other. “That works on these Texas demons.”

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