Tag Archives: fate

Adverts explained: Philadelphia

Philadelphia have lost it! Everyone knows you can’t make a Thai green curry with cream cheese. Plus, it looks disgusting. But can they convince us otherwise?

Don't be frightened! It's NOT Cthulhu. It's simply a Thai green curry. Apparently.

In the 90s, Philadelphia’s ads featured Sara Crowe and Ann Bryson in a series of hilarious cheese-related escapades. The campaign ran for the best part of ten years, before viewers were shocked to see the ditsy, dairy-loving pair ripped apart by wild dogs in a blood-soaked finale being phased out. It was the snack (and lighter meal option!) of choice for everyone struggling to escape the crushing horror of office life with broad humour and a dollop of cheesy goo.

But in 2012 Philadelphia is more, much more than that. It’s the magical meal ingredient that can bind any dish – and any family! – together. “My biggest challenge is trying to find something easy that everyone enjoys eating,” says Mum, and we hear from the kids that one of them doesn’t like vegetables and one of them doesn’t like curry. Mum’s deliciously cruel solution to this conundrum is to serve a CURRY full of VEGETABLES. You have to applaud her ingenuity.

Of course, we’re led to believe that Philadelphia will make this concoction creamy and appetising, but if you’ve made it past the terrifying picture at the top of this post you’ve seen the truth of that for yourself. So what makes this family so perverse? The artfully messy room is supposed to make them seem normal and approachable but look at that pile of board games. I grew up in a board game family myself and there’s a particular frame of mind that goes with it: you learn to be sociable and competitive, but hanging over it all is a crushing awareness of the cruelty of fate. The dice roll and we find that in games, as in life, most of us end up losers.

And they’re playing Cluedo. Cluedo! The most evil, laborious, badly-structured and mind-numbing game of all time. And they’re all moving their pieces at the same time! It’s like they want to punish themselves.

I have to conclude that this family has got everything it deserves. Including their disgusting curry. If Philadelphia was once the condiment of choice for comedy secretaries, it’s now the magic ingredient for the white family who’re happy to have a jar of green Thai paste in the house but who’d find buying and opening a tin of coconut milk just that little bit too ethnic.

Which Seat Can I Take? The Tao of Rebecca Black

7am, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal
Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’

Rebecca Black is 13 years old. She’s got her whole life ahead of her. There’s no need for her to rush.  But she senses it, dimly, the way time crashes in, leaving loss and regret in its wake. We see her family rushing by, senselessly, while Rebecca clings to a moment. We’ve all clung to childish things like a favourite bowl. I had a favourite yellow mug for years that I used to drink from every morning. It smashed. There was talk of it being replaced, but that never came to anything.

Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends
Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?

As childhood ends and we enter the adult world, we face complexities we couldn’t have imagined before. Rebecca is rapidly becoming a young woman. The front seat or the back seat? Here she is referencing Arcade Fire’s In The Backseat and its use of locations in a car as metaphors for passivity and growth; it’s peaceful in the back seat, but sometimes we realise we’ve actually been learning to drive while watching the world go by. And which seat can Rebecca take? Will her life be driven by others, or will she learn to make her own choices?

It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend

Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin’ forward to the weekend

7:45, we’re drivin’ on the highway
Cruisin’ so fast, I want time to fly
Fun, fun, think about fun

Fun, fun, think about fun’ – it’s a mantra, and a desperate one. Rebecca wants time to fly so the weekend can arrive, but we see the tightness in her eyes, and we feel she knows that every golden weekend of youth is just a stepping stone to future sadness. Does she discern that these carefree Fridays can’t last? At 13 does she picture herself, at 26, spending her Fridays desperately downing drink after drink in a bar, hoping someone will notice her before it’s too late? Can she imagine being 39, grateful just to get to the end of the working week without sobbing in the toilets, and dragging herself home, red-eyed and exhausted?

Yesterday was Thursday (Thursday)
Today is Friday (Friday)
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes afterwaaaaaards
I don’t want this weekend to end

We never want it to end. But it must. All things must. It’s happened subtly, but at some point Friday has shifted from being a lament for the death of childhood, and become a statement about the pointlessness of all existence itself. All we have left are the days of the week, as the pages of the calendar turn and detach like brown leaves from a wet branch. And then, as the heat death of the universe approaches, even those certainties must pass.

Passin’ by is a school bus in front of me
Makes tick tock, tick tock, wanna scream

The anonymous rapper senses it too, time’s arrow embodied in a yellow bus. All those potential futures in one vehicle, ticking away to nothing.

Is it any wonder that the Friday video surfaced now, in the last week of winter? In many cultural traditions we are about to celebrate the dawn of a new year as the vernal equinox approaches. It is a good time to reflect on the cruel, impersonal patterns of the universe. The cycle of life and death, of destruction and rebirth, continues, for now. Rebecca Black is 13 years old. It is Friday.