Is it just me or does anyone else find Nokia’s “the next episode is about to begin” commercial a bit disturbing? I mean, it’s really slick and artistic with all these staccato images, a Philip Glass song in the background and a voice-over that alternates between sounding like George Clooney and Brad Pitt, but I have this sudden, mean urge to switch off the TV when it comes on.
Someone watches television in a dingy room and the movie’s over, a bunch of plastic toys float in a pool with no sign of children around, a lone guy is asleep on a pristine bed — not the most joyful pictures these. And it builds to an immensely lonely thing. Like small girls alone in elevators. Long corridors with flickering lights. Japanese horror films. Alright, I’m probably letting my imagination run away with me. I prefer my commercials to be warm and fuzzy, or cool in a non-threatening sort of way.
But then, this is an ad for a mobile phone with entertainment features so the sense of loneliness is fitting in a way. Entertainment on a mobile phone is a solitary pleasure after all. More and more, entertainment is something we seek when we are on our own. Something to take the bite out of empty rooms and eating alone. We are alone more of the time — on the road or at home — and we need things to fill the space. Sounds, speech, words, music. Sometimes, even just noise. This is where they come in: the iPod, the portable DVD player, the smaller, niftier panacea to boredom in your pocket.
Which makes me think of how far we’ve come from the traditional ways of being entertained. Dance, music or drama at a community theater. Nautanki, Jatra and Yakshagana. Even the old, crumbly cinema halls where one went for the pleasure of watching others watch the film (and whistle, hoot, yell) as much as to watch the film. In contrast, multiplexes are an anesthetized experience. Everything is plush, soft and sophisticated. All reclining seats and hushed tones and popcorn served by gloved waiters.
Never has intimacy with the self been so hyped. All the glossies cheerfully admonish you to get some ‘me-time’. Being a freelance writer, I get plenty of solitude. So I’m probably not the target audience for the ad which is, undoubtedly, aimed at jet-setting individuals with more exciting lives. They probably love it.
But “In the next episode, nobody will talk; everybody will sing.” Tell me that’s not a little bit scary.