Friday, November 23, 2007

Unintended irony alert: For some reason, all Spanish governmental bodies spend lots of money on publicity campaigns for or against something of civic importance. I have no idea how much it costs them, but they run slick, professional TV commercials on prime time and print full-page, full-color ads in the daily papers. My guess is this whole shebang is part of the political patronage system: incumbent-friendly ad agencies and media outlets that are party clientele get the biggest piece of the cheese.

Recent campaigns I remember have been against driving too fast, snorting coke, drinking on the job, and beating your wife, and in favor of eating fruits and vegetables, speaking Catalan, reading books, and recycling. Now the Generalitat is running one...well, I'm not sure exactly what the point is, except it's against the patriarchy because the Institut Català de les Dones (Catalan Women's Institute), a well-known source of public subsidies for feminist organizations and sinecures for party activists, is behind it.

(Among the Catalan Women's Institute's priorities, according to its website, are "the lesbian collective, migrant women, non-sexist language use, sexism in the media," and establishing gender quotas for public spending.)

So. The most recent campaign against the patriarchy has a rather "hippy happy flowers" (as they say here) aesthetic. The print ad features photos of attractive, alternative-looking teenagers, with the slogan, "Love has to be free. Free of sexism, free of anger, free of jealousy. You can make a new era begin. You just have to exercise the right to choose your friends, your beliefs, your way of dressing and acting, of thinking, of having opinions, and of loving. Don't let your partner give you orders, control you, shout at you, or limit your freedom. Love is either free or it is not love."

Aw. How cute. Of course, it will have absolutely no effect.

Here's the YouTube video of the TV commercial. The slogan is the same. Again, the aesthetic is "hippy happy flowers"; a bunch of alternative but well-groomed children of the Catalan bourgeoisie put on a fun demonstration, dancing around and singing just like it was against the Iraq war or something. Or an ad for Coke. No throwing rocks at the riot squad like it was a real demo. The song that accompanies the ad is, for some reason, in English, and it sounds sort of '60s folk-rock. I've never heard it before, so I assume that it was written specifically for the commercial.

What's strange about the song, though, isn't its sound, but its lyrics. It's a male voice singing lead. The first verse goes:

I've been walking along
Singing this song
I'm gonna play it for you

Which is not quite native English, but does sound like something that Donovan might have come up with on a bad day. Or like the beatnik in "Animal House" who gets his guitar smashed by John Belushi. Anyway, it's nice and non-threatening and gentle, right?

Now check out the second verse:

I've been walking along
Going too long
I'm gonna make it with you

Wait a minute. That sounds a lot more like James Brown. That sounds like, "Honey, I've got such a bad case of blue balls that when I get you home I'm going to bone you till I blow my jizz out your ears." Doesn't sound like the woman is going to have much choice in the matter to me. Where I come from, we call that date-rape. At the very least, it's sex-objectification.

What I wonder is: Was the choice of lyrics intentional? Does the Catalan Women's Institute have any idea what they mean?

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