Thursday, August 18, 2005

Jerk Appeal

Ed Gorman talks about stupidity as an advertising tool, and reminds us that while we can all appreciate the gambolings of fools now and then, the annoyance factor may be a consumer repellent.

I have to admit, I appreciate parody, satire, and gentle self-deprecation, particularly when it's done by intelligent men. Call me sexist, but smart humor from a fine male mind catches my attention like no muscle-bound HeDude ever could. Dennis Miller versus Arnold Schwarzenegger: who wins? No contest; Dennis, of course. Dennis makes me laugh and makes me think. Arnold only makes me renew my oath never to join a gym or live in California again.

On the screen, intelligent, funny actors from Will Rogers to Will Smith have always been irresistable to me. When I was a kid, my Sunday mornings were wrapped up in the wit of the cartoonists, whether they were gentle chiders like Charles M. Schulz, or razor-edged political dobermen like G.B. Trudeau (who evidently doesn't think too much of bloggers.)

Likewise I enriched many youthful hours by soaking up print by funny guy writers. My favorites were tales by O. Henry and verse by Ogden Nash. Today I tend to go more for nonfictioners like Peter Mayle and Bill Bryson, but every now and then I'll break out some Oscar Wilde or Ambrose Bierce.

On the flip side, I can't stand stupid men who have no sense of humor (I won't irritate your corneas by linking to a certain joyless repeat offender here.) The only thing worse is a man who thinks acting like a moron is a replacement for wit (remember the guy who claimed women are too stupid to write SF? Him and his Rush 24/7 member buddies.)

Still, if you really want to see me break out in hives, make me watch a Stupid Guy movie. These are the flicks where the lead actor is simply a wandering idiot who can do nothing right even when he's given instructions written in words of two syllables or less. In other words, pretty much everything Jim Carrey has done since The Mask. Or the Group of Stupid Guys movies, with pairs or trios or quartets of these brainless beauties, bumbling along, always on some sort of quest more absurd than they are. Two of the most memorably idiotic: Dude, Where's My Car?, a lame one-line joke that stopped being funny in the 90's, stretched out over eighty-three minutes and could not be saved, not even by Ashton Kutcher's pretty face,; and Kingpin, which I didn't actually see because just watching the trailer was enough to make me run for the epinephrine.

I don't see much jerk advertising in the publishing industry, but then again, I don't subscribe to the trades. That Twelve Hawks author with the whole secret identity thing came pretty close, and Ed Gorman's theory holds, as the hype evidently didn't sell as many books as the publisher had hoped. Didn't that seem really silly anyway? Like an idea cooked up by someone who watched the Matrix movies too many times and buys Neo clothes off eBay.

More reading: One of the finest satirists I've read on the web (but alas, no relation to Yours Truly) and author of the infamous internet parody, French Intellectuals in Afghanistan, Michael Kelly.