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is it okay: to watch infomercials?

I like to think of my mind as a fortress; that if I came across some Jedi or The Doctor I’d hang on to my scrap metal and see through any psychic notepaper that got thrust my way. But recently I’ve begun to doubt this, and the reason is infomercials.

If you don’t know what an infomercial is, I’m not going to say you’ve been living under a rock. Or if you have, I’m assuming it’s a rock where people go to do productive things, and if that is indeed where you’ve been, please email me a detailed map and a list of motivational phrases (things like ‘You can do this!’ and ‘Stop Wikipedia link trekking’.)

Anyway, for the sake of clarity, an infomercial is a long television commercial generally centred around ridiculous products which, for the most part, fall into the categories of: cleaning, exercise, ‘revolutionary’ clothing, and makeup/appearance. They favour featuring catch phrases, confusing interviews, and repetitive yet often irrelevant stock footage. A typical one will run pretty much as follows:

We’re selling slippers! Here is a picture of a man taking his tiny dog for a walk! This dubbed shot of a woman has her saying ‘I’m so very comfortable! My feet are in clouds!’ Five minutes later we’ll use the exact same piece of footage, except this time she’s saying ‘the construction is second to none!’ Now we are throwing eggs at the slippers to prove how good they are. Anyway, buy them now and we’ll send you some bras or something. Penguins!

As a general rule I don’t watch this kind of thing unless they are compiled into some kind of “best of” YouTube video featuring people smacking themselves in the face with ironing boards because of their own sheer incompetence and lack of “miraculous fabric smoothing spray, now with added toad testicles!” They are a waste of time, are mostly laughably ridiculous, and they reek of lies. Avoid please.

Unfortunately, at present, I only have the choice between two channels. The first is almost exclusively made up of what seems to be real estate listings backed by a soundtrack of hard rock, and the other is a medley of Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, and Party of Five, with the occasional episode of Days of Our Lives and rounded off with ‘heartwarming family film of the day’. Apparently, however, this is not enough to sustain a full day’s worth of television scheduling, and so in between each of these is a random assortment of infomercials which can last anywhere between five minutes to an hour.

Infomercials tell us that we are incompetent without material goods. They try to sell us pens that will make our faces look ten years younger, and show us pictures of dogs in order to make us buy slippers. They go to great lengths to explain that our bodies are warped and misshapen, and that the only way to fix them to a standard that society can accept is by purchasing a machine that when in use, makes you look like a horny snail.

They play the same infomercials multiple times a day. The first time round, I laughed. The second time I laughed slightly less. The third time I was eating crackers. By the fourth time round it had started to seep into my subconscious. By the fifth time, I found I was looking up reviews on the “Insanity” workout to see if it really produced results.

The hypnosis was taking hold, and the little dogs which, while ridiculous and irrelevant, grabbed my attention, and allowed the insidious repetitive nature of the infomercial to begin to enter my mind, shoehorning in information about cleaning products and nail stamping machines. The world is full of problems, but all of them could be solved if only I purchased the “Brazil Butt Lift”. Running is all well and good when it comes to staving off heart disease, but it won’t make ones behind “look like a little apple.”

Then I remembered that I don’t run, and that me doing a push up is less of a muscle building exercise, and more of a falling on my elbows and face experience. My wallet stayed in my pocket, and the television switched back to its scheduled programming.

Never have I been so glad to have The Bold and the Beautiful come on. No superficiality there.

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