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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

TurboTax's Mardi Gras commercial: Part Deux

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 10:22 AM

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Two weeks ago we brought you a rundown of one of TurboTax's awful Mardi Gras-themed commercials they released this year. We met the worst businessmen in the world and a wedding ring related to the JFK "magic bullet," everyone had a good laugh and we all moved on.

Then this commercial was brought to my attention:

At first I thought: Hey, that's actually kind of sweet. Then I remembered I write words on the Internet and I don't know what sweet is. I just know bitter, condescending scorn. Through that scorn, I have discovered that this isn't a commercial at all. Rather, this is a meditation on gender inequality and the decreasing value of art in our modern society.

Don't believe me? Observe

0:04 - We open with our protagonists, Silver Man and Bronze Woman, performing on a French Quarter street. Seems innocuous enough, but read into the subtext: the economy hasn't been good to these artists, forcing them to set up just a few feet from a nearly identical act in direct violation of the Official New Orleans Street Performer's Handbook (totally a real thing, trust me). Desperate times, indeed.

0:05 - Despite an economy equally hostile to both, Silver Man still gets to stand on a pedestal and look down on Bronze Woman because glass ceilings are everywhere. This positioning further underscores the fact that Bronze Woman is covered in a metal worth less than Silver Man, a symbol for women earning around 22 percent less than their male counterparts in the workplace.

0:11 - Bronze Woman notices Silver Man checking her out. A clear instance of street harassment.  Bronze Woman is not here to be objectified, Silver Man! She is more than something just to be appreciated visually. Hollaback! should do a video about this.

0:13 - The street is busy but nobody stops to notice our protagonists. It's commercial as allegory: Silver Man and Bronze Woman symbolize art and the crowd symbolizes America's growing indifference towards it.

0:15 - A bus and a truck pass at normal speed while the people on the street walk in slow motion. This has become a meditation on the speed of commerce in the modern world and the inability of people to keep up. We are but cogs in a machine, grinding away into nothing.

0:16 - Bronze Woman has moved closer to Silver Man. Feminism has failed. All a man has to do is look at a woman to gain her affection.

0:19 - Bronze Woman joins Silver Man on his pedestal and they kiss. Note that Silver Man has not moved at all, having wooed Bronze Girl just by standing on a platform and looking down on her. It's a love story as old as time itself.

0:21 - A passerby takes a picture of this romantic scene but doesn't leave a tip or even offer to sent the picture to the new couple. This moment of love in the modern world is reduced to a hashtag and this meditation on America's lost appreciation and value for art reaches its nadir.

0:25 - "Did you get married last year?" Despite a lack of discernible income and the challenges that come with consummating a marriage while covered in metal paint, our protagonists prove that love always finds a way. This uplifting moment is but a tease before TurboTax drops the hammer.

0:27 - TurboTax reaches peak subversion as it drops the hammer. Did you notice it? Watch it again. Clearly, that disembodied arms belong to Silver Man (silver sleeves, get it???) and he's checking his refund after a hard day on the street. Only it turns out he's getting back slightly less than the average American did last year. Kubrickesque in its execution, this final frame encapsulates the commercial's brutally honest message: True love and art, like the paint covering our protagonists, are but superficial coats that eventually wash away, leaving us bare and naked to the reality of our under-appreciated existence.

Or, you know, it could just be another dumb commercial. Whatever.

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