NBC.com > American Dreams: Salute to the Armed Forces
Okay. So I love American Dreams, the same way I loved Dawsons Creek. It is heavy handed drama that placates me for an hour before I have to return to Reality. I call it quality television. But . . .
Last night's episode bugged me. I like how the show balances the notion that one can be loyal to the troops and wish them safety while simultaneously objecting to the war (the daughter, Meg, represents this balance). Last night's episode featured his emotional (if somewhat anti-climactic) homecoming and I was genuinely grateful on behalf of my little fictional family that he was home. However, the show made it at least somewhat clear that he faced an uphill battle at home to regain a sense of normalcy and switch over from war mode to home mode. Fair enough.
The show was presented "with minimal commercial interruption" by Ford. Hah. The father presented his newly returned son with a BRAND NEW, 1966 Ford Mustang. Product placement less subtle than a sledgehammer. The cast worked ably around it, and so did the story, but after the show, Ford presented a thick gooey 5-minute commercial in which a soldier returns home and bonds with Dad over war stories and his 1970 Fastback. I was doing okay until that. The product placement was okay in the story, but the pukeworthy extended commercial at the end insulted me deeply but reminded me of the inextricable link between the modern Armed Forces and commercialism.
For one, I doubt, as the father in the commercial said, that the mere thought of the '70 Stang was what kept those boys going in 'Nam. I guess the car is supposed to be sort of a synecdoche (ha! I love it when I get to use that word!) for America- for how a poor kid bagging groceries could join the forces, come back, and with his military training find a job that would earn him that shiny new car. Fine. But I would at least like to think that guys over there in Viet Nam were thinking of life itself, of the future, of their families, of their hometowns . . . and somewhere down that list after kid brothers and girlfriends and taking a long hot shower after getting home is the idea of a new car. Cars are important to Americans, and are a symbol of America, but they are not THAT important.
I think this link has been around for some time- one only needs to look at a vintage Life magazine to see that service men and women are used in plenty of advertising. Coke ads show guys embracing mom, little sisters offering their freshly returned GI a bottle of soda. But now- I guess I just find it distasteful that in a war so dominated by commercial interests that servicemen and women are becoming mere mascots for huge corporations. Especially corporations so dependent on the oil industry.
I could live with the '66 in the show. That was fine, because the show is called "American Dreams" and they presented the car in a scene that explored the complexities of post-war life for every veteran. But the schmalzy commercial that followed was an insult to the Armed Forces, not a salute as they so tritely called it. It was a reminder, at least to me, that there is a cottage industry surrounding the Armed Forces that exists to exalt the idealized veteran while making huge amounts of money off of their deployment. Does anyone actually think those yellow ribbon magnets cost $8 to make? Those things don't support the troops. They support people who know how to make money off of a war. In my eyes, those companies who make such things are no better than Halliburton. They are profiteering off of the fact that this trumped-up war involves people close to the hearts of the American consumer.