It's Hip to Be Smug

Deeky's earlier post reminded me that I've been meaning for a million years to write about the John Hodgman/PC and Justin Long/Mac commercials, which I loathe with the fiery passion of ten thousand suns.

Right up front, I'm just going to say flatly: This isn't a post about operating systems. It's a post about privilege, and on-topic comments will be discussing that subject alone.

If you've never seen the commercials, which is now a series about 40 or so long, they feature John Hodgman, typically dressed in a frumpy suit and sporting a cheap haircut and old-fashioned glasses frames, as the hopelessly nerdy and uncool PC, and Justin Long, typically dressed in Gap-chic streetwear with a stylish haircut and fashionably scruffy facial hair, as the irrepressibly hip and cool Mac. Each advert has the smooth, young, trim, unflappable, and fun Mac effortlessly getting the better of the dorky, older, dumpy, bumbling, and uptight PC. Here's a perfect example:

[Transcript at end of post.]

So, the thing I despise about these commercials (even when they're not using women to represent services and peripherals or engaging in transphobia or fat hatred) is that they essentially seek to position Macs as the hip and progressive choice by—wait for it!—claiming this straight and cis white guy is TOTES MORE AWESOME than that straight and cis white guy over there! 'Cuz his trousers suck, yo!

The irony is, of course, that there's really not that much difference between a Mac and a PC (I've used both since I was 15, have had both as my primary computer at home and work at different times, and like both of them). But that's not the point of these commercials—the point is to convey some imaginary vast difference, and the breadth of humanity that's been engaged to anthropomorphize the metaphor are two straight, cis, white men. Wow. How innovative. You're really thinking outside the box there, Apple. I'm SOLD! Bring on my iLife!

There's a lot of tiresome advertising these days that shoots for "hip and progressive" and lands solidly on "smug and arrogant" instead—but I've got to hand the prize for the most revoltingly privileged campaign around to Apple.

And the hilarious part is that many of the adverts in this serious tout Mac's capacity to allow its users to be super-creative. It's a message that might resonate more strongly if it weren't delivered by the straight, cis, white dude who Apple chose as their, like, totally radical revolutionary icon, dude.
Mac: Hello, I'm a Mac.

PC: And I'm a PC. [PC is wearing an iPod on his belt and listening to music, dancing badly]

Mac: Oh, hey—iPod. Nice.

PC: Yeah, it's just a little something to hold my slow jams.

Mac: [laughs] Oh yeah?

PC: Yeah. And it works so seamlessly with iTunes.

Mac: You should check out iMovie, iPhoto, iWeb, because they all work like iTunes, you know, iLife—[makes integration gesture with hands] Comes on every Mac.

PC: iLife, well, I have some very cool apps that are bundled with me.

Mac: Well, like, whaddaya got?

PC: Calculator.

Mac: That's cool.

PC: Mm-hmm.

Mac: Anything else?

PC: Clock. A clock.

Mac: Sounds like hours of fun.

PC: Yeah.

Mac: Or at least minutes.

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