Showing posts with label love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label love. Show all posts

Friday, August 14, 2015

Relationships that end ≠ relationships that fail

I don't like how we say that any relationship that ends is one that failed. 

Because, seriously, if you helped each other be less alone and lonely for a while, or if you helped each other love more deeply or meaningfully, or if you helped each other become stronger, kinder, more thoughtful people — I mean, it sucks when a relationship ends because you couldn't make a long distance thing work, or you just didn't have a lot in common anymore, or someone was stunningly mediocre in bed1, but it's hard to characterize a relationship like that as, all things considered, a failure.

The relationships that fail are the ones that leave its members more thoughtless, more jaded, more isolated, more cynical, and crueler to themselves and others. Or, in other words, the relationships that fail are the ones that leave its members worse than if the relationship never happened.

We often don't have any control over whether a relationship ends, but we do have a lot of control over whether it fails. We should all try harder. 


1TOTES HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE, LADIES, I SWEAR. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

It is so ordered

Photo: Ludovic Bertron via Wikipedia (CC BY)

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage—a.k.a., marriage—today in a 5-4 decision. Now is as good a time as any to re-post this picture of former Sen. Rick Santorum, autographed by sex advice columnist/LGBT activist/neologism coiner Dan Savage with his best wishes.



It’s pretty much the only autograph for which I’ve ever asked.

* * *

And a small anecdote: When I was in high school in 2006, my school district, as policy, blocked all LGBT-related websites, including those that provided resources and support for LGBT youth. (In what I’m sure was a complete coincidence, access to the websites of right-wing groups featuring anti-LGBT material—including Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, and NARTH—were completely accessible.)

My high school’s online newspaper published an article about the policy; subsequently, our online newspaper got blocked as well.

Anti-LGBT web filtering policies and we were still stuck using Internet Explorer. Dark days indeed.

I remember when we were publishing that article, we felt kind of badass and edgy and controversial. I’m grateful that, thanks in part to five members of the Supreme Court today, sticking up for LGBT students doesn’t feel badass and edgy and controversial anymore; it just feels like the right, expected, common sense thing to do.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Is it okay to ask out your waiter/waitress?

So you’re at a restaurant with a friend. At some point in the evening, perhaps in a lull in conversation between the removal of the plates formerly containing the rings of onion but before the presentation of the back ribs of baby, your friend leans over, gestures across the restaurant towards your server, and asks: “Pretty cute, right?”

And of course, your server is pretty cute. Plenty cute, in fact. And they seem really nice and sweet and charming. Even though you react in horror when your friend offers to exclaim, “MY BUDDY THINKS YOU’RE CUTE” when your server returns, a question flits across your mind: Is it okay to ask them out?

POINT: No, it’s not okay under any circumstances

Oh, you think your server’s cute? Congratulations—so did virtually everyone else they waited on today, and they’ve already had to deal with a barrage of unsolicited comments on their physical appearance, invasive questions about their personal life, high-larious innuendo-laden jokes pilfered from decade-old episodes of Entourage, and propositions beginning with the phrase, “What time do you get off… from work?” So why do you want to be a part of that?

The harsh reality is this: the basis of asking someone out is to explore a connection that you’ve made with them, and you probably didn’t make a connection with your server. The reason they seemed so sweet and charming? The reason they’re laughing at your jokes? The reason they’re not just saying hey, fuck off when you’re being all flirty with them? They want a good tip. Or, at least, they don’t want you to call over the manager and complain about how rude they were.

Because we insist on allowing the wildly outmoded system of tipping to be a thing, there’s an absurd asymmetry of power in the server-customer relationship that’s already fraught with tension. Don’t make it worse by making them worry that you’ll punish them with a shitty tip if they reject your advances or are otherwise insufficiently ego-stroking.

Look, there are plenty of wonderful, attractive people on whom you can hit who aren’t at work and aren’t just trying to get through their shift. Be considerate; don’t hit on people whose ability to make rent requires them to be a captive audience to you.

COUNTERPOINT: Yes, it’s okay as long as you’re polite

Let’s not exaggerate what we’re talking about here: it’s just a polite invitation to coffee at the end of your meal. If your server is old enough to have a job, your server is old enough to deal with this basic, mundane social interaction without it ruining their day.

That’s not to say that some customers can’t be total pieces of shit about it, and there’s no excuse for that. But it does no one any good to define “inconsiderate” down to such an extent that considerate people start to internalize the idea that merely asking someone out is an untenable imposition. Asking someone out at their work is less than ideal, to be sure, but it’s hardly a sin.

Let’s be real: plenty of people have gone on dates with their servers.  It could be that your server is just being friendly and gunning for a tip, but maybe they actually like you and think you’re cute. Both are possibilities, but why assume when you can know for sure? It’s not like your server is really in a position to ask you out.

Here’s the bottom line: Your server is an adult (…seriously, they are, right?). They should be able to handle a polite date request. Ours is a society where people are generally expected to find love and be in relationships, and that means sometimes people will ask other people out. Nobody should have to deal with assholes, of course, but polite invitations to coffee? That’s just a part of living in a world with other human beings.

* * *

If you’re going to ask your server out anyway

Be polite. Don’t be cocky, gross, creepy, or sexual—they’ve already likely heard all of that shit, and there’s a good chance they’ve already heard it earlier that day. (“But this one time my buddy Gizmo told this joke about titties and totally hooked up with our server!” Yeah, I know, some people inexplicably reward being a creep; it doesn’t make it okay to be creepy.)

Don’t monopolize their time. It’s understandable to want to build a rapport with your server so that you don’t seem like just another customer. Sometimes it works. But most of the time, you’re just making them squirm because they’ve got work to do and they don’t know how to extricate themselves from customers who are transparently hitting on them. If anything, take their lead: if they don’t seem chatty after you ask them how their day is going or what appetizer they recommend, don’t push it.

Ask them out after you’ve tipped. You can at least remove the “Is this going to adversely affect my tip?” aspect of the situation from the equation. Also: tip well (it varies, but it’s normally around 20 to 25 percent for dinner or brunch; 25 to 30 percent for a weekday lunch), but not absurdly well—it could be construed as trying to purchase a date with them.

Don’t be loud or ostentatious about it. In particular, don’t let other tables or their coworkers hear—being asked out in front of an audience is really uncomfortable. Plus, it sucks to be embarrassed in front of coworkers; they have to see those jerks every day, you know.

Take no for an answer. Understand that, because of the aforementioned asymmetry in the server-customer dynamic, your server may find a way to turn you down that sounds friendly, playful, or equivocal. If you don’t get an unmistakable “yes,” then you should take it as a “no.” Make sure you signal that you fully accept and understand it’s a “no” so that your server doesn’t think you’re a creep who will, like, follow them into the parking lot or whatever.

Consider asking them out with a note. It’s more passive and middle-schoolie than most people are comfortable with, but it’s actually a particularly considerate way to ask out your server: it avoids an awkward conversation, it’s private and audience-less, and if they’re not interested, they can easily turn you down with a pocket veto. Many—though, it should be noted, not all—people would appreciate that sort of thoughtfulness. (If you do this, you should probably assume that they’re not going to call instead of, say, constantly checking your phone. If you know you’re the type who will constantly check your phone, seriously: don’t do this.)

Use common sense. You’re 45, and your server looks like they’re taking an extra shift to pay for senior prom? Come on now.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Running a kindness deficit

When people use the phrase “kindness deficit,” they usually mean “a lack of kindness”; e.g., “Our society is experiencing a kindness deficit.”

People are free to use the phrase however they want, of course, but I don’t like that definition. First, it makes the phrase kind of unnecessary (just say “a lack of kindness,” right?), but more importantly, it ignores some of the nuances in using the deficit analogy.

Here’s a better definition: Just like a budget deficit occurs when a government spends more money than it takes in, a kindness deficit occurs when a person gives more kindness than s/he receives.

This is a more serious problem than someone merely not getting enough kindness. When people realize they’re giving much more love than they’re getting, they regret it. They feel stupid. They correct it by slowly closing their heart. They swear to never make the same mistake again.

And then the world becomes that much shittier.

It’s our job—all of us, collectively—to do what we can to prevent each other from regretting being kind. Look, we’re not personally responsible for rescuing every single human being, but we need to catch people when we can—when we see that the universe is kicking someone’s ass who doesn’t deserve it; when we see someone normally prodigal with their love start to be stingier with it; when we see the spirit and warmth start to fade from someone’s eyes.

It’s easy to talk a big game about wishing the world was friendlier and kinder and more wonderful, but this is what we can do to make it so. It’s one of the worst things in the world to make some regret being kind; corollarily, it’s one of the purest, most genuine acts of love to make someone feel good about it.

So yeah. We don’t even have to make them break even or anything. Most people don’t mind running a kindness deficit just as long as the deficit isn’t large enough to make them throw up their arms and say fuck it all. We just need to catch people when we can: large things are nice, but small things—a compliment, a candy bar, a hug, a thoughtful note—can nudge a deficit towards manageable and buy enough time until someone else more qualified can take over.

Human beings are warriors against misery, and we should be on the same team.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A note on Valentine’s Day


Generally speaking, it’s easier to be kind when people are kind to you. You worry less about your kindness being wasted or unappreciated, and you don’t fret about being taken advantage of when you can see your kindness being returned, even indirectly.

People talk about how one small act of kindness can have a lasting impact or how you get the love you give, and a lot of that does sound like motivational poster horseshit or Western culture bastardizing Eastern theology.

But to be charitable, I think this is all they mean—being kind to people helps them care for others fearlessly. It helps people overcome some of the insecurities and worries that stop them from exercising their selfless, compassionate, empathic impulses and lets them, at least for a moment, tap into a better part of themselves.

And it’s one of the purest acts of love to help someone have as many of those moments as possible.

Have a happy Valentine’s Day. Be kind to people. And go get laid maybe.

No, you don’t understand! It’s a consumer protest! I swear I’m not a terrible boyfriend!


I mean, it makes sense from the retailer’s point of view: the store advertises an item at a discounted price, but you need a reward card to get that price. It’s free, the retailer assures you, and you can earn points! So you sign up, get some discounts, and maybe even get a coupon worth a few bucks after you’ve accumulated enough points.

In exchange, you’re letting the retailer compile a very specific (and creepily accurate) consumer profile on you. By analyzing your spending patterns—what you buy, when you buy it, how often you buy it—companies can figure out a lot about you: your relationship status (frozen dinner for one tonight?), your income (do you buy the store brand or the name brand?), your family situation (how many diapers do you buy?), your health issues (picking up another Abbreva and a home HIV test?), your sex life (stocking up on condoms and Plan B?), your sexual orientation (you’re a girl and you’ve purchased the last five issues of Maxim?), and who knows what else.

Better still, all that information is attached to a specific name, phone number, and address—and all this information is easily exportable to an Excel spreadsheet for the retailer to sell to another company for the right price.

In response, many people sign up with “dummy” accounts with fake names and phone numbers. Or, since many retailers let you use your card by punching in your phone number, some type in their area code plus “867-5309” (and claim that they’re named Jenny), which has almost certainly been registered by someone.

My (admittedly ineffectual) protest has been to buy products that I don’t need whenever I have coupons that make such products free or nearly free, just to screw with the profile they’ve made for me. It’s completely futile, I know, but it makes me feel a little better.

Sometimes, though, it leads to awkward, dissonant purchases. I guess what I’m getting at is, I’m pretty sure the cashier at Walgreens now thinks I’m a terrible boyfriend who’s planning the Worst Valentine’s Day Ever.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, KY Ultragel

Guys, they were free. Don’t be judgey.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Well, I guess I own pizza underwear now

Look what arrived in the mail today, just in time for Valentine’s Day!


On a completely unrelated note, is there a way to make my credit card company text me a riddle or something that I would have to solve before they authorize any purchases made between 2 AM and 4 AM just to make sure that I’m actually fully awake and capable of making sound sartorial decisions? I’m asking for a friend.

* * *

Actually, what fascinates me most about my new pizza underwear is this warning label.

"Not intended for children 14 years of age or younger. Non nestiné aux enfants de 12 ans ou moins."

I don’t know what’s more confusing: the fact that this underwear has a minimum age requirement for some reason, or that the age requirement inexplicably drops by two years if you happen to speak French.

(They probably meant to write “non destinĂ©,” not “non nestinĂ©.”)

* * *

I am, of course, joking when I say that my new pizza underwear arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day, because I’m afraid I am once again single and bitter and going to shame-eat a lot of hamburgers this Feb. 14.

But I’m thinking, what if I happen to be wearing my pizza ‘pants on a date that goes particularly well? Ideally, I’d be with someone who shares my enthusiasm for pizza-themed undergarments, and the night will go splendidly.

It’s just as plausible, though, that my ridiculous underwear could put the brakes on the evening. I’m not sure what I could say to make things better, but, as is usually the case, I certainly know what I could say to make things worse. Here are five, in descending order:

5. You know what they say—even when it’s bad, it’s good.

4. Look, it may start off as a Totino, but I swear it becomes a DiGiorno once it’s heated up.
3. “Thirty minutes or less”? I’ll come in half that time, guaranteed.

2. I know you drove all the way out here, but I can’t promise a big tip.

1. You might want to dab it with a napkin first.

Before you judge me, I would like to point out my restraint by neither going for any sausage or pepperoni double entendres nor making any references to “Papa John’s” sounding vaguely phallic. And I didn’t even mention the fact that Pizza Hut kind of rhymes with “piece of butt” if you slur it.

On second thought, judge me; I guess I deserve it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

This McDonald’s coupon is so profoundly sad, it makes me want to cry

This McDonald’s coupon—and all that it implies—is so profoundly sad, it makes me want to cry.

"Valid February 14th only" "BURGER LOVERS" "49¢ Hamburgers & 69¢ Cheeseburgers" "Valid February 14th only" "Limit 10 per customer." "Must have coupon for redemption."


Notice that McDonald’s doesn’t even bother to use the phrase “Valentine’s Day.” It’s like McDonald’s is just saying, “You know the drill, lardass.”

And the worst part is, they cap the deal at ten hamburgers. Listen, if somebody is spending a part of their Valentine’s Day at a McDonald’s and they feel like eating more than ten hamburgers, it’s obvious it’s been a really shitty day. Just give them the fucking burgers, McDonald’s.


Anyway, this is the awkward part in which I mention the reason that I have the coupon so neatly torn out is because as soon as I saw it, I put it in my wallet because I’m about 99 percent sure I’ll be making use of it on Feb. 14. Yes, on Valentine’s Day, I will be lovin’ it because, sadly, no one’s lovin’ me. Okay, now I really am going to cry.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cri de coeur

Every single person falls into one of two categories: people who have had their hearts broken and people who are going to have their hearts broken. And that’s a compelling reason to be kind to each other—or, at least, a reason not to make things worse.

Left to its own devices, the world is a pretty fucked up place. The onus is on all of us to be the corrective force that makes it a less shitty place for each other.

Everybody's heart is as alive, real, and pained as that of your own

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

AXA’s fascinatingly bad TV commercials: ruminations on gender, fate, and love

Come with me as I way overanalyze a pair of insurance and retirement commercials!

* * *

Here’s a TV commercial for AXA, an insurance and financial services firm, that’s pretty lame, but benignly so.


A man at an airport so absorbed with the Financial Services Fearmongering app on his tablet that he doesn’t even notice a fellow businessman who sat down next to him, leaning over with a big, expectant grin. They have the same tie, and the businessman wants to make small talk!

But alas, he’s so consumed with the “LIFE INSURANCE: Do you have enough?” question that he ignores the businessman. The businessman is so disappointed and so frustrated at this failed attempt at human connection that, a mere ten seconds after sitting down, he dashes off to find another seat—because, you know, screw you for not noticing me even though I didn’t even say “excuse me” and can clearly see you’re engrossed in something. An on-screen graphic delivers the devastating news: “That was a $40 million dollar deal.”




To emphasize how big of a missed opportunity this was, they redundantly include the word “dollar” in the graphic—that was a forty million dollar dollar deal, damn it.

The voiceover brings it all together: “We all think about life insurance. But when we start worrying about tomorrow, we miss out on the things that matter today. At AXA, we offer advice and help you break down your insurance goals into small, manageable steps, because when you plan for tomorrow, it helps you live for today.”

And indeed, we’re shown that in the alternate universe where the man saw an AXA advisor, he would’ve (1) been so worry-free that he doesn’t even wear ties, yo; and (2) noticed that he and the businessman have matching socks, with all the smiling and chuckling and surprised finger-pointing that that entails.



And boom—40 million double dollars, here we come!

* * *

Here’s the other AXA TV commercial in this campaign, which is lamer still.


A woman sitting in a coffee shop is reading the legacy media version of the Financial Services Fearmongering app (“RETIREMENT: Will your savings last?”) while a sketchy-looking dude is drawing a picture of her1. Sadly, she leaves the coffee shop without even noticing him, which is a tragedy, because—“That was her soulmate.”



Look at his face there: “I tried everything—creepily staring at her from afar, surreptitiously drawing a picture of her—and nothing worked! Ugh, women today can’t appreciate a nice guy.”

A voiceover once again offers an explanation for what we just witnessed: “We all have to plan for retirement. But when we start worrying about tomorrow, we miss out on what matters today.” And had the woman seen an AXA advisor who would have helped her live for today, we see that she and the dude would’ve spent so much time at the coffee shop that the lights are off and everybody—including the staff—is gone. And then off-camera they presumably rob the coffee shop to finance his career as a sub-mediocre sketch artist.

* * *

The obvious critique is a feminist one: when AXA wants to talk to men about missed opportunities, it’s about financial deals; when AXA wants to talk to women, it’s about soulmates and true love. And it’s a fair enough critique; women are actively engaged in business and have concerns that extend beyond finding Prince Charming, and these two commercials juxtaposed against each other suggest that AXA doesn’t look at its potential female clients as serious-minded about finances. (Although, to be fair, the man in the life insurance spot does meet with a female AXA advisor, so there’s that.)

What’s kind of neat about these ads is that, somehow, AXA (or, more specifically, its ad agency) found a way to construct a pair of possibly mildly sexist ads that somehow become worse if they’re gender-swapped.

Let’s say it were two businesswomen at the airport with matching scarves. One woman tries and fails to get the other’s attention and, afterward, huffily finds another seat as the “That was a $40 million dollar deal” graphic appears. I can see myself offering two critiques: Is AXA trying to say that women are so shallow that they’d base a $40 million deal on clothes? Is AXA trying to say that women are so sensitive that they’d get upset because they couldn’t get someone’s attention after only a few seconds?

And if it were a man who narrowly missed his supposed female sketch-artist soulmate, complete with a “That was his soulmate” graphic, it’d look objectifying—as though a woman is comparable to a business deal, just another thing to win or acquire.

A better fix would be to simply switch the graphics—the woman at the coffee shop missed a $40 million deal, and the man at the airport missed his tie-and-sock sharing soulmate. Because, seriously, look at their eyes.



The only business deal that went down that night is a horizontal merger, if you know what I mean2.

* * *

On the other hand, is it even really sexist? Everybody talks about how we need to find a proper work-life balance and how your job shouldn’t be the totality of who you are. And most people will likely agree that love and family is more important than work and business. So isn’t AXA showing that the woman (who’s concerned with finding someone to love) has better priorities than the man (who’s concerned with a business deal)? Isn’t the ad really sexist against men who don’t understand what really matters in life?

Maybe! But probably not.

Obviously, women have historically had a much tougher time being taken seriously in business and money matters, so, even if we’re being extremely charitable with AXA’s intent, it still isn’t helpful in knocking down some stereotypes. And in matters of love and family, it’s generally been women who scale back on—or entirely give up—their careers and business lives, and these AXA commercials subtly reinforce that cultural norm.

A less comfortable possibility: Maybe we really don’t think love and family is more important than work and business. Think about how much time we spend at work, or thinking about work, or trying to find better, more lucrative work. It’s probably more time than we spend on “love,” right? And hey, I’m not judging—who are any of us to say that anybody’s priorities are better than the other?


* * *

But really, what’s most fascinating about these otherwise unremarkable ads is how they play with the notion of fate: If you’re not in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, and in exactly the right mood, you might miss out on a business deal! Or a soulmate!

And I know it’s just a silly pair of ads, but that’s kind of a pernicious mind-virus with which to infect your audience, because that way madness lies. Literally everything is the product of such a precise set of circumstances that it can be brain-bending to think about it too hard—if I left work a few moments earlier, I wouldn’t have gotten into that car accident; if I hadn’t stopped to get a cup of water from the water cooler before leaving, I wouldn’t have left work those few moments later; if I hadn’t eaten pretzels as a snack, I wouldn’t have been thirsty for water; if I had enough change for Oreos, I wouldn’t have gotten pretzels from the vending machine; if I hadn’t given some of my change to that homeless guy on the corner, I would’ve had enough change for Oreos. ERGO, I AM NEVER GIVING MONEY TO HOMELESS PEOPLE EVER AGAIN.

Of course, that’s ridiculous to conclude. And imagine if, say, you were planning on stopping by a convenience store on your way home, which, obviously, you don’t because of the car accident. And let’s say that that convenience store was robbed by a violent gunman3 who shot and killed everybody in the store—what then? Did your car accident save your life? Do you eat more pretzels now? Do you give more money to homeless people?

So it’s strange for AXA to make a pitch of, “Use our services to make sure that a precise set of mostly uncontrollable circumstances align properly so you don’t miss out on something!” I doubt anybody would take these ads quite that seriously, but still, it’s kind of a mean-spirited albeit metaphysical fear-based appeal. (Plus, using the ad’s own logic: who’s to say that, by talking to $40 million deal guy, you missed a chance to talk to some other dude who had, like, a matching suitcase who would’ve given you an $80 million deal? What then, AXA?)

* * *

And finally—“soulmate”? Really?

This is neither here nor there, but I think the idea of a soulmate—or The One, or your lobster, or whatever—is depressing. There are a lot of people on the planet, after all, and if there’s only one soulmate out there for each of us, then guys—we’re probabilistically screwed. Our soulmates might not be on the same continent. They might not be born yet, or they might have just died.

Or what if, by some odds-defying stroke of luck, your soulmate happens to be in the same city as you are and you just happen to be on the same bus, but they’re busy on their phone. Or they’re in a bad mood. Or they just got into a relationship, or just got out of one so they’re not ready to date. Or maybe they’re just too preoccupied planning for retirement. What then?

A belief in soulmates is either a belief in abject despair, or it’s a belief that the universe loves us so much that it’ll bend the laws of statistics and probability to accommodate our hearts’ desires. And honestly, I don’t think the universe even really likes us as just friends.

Plus, believing in soulmates can be kind of dangerous, especially if you genuinely believe you’ve met yours. After all, it’s harder to get out of a relationship—even a toxic one—if you believe that your partner is your one and only. And “soulmates” talk often ignores the effort that goes into successful relationships in favor of an assumption that everything will just fall into place.

So basically, BOO AXA FOR PROMOTING UNREALISTIC NOTIONS OF LOVE. And also, for making me put in way more thought into your commercials than I’m guessing anybody involved with making them did.


1See what I did there? It’s funny because he’s sketching a picture of her, and it looks like he’s been sketchily digging through her garbage to find her old pantyhose. I’m kind of an expert at puns, you see.

2Sex.

3Or gunwoman! I just talked a big game about possible sexism, and here I am, assuming ladyfolk can’t be robbers. Shame on me.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Jane Eyre Epiphany

"The Jane Eyre Epiphany":

Love is not a necessary component of respect, but respect is a necessary component of love.

Or, stated another way, you can respect someone without loving them, but you can't love someone without respecting them.

Many well-meaning people say things like, "You need a relationship based on love and respect." The sentiment is admirable, but it's not a good idea to separate out "respect" from "love." It implies that love can exist without respect, and it can't.

Love means different things to different people, and a universal definition is probably impossible to develop. But I hope we can at least agree that if you don't respect someone, you don't get to get to call what you direct towards them love. It may be fondness, or twitterpation, or horniness dressed up in flowery language, but it's not love.

If you don't trust them, it's not love.

If you control or manipulate them, it's not love.

If you dismiss their thoughts and opinions, it's not love.

If you don't care if they're happy, it's not love.

If you constantly belittle them, it's not love.

If you selfishly lie to them, it's not love.

If you knowingly waste their time, it's not love.

I agree that we should try to move beyond the idea of love as merely a fuzzy feeling, but we should be careful about uncoupling love and respect. It's not just a harmless pleonasm to say "love and respect"; it subtly changes the way we think about love.

Love should be observable and provable, and an "I love you" in its purest form shouldn't be some huge revelatory declaration, but rather a quiet affirmation of what your actions have already made clear.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hallmark’s V-Day slogan “I Love Us” was totally copied from (500) Days of Summer

This post originally appeared on my old “Joe Dellosa on Advertising” blog.

Developing story: Hallmark's Valentine's Day slogan, "I love us," appears to have been copied from the film (500) Days of Summer -- in fact, in the film, it's used by a greeting card writer in the context of writing greeting cards. Is it a coincidence or plagiarism?

Update on February 4, 2011 at 4:52 p.m.: Hallmark said via its Twitter account that Leo Burnett, the company's agency of record, is responsible for the "I love us" commercial. I've updated the story to reflect this.
 
The folks at Hallmark have unveiled their cute little slogan for this year's Valentine's Day: "Valentine's Day is for saying 'I love us.'" Here's their 2011 Valentine's Day commercial, which, according to a tweet from @HallmarkPR sent to me after I asked, was produced by the company's agency of record, the Chicago-based Leo Burnett:

Can't see the ad? Click here to watch it on YouTube.


As the voiceover says:

Valentine's Day is not for saying "I love you." It's for saying, "I love us." I love who we are together, how we've grown -- from our nervous conversations to the one we two have become. Valentine's Day is for taking the time to say, "I love us."

And here's a screenshot of their Valentine's Day promotional webpage:


Adorable stuff! Or, at least, it would be if Valentine's Day hadn't become a crassly artificial holiday that seeks to commodify our emotions and homogenize the way we express our love as a means to boost corporate profits, while fomenting awkward, hurtful feelings among couples and mopey misery among singles. (Why, yes, I am single this Valentine's Day, how'd you know?)

Anyway, I'll save my rantings about why Valentine's Day is Evil and Ruins Everything for another day, but for now, I'll say this about Hallmark's "I love us" campaign -- they totally stole that line from the movie (500) Days of Summer. Check out this screenshot from the movie:


(500) Days of Summer documents the failed relationship -- from start to finish, though not in that order -- between Tom Hansen (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (played by Zooey Deschanel). Tom's a hopeless romantic, Summer's a cynic about love, and they meet at the office where Tom works as a greeting card writer. Hijinks ensue (and by "hijinks," I mean "95 minutes of brutal relationship honesty").

About a quarter into those 500 days, when Tom and Summer's relationship is going swimmingly, Tom is filled with such giddy euphoria about Summer that he becomes a font of greeting card creativity. One of those bursts of creativity that's met with delight from his co-workers? "I love us."

Can't see the video? Click here to watch it on YouTube.
If the YouTube link isn't working, click here to watch it on Bing.


Okay, admittedly, "I love us" isn't exceptionally unique, and it's certainly possible that the ad team behind the slogan didn't pilfer it from the movie. But, c'mon -- (500) Days of Summer is an extremely well-regarded movie about a greeting card writer, and presumably, "folks who work for a sentimental greeting card company" is as about a perfect target audience for the film as I can imagine. I find it very, very hard to believe that nobody thought, "Hey, wait! 'I love us' and greeting cards -- sounds familiar!"

For what it's worth, if you Google search "I love us," a reference to the clip linked above is the third result.


And if anybody on the ad team had bothered to begin typing "I love us" into Google, they'd see Google eagerly suggesting (500) Days of Summer:


I should note that I'm far from the only person to make the (500) Days of Summer connection; searching for "hallmark 500" or "hallmark summer" on Twitter offers dozens of tweets using words like stole, rip-off, unoriginal, and swag jacker.

And as far as I can tell from searching, the first person to make the connection on Twitter was @createajess on Jan. 31. @aaronwill also said the campaign was "very original" #sarcastically on Jan. 31, but it's not clear if he was just saying so because of the movie or just in general.

Anyway, with real news happening, it's more amusing than scandalous, although Leo Burnett probably ought to be at least a little embarrassed that their creative integrity is being thrown into doubt with such a high-profile campaign. And besides, if Leo Burnett -- on behalf of a company like Hallmark whose name is often used pejoratively to refer to shallow, commercialized sentimentalism -- wants to steal from a movie, there are few better films from which to do so than a movie as honest and real as this one.

I sent an email to Hallmark through its media inquiry form asking for comment, but I haven't received a response yet. To the credit of whoever operates Hallmark's Twitter account, I received a reply a mere seven minutes after asking them via Twitter what ad agency did their commercial.

You can email me at jdellosa@gmail.com or tweet me @JoeDellosa. And yes, this might be a sign that I've seen this movie way too many times.