And that’s the point, I guess. Watch this ad for a “clean diesel” car by Audi, and good luck getting this slightly modified version of the Cheap Trick classic “Dream Police” out of your head. I couldn’t get it out with a lobotomy. It’s been playing off and on in my brain since it first aired during the Super Bowl.
But beyond the diddy, I also can’t get the vision of a fascist “green” future out of my head — even if it’s portrayed with a heavy dollop of of “Reno: 911“-style cop-show parody. Good comedy has to have a grain of truth in it to work, and this spot has plenty. It’s not just a peek at a ridiculous future, but a look at our “be green or else” present. An overreaction? Tell that to the chief of America’s Green Police, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, who Tweeted:
“Ok .. That ‘green police’ Audi commercial hits home..”
And hits home hard. San Francisco, which proudly considers itself the greenest city in America, has mandated composting for all residents and businesses. Failure to comply results in an escalating scale of fines. No word on whether Newsom was proud or embarrassed to see his Green Police state in San Francisco reflected in an ad.
There’s no doubt the ad is funny, but one is left to wonder what Audi’s purpose was? I’m still a bit flummoxed. Did Audi intend to produce a screed against the Green Police as a way to appeal to those who are fed up with years of constant eco-scolding? One would think not, since the “punch line” is that if you own a clean-diesel Audi, you get to drive right through a green checkpoint. But the other 40 seconds of the one-minute spot dovetail nicely with the growing fatigue and skepticism the public feels about the “green” initiatives of government — especially in the wake of the ClimateGate scandals.
Or did Audi believe the public is in lock-step with the green agenda, and figured people would get a laugh out of a satire of paranoid, know-nothing skeptics, and actually want a car that keeps you on the “good side” of environmental policy. If so, it strikes me as a horrible miscalculation to assume the country is full of people who think like Al Gore and Barbara Boxer. The German carmaker, too, seems to be a bit confused about its own ad.
The Green Police are a humorous group of individuals that have joined forces in an effort to collectively help guide consumers to make the right decision when it comes to the environment. They’re not here to judge, merely to guide these decisions.
Ha ha ha! Just “guide” us, eh? By slamming a dude’s head into the checkout line for choosing plastic? Not here to judge? Tell that to the folks scrambling away from their too-hot hot tub. (I know. It’s only a commercial, and a funny one to boot. Still, to pretend there’s no judgment being made on people’s freedom to make decisions about how they may go about their ordinary lives is ridiculous.)
There’s been a good bit of commentary about this ad in the blogosphere. Ben Boychuk at Infinite Monkeys thought the ad was “cleverly written and produced (the anteater was a cute touch)… and utterly horrifying.”
Two bits in particular really bothered me: The part where the Green Police put some hapless homeowner in the back of a squad car as a news reporter explains the perp was caught using incandescent lights; and the Cops-like scene where the bewildered couple is rousted for setting their hot tub’s thermostat too high.
Ben notes how Audi explains there are “numerous real Green Police units globally that are furthering green practices and environmental issues.”
For example, Israel’s main arm of the Ministry of Environmental Protection in the area of enforcement and deterrence is called; you guess it, the Green Police. New York has officers within the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation that are fondly called the “Green Police”. The Green Police is also the popular name for Vietnam’s Environmental Police Department and the UK has a group who dresses in green as part of the Environment Agency’s squad to monitor excessive CO2 emissions.
Wait. What? A Western carmaker is holding up Communist Vietnam as a good example to follow? And we’re supposed to admire the fact that “free” countries like Israel and Great Britain send bureaucrats around to monitor the emissions of its citizens? I don’t care if they wear cute green outfits, that’s a bit creepy and fascist to me. Such agencies don’t merely “further green practices and environmental issues.” They enforce government-desired life practices through a knock on the door. Big difference.
But, I suppose the joke’s on me. Steve Hayward at No Left Turns sees this as a victory for those of us who’ve had enough of the enviro-scolds:
What’s more over than Mark Sanford’s marriage or John Edwards’ reputation? The environmental movement, that’s what. … Is [the ad] mocking environmentalism? Um. . . yeah. Your moral authority is pretty thin when a major advertiser finds it safe to take this approach. Think anyone would ever try something like this about the civil rights movement? Or the feminist movement?
Point taken. And it should be a source of comfort that those who believe in bossing us around in the name of “saving the planet” (which doesn’t need saved) are a little worried about the mixed messages in this ad. But I live in a state, California, which recently:
I could list more examples, including a bit from the Audi ad that is actually true: Incandescent light bulbs will be contraband in the United States starting in 2012. Sure looks like the Green Police are real to me. Happily, Audi has now armed those who would oppose the reordering of society through environmental mandates with a nice bit of video to splice into footage of Al Gore, Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, Henry Waxman, Barack Obama and others ordering us how to live our lives.
Get crackin’, YouTube fiends! A golden propaganda moment awaits.