Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Boost Mobile's Man Baby: Got Milk?

At first glance, the latest Boost Mobile commercial seems absurd; after all, grown men are not babies and they are not dangled through supermarkets in baby carriers. The actors in the commercial, a father and adult male baby, seem physically disproportionate to the extent that they make you wonder less about the commercial's message and more about its technical aspects. Is the actor playing the father strolling down the frozen-foods aisle or is he merely swaying and making the motion of forward ambulation, filmed apart from the supermarket and the female shopper who pushes her cart behind him? Has he been enlarged or has the man-baby been shrunk?

How'd they do that?

The message is that for fifty dollars you get a pre-paid cellular phone service from Sprint's Boost Mobile spin-off. It's pretty simple stuff and designed to be easily apprehended by the viewer, even if Boost Mobile bought multiple spots on a recent FX re-run of Castaway. The repeat spots allowed the viewer to study not just the dubiousness of the premise, but to consider a greater idea that this, the fourth in the Boost Mobile "Unwronged" campaign, is nothing but pure Oedipal complex shot through a modern, dysfunctional lens. As well as being, gleefully, a commentary on Western psychosexual mores. Gleefully, because it's bound to come under fire from people who feel wronged by it.

The commercial gets your attention, but not because the no-frills cellular service is attractive. Underlying the motif of repressed desire (the commercial ends with the line "I also happen to like breast milk") is a wonderful treatise on the baser instincts of man, delivered in Brooklynese by a stubbly, thirty-something actor you'd never take home to your own mother.

According to William Gelner, Executive Creative Director of 180LA, the agency behind the ads, the idea is to right wrongs, even in this small, though critical, way. People feel, he says, wronged by bureaucracy, by government, by check cashing fees. and by other stealth charges (not to mention gas prices, predatory lenders, Dick Cheney, and above all AIG). The fifty-dollar-per-month service is Boost's small way of addressing the national catastrophe.

The ad also plays, obviously, on pop psychology: Peter Pan Syndrome. The man-baby is still suckling and enjoying it, evidently without any thought towards further maturation. This is a contemporary form of the Everyman, albeit one with a nifty little fetish. Here, the ad ends on an exciting sexual note, which perfectly sums up the ease of access, via modern telecommunications, to a niche erotic specialization. If you have a kinky interest, there will be sites dedicated to it, which you can access with your Boost Mobile service. And you can do so without roaming charges, so no need to feel deprived during that bear-hunting trip in Maine. But not in Vermont, Wyoming, or Montana. There, you are out of luck.

Nobody's perfect.

Image: Oedipus Rex, Max Ernst

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