The Ethos and Pathos of Reincarnation and Recycling, My Reflections on a Recent PSA

by admin on June 12, 2017

in Tyler Businesses


I really hate Public Service Announcements, (PSAs). The whole notion of taking a truism or belief and boiling it down to the simplest possible sound bite and then hammering the public with it over and over until it works its way into the collective cultural brain is so manipulative, and frankly sounds a lot like brainwashing. The assumption is that the public lacks the ability to follow a line of thought to its logical conclusion on its own… but then again… I remember watching the old Mystery Science Theater (MST) versions of PSA’s from the 1950s and 60’s when everything from good hygiene to economics were addressed. Of course, looking back they were absurd. Why should some entity like the government care who washed their armpits in a circular or a vertical motion?

But the contemporary public should be careful about passing too much judgement on the social priorities and causes of previous generations. The propagandists of the past certainly had no corner on the absurdity market. I would like to enter into the record a current series of announcements whose purpose is to induce the viewer to recycle. The PSA’s in question are so lacking in creativity, so childish in their design they make the famous MST short “What to Do on A Date,” look genuinely helpful.

These most recent bits of propaganda are narrated by an empty bottle of soap or shampoo that is grateful it has had the opportunity to be recycled into a more “heroic” item like a comb or a brush? Ok, let that sink a moment. They’re anthropomorphizing garbage! Really? I’m supposed to empathize with the hopes and dreams of actual trash?! And then there are questions like; What are we to extrapolate about concepts of life, death and reincarnation? I mean the plastic bottle dies and comes back as a heroic brush… And wouldn’t that make the landfill nirvana? And then there’s the use of the word HEROIC to describe a metamorphosis the plastic bottle can’t even choose for itself, because it can’t think anyway, because it’s really, just a piece of garbage!

Ok look. My problem is not with recycling. I think people should do whatever they honestly perceive to be the right thing in matters of their day to day life. In terms of the choices of others I prefer a live and let live policy. What I object to the most in all of this is the notion that I or the public, should be in anyway convinced by such a stupid use of pathos. I have every confidence that the next generation of MST writers will be mocking our PSAs every bit as much as we’ve mocked those of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

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