Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fleeced!

There are some benefits to living in a small town. You are never invited to amateur productions of Mother Courage, arguments rarely erupt over the correct temperature at which to roast squab, and a traffic jam means a box of strawberries has fallen off a truck at the intersection of SR 20 and SR 51.

On the other hand, living in a small town has its drawbacks. Replacing a tire on a popular model of Japanese SUV involves having the tire rolled in from Atlanta, "upscale" and "J. C. Penney" are synonymous, and you get left out--by reasons of geography, not good sense-of the Snuggie pub-crawl craze. This last is reason enough to leave the air potato vines behind and move immediately to Chicago.

You've probably seen the Snuggie, a reasonably functional blanket with arms, on its infomercial. If you missed that advertisement, the cast and crew of The Today Show donned the garment in what can only be deemed an act of mass hysteria. Or perhaps you bumbled into one of over 300 YouTube parodies while looking for a rerun of F-Troop. If you still don't know what a Snuggie is, then you live somewhere frigid in Europe and have chicer ways of staying warm in wintertime.

The Snuggie isn't a new concept. Zip-front, quilted body bags with arms have been around since at least the 1970s. Snuggie loses the zipper and allows the user mobility and bathroom breaks, something its predecessor did not. Infomercials aren't a new concept either, only the neologistic term is. Late-night television in the seventies was peppered with ads for Ronco's slicing, dicing food processors, as well as for Ronco's egocentric broadcasting system, the Mr. Microphone. Watching these ads 30 years later, you are struck by two things: Ron Popeil is smarter than you are and despite the speed at which technology changes, the infomercial is still plodding along at a fuel-saving 30 mph. The production values of the Snuggie spot are virtually interchangeable with those of the Popeil Pocket Fisherman.

Somewhere in Beverly Hills, Ron Popeil is screaming with jealousy.

The Snuggie infomercial hawks the synthetic fleece, cozily wearable blankets as a two-fer, for $19.95. In classic Popeil fashion, there is a gift with purchase: a clip-on book light. Presumably, this light has been included in the hopes of encouraging literacy. The blanket, which is available in burgundy, royal blue, or sage, resembles a monk's robe in style, if not always in color.

It is part of the human condition to seek out those vivifying things that will aid in identification and acknowledgment by a group, a trait that is known in psychological circles as "collective behavior." This is the behavior that fuels a fad or a trend, and the list of fads that have us behaving collectively and embarrassingly is cheerfully long. Apparel is only part of this list:

Members Only jackets
Pet Rocks
Primal Scream Therapy
Fern bars
The Fonz
The Hustle
Furries

Although fads tend not to cross classification boundaries, the Snuggie seems to cross not only the Rubicon but several lines of mania. Somewhere, there are people who bought the Snuggie for its intended purpose; they are part of a growing minority. The remainder of the Snuggies have been purchased expressly for the purpose of belonging to a growing cult whose sole mission it is to have a rollicking good time while shrouded in something that makes no apologies for not really resembling the coat of a wool-bearing animal. The Snuggie is totemic (like Pet Rocks), wearable (Earth Shoes), behavioral (goldfish-eating), functional (fondue pots), alarming (the Red Scare), and, in its unintended incarnation, of dubious value to society as a whole. There are also similarities to Big Mouth Billy Bass in the alarming way the Snuggie explosion has detonated in places that ought to know better, like San Francisco. But these are tough times and tough times call for desperate and revolutionary measures.

In the case of the Snuggie, a fast onset of blanket fever has emerged. There are over 500 Facebook fan groups and dedicated Snuggie Web sites. And then there is the guerrilla takeover, the storming of the city, that is the Snuggie Pub Crawl, which involves the anarchic act of getting brazenly shit-faced while looking like an unmade bed. In our present time of troubles, such activities can only be said to improve culture, much as the Ottoman millet system improved and protected the culture of the Orthodox Greeks.

Where do we go from here? Must there be a response to this mania, an overreaching and dull intellectual effort to counteract the madness that is Snuggie mania? Shall we sit down and discuss the worst of French cinema or shall we acknowledge defeat when we see it, accept it, and be menaced in good cheer?

2 comments:

WendyB said...

I had to see Mother Courage once. Let's not discuss it further.

Eyeliah @ stylesymmetry.com said...

This is horrible, forget the fact that all we ave to do is wear our housecoats backwards to achieve this.