Ya’ make your own luck, n’est-ce pas?
This is a guest post by Leopold Dilg.
There’s little chance we can underestimate our American virtues, since our overlords so seldom miss an opportunity to point them out. A case in point – in fact, le plus grand du genre, though my fingers tremble as I type that French expression, for reasons I’ll explain soon enough – is the Cadillac commercial that interrupted the broadcast of the Olympics every few minutes.
A masterpiece of casting and directing and location scouting, the ad follows a middle-aged man, muscular enough but not too proud to show a little paunch – manifestly a Master of the Universe – strutting around his chillingly modernist $10 million vacation house (or is it his first or fifth home? no matter), every pore oozing the manly, smirky bearing that sent Republican country-club women swooning over W.
It starts with Our Hero, viewed from the back, staring down his infinity pool. He pivots and stares down the viewer. He shows himself to be one of the more philosophical species of the MotU genus. “Why do we work so hard?” he puzzles. “For this? For stuff?….” We’re thrown off balance: Will this son of Goldman Sachs go all Walden Pond on us? Fat chance.
Now, still barefooted in his shorts and polo shirt, he’s prowling his sleak living room (his two daughters and stay-at-home wife passively reading their magazines and ignoring the camera, props in his world no less than his unused pool and The Car yet to be seen) spitting bile at those foreign pansies who “stop by the café” after work and “take August off!….OFF!” Those French will stop at nothing.
“Why aren’t YOU like that,” he says, again staring us down and we yield to the intimidation. (Well gee, sir, of course I’m not. Who wants a month off? Not me, absolutely, no way.) “Why aren’t WE like that” he continues – an irresistible demand for totalizing merger. He’s got us now, we’re goose-stepping around the TV, chanting “USA! USA! No Augusts off! No Augusts off!”
No, he sneers, we’re “crazy, hardworking believers.” But those Frogs – the weaklings who called for a double-check about the WMDs before we Americans blasted Iraqi children to smithereens (woops, someone forgot to tell McDonalds, the official restaurant of the U.S. Olympic team, about the Freedom Fries thing; the offensive French Fries are THERE, right in our faces in the very next commercial, when the athletes bite gold medals and the awe-struck audience bites chicken nuggets, the Lunch of Champions) – might well think we’re “nuts.”
“Whatever,” he shrugs, end of discussion, who cares what they think. “Were the Wright Brothers insane? Bill Gates? Les Paul?… ALI?” He’s got us off-balance again – gee, after all, we DO kinda like Les Paul’s guitar, and we REALLY like Ali.
Of course! Never in a million years would the hip jazz guitarist insist on taking an August holiday. And the imprisoned-for-draft-dodging boxer couldn’t possibly side with the café-loafers on the WMD thing. Gee, or maybe…. But our MotU leaves us no time for stray dissenting thoughts. Throwing lunar dust in our eyes, he discloses that WE were the ones who landed on the moon. “And you know what we got?” Oh my god, that X-ray stare again, I can’t look away. “BORED. So we left.” YEAH, we’re chanting and goose-stepping again, “USA! USA! We got bored! We got bored!”
Gosh, I think maybe I DID see Buzz Aldrin drumming his fingers on the lunar module and looking at his watch. “But…” – he’s now heading into his bedroom, but first another stare, and pointing to the ceiling – “…we got a car up there, and left the keys in it. You know why? Because WE’re the only ones goin’ back up there, THAT’s why.” YES! YES! Of COURSE! HE’S going back to the moon, I’M going back to the moon, YOU’RE going back to the moon, WE’RE ALL going back to the moon. EVERYONE WITH A U.S. PASSPORT is going back to the moon!!
Damn, if only the NASA budget wasn’t cut after all that looting by the Wall Street boys to pay for their $10 million vacation homes, WE’D all be going to get the keys and turn the ignition on the rover that’s been sitting 45 years in the lunar garage waiting for us. But again – he must be reading our mind – he’s leaving us no time for dissent, he pops immediately out of his bedroom in his $12,000 suit, gives us the evil eye again, yanks us from the edge of complaint with a sharp, “But I digress!” and besides he’s got us distracted with the best tailoring we’ve ever seen.
Finally, he’s out in the driveway, making his way to the shiny car that’ll carry him to lower Manhattan. (But where’s the chauffer? And don’t those MotUs drive Mazerattis and Bentleys? Is this guy trying to pull one over on the suburban rubes who buy Cadillacs stupidly thinking they’ve made it to the big time?)
Now the climax: “You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible,” he declaims.
Yes, we believe that! The 17 million unemployed and underemployed, the 47 million who need food stamps to keep from starving, the 8 million families thrown out of their homes – WE ALL BELIEVE. From all the windows in the neighborhood, from all the apartments across Harlem, from Sandy-shattered homes in Brooklyn and Staten Island, from the barren blast furnaces of Bethlehem and Youngstown, from the foreclosed neighborhoods in Detroit and Phoenix, from the 70-year olds doing Wal-mart inventory because their retirement went bust, from all the kitchens of all the families carrying $1 trillion in college debt, I hear the national chant, “YOU MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK! YOU MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK!”
And finally – the denouement – from the front seat of his car, our Master of the Universe answers the question we’d all but forgotten. “As for all the stuff? That’s the upside of taking only two weeks off in August.” Then the final cold-blooded stare and – too true to be true – a manly wink, the kind of wink that makes us all collaborators and comrades-in-arms, and he inserts the final dagger: “N’est-ce pas?”