Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I Prefer My Own Morals, Thanks

Two weekends ago, Megan and I headed up to Grand Forks to visit KD, who will soon be packing up her life to the great wilds of Wyoming. The drive itself takes the greater part of 6 hours, but we managed to hit an enormous thunderstorm and wall-to-wall traffic, so it took us a little longer.

A while ago KD posted on her pet peeves, namely, dogs being left tied up in the their front yards, essentially neglected. On this drive, my pet peeve kept slamming into my eye-line every thirty or so miles. That is, billboards with overt and stupidly obvious moral directives. As if I was going along my merry way and a billboard reminded me to be a good person. OH! If the BILLBOARD says it....!

It should be said that an inordinate number of billboards just so happen to be pro-life. Now, I don't have anything against the pro-life movement, but their ads are just so ridiculously dumb that, well, it's ridiculous.

For example:
  • Choose Life!
  • Pick Life!
  • Life rocks!
  • etc

Each one, of course accompanied by a baby in a flower pot, a baby wearing sunglasses, a baby giving the thumbs up, a baby riding a motorcycle, blah blah blah. (As a side note: why don't they ever have photos of babies projectile vomiting? Or screaming their lungs off? I hear they do this much more often than riding motorbikes).

Again, I must emphasis that, even though myself I am pro-choice, I have no beef with the pro-life movement. It's just that their message is so ridiculously OBVIOUS. I mean, what would the alternative billboard say: Kill Your Bastard Spawn Today?

It kind of reminds me of the line in the move Juno, where she calls the clinic and says, in complete deadpan irony: "Hello. I'd like to procure a hasty, painful abortion please." I mean, come ON, I'd like to believe that no one enters into that decision lightly, much less be swayed by a billboard.

This is not a pro-life rant. I only pick this example because they have somehow so proLIFErated along the highway that they are hard not to miss. My other favorite is the billboard outside of Sauk Center that showed a sillohuet of a man thinking, and a bubble coming from his head saying "What if I swore less?" I used to always give that billboard the finger.

Megan, a soon to be pastor, brought up a point I'd never thought about. As someone who makes it her lifes work to comfort and counsel others, she felt that these moral directives were kind of insulting. While trying to encourage "good" deeds, they were also distilling (and distorting?) her art form down to a simple catch phrase.

The other thing that gets me on these is that I have no escape. I HAVE to drive on that highway; it's the only way to get home! In essence, I'm tricked into seeing someone else's moral vision for my life because I can't NOT look at the road.

Hmm...How about a sign that says "Stop reading billboards?"

The last thing that gets me is the assumption that I'm NOT already doing those things. I've never had an abortion, nor do I swear all the goddamn time, so why do I need a reminder? It just seems so....assumptive. Assumptive to the point of invasive.

Anyway, it just annoys me that whoever has enough money can spew their moral directives my way. Advertising is one thing, but I prefer my own moral highway, thanks.

2 comments:

AnthroGirl said...

excellent point...I think Simpsons said it the best in an episode titled Homey the Clown where Homer gets excited about new billboards and as a result of their sound moral messages decides to attend the Clown College. Now, I always wanted a billboard that said 'Come to Krusty the Clowns College' because it was about the art of clowning, and not Krusty's never-ending financial problems.

Megan said...

The only way to cure yourself of a highway's worth of moral imperatives is, of course, to drink cheap beer and dance to "I Kissed A Girl". So really, when they say "Choose Life" or "Be Kind", what I end up doing is kill braincells and be a lush. I don't think that's what they had in mind...