In this age of scientific marvels and understanding of the world that surrounds us, it seems to me that we’ve traded the “Here Be Monsters” clouded bits of cobbled-together nautical maps for the thinly-veiled terror of invisible monsters that are germs. And this contagion of fear is big, big business.
It started with bleach, worked its way into household sprays, expanded into wipes and hand soap, blossomed into hand sanitizer and random “medicines” to take when we think we might be getting sick, or in a situation that usually gets us sick, or around other people who we fear might be sick, and now we have this: <a href=”http://www.mygermspray.com/product-videos” target=”new”>Anti-Germ Spray</a>.
You might be saying, “Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad. Don’t we want to kill germs?”
I say unto you, “Are you fucking kidding me? Obviously you didn’t watch the video. Go do that now. I’ll wait.”
I’m serious. I’ll wait. Watch it and come back.
(Done? Okay then.)
Let me repeat myself: Are you fucking kidding me? Can you imagine spraying yourself or your children IN THE FACE WITH CHEMICALS every time they might come into contact with germs? Or, as seems to be the case in those campy, mildly amusing videos, any time they come into close proximity to another human being?
To be fair, the first commercial for this product that I saw was in conjunction with a national pharmacy chain, and was not as high budget (hard to believe, I know) or as tongue-in-cheek as the ones at the MyClyns website. Let me paint the picture for you.
I was sitting next to my father, tooling around on the computer (as was he….I come by this honestly, people), watching Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations mocking and munching with Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods. We grunted in agreement or dismay, depending on whether they were nibbling mystery meat and moonshine or nomming Teriyaki cockroaches, and making our own (doubtlessly) witty jibes on the subject, when an obviously low-budget, rapidly-produced commercial played with the obligatory Authoritative Male Baritone Voiceover, explaining that germs were bad but now there was a solution. On the screen, a boy, a girl, and a woman intended to be their mother sat at shiny, nondescript table with absolutely nothing in very blurry background behind them, talking and laughing without making a sound. Suddenly, the boy leans over and sneezes right at the girl’s face. The mother whips out a pen-sized, purple and white canister of the product and sprays the girl right in the face before she can even react to the sneeze. The poor little actress tries not to wince or scream, her fake smile screwed onto her face so tightly it turns into a grimace as she attempts to show the viewing audience that it doesn’t hurt, honest. Somehow, it instead comes across as horrific display of paranoid overreaction. The Authoritative Male Baritone Voiceover assures us that the spray is safe for eyes, mouth and nose, and the screen flashes up graphics next to the little germaphobic trio echoing the assertion, as the mother pats the girl WASPishly on the shoulder, pleased that she has been cleansed of the boy-cooties.
My father and I turn to each other with mouths quite literally open in a confusing melange of shock, scorn, and disgust. I might have said “OMG.”
Later, I showed what I could find (the above videos) to my husband, Nyte, who abhors all household things antibacterial and the unneeded panic associated with the cold and flu season these days. To be fair, anything involving misinformation, overreaction, emotional reasoning and fear-mongering makes him crazy, so this is right up his alley. He is also first and foremost a scientific and logical creature, with a lot of education in the biological sciences under his belt and a penchant for solving difficult and interesting problems. He can’t even watch the news without getting upset at the obvious emotional manipulation and logical fallacies perpetuated by…well, every news organization we’ve seen so far, except The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
Showing him this product and its marketing tactics was a mistake. There was amusement at first, but that quickly turned into horror and then angry disgust. He knows full well what happens when you kill nearly all the microbes on a surface, be it your table or your hands, and if you want me to explain the process of resource competition and resistance breeding I’ll be happy to, but it’s pretty obvious to me that no one’s going to make any money marketing plain soap and warm water. I had to stop researching the topic while was sitting next to me because it upset him so.
Perhaps I’m jaded. Perhaps I fully expect the Powers That Be to be more interested in developing more products for us to buy to create situations requiring New And Improved Products to remedy, and happily raking in our cash while they do so. It doesn’t surprise me in the least. They would hardly be Powers That Be if they weren’t savvy businesspeople, and creating a whole section of the economy around germ-fighting and cold prevention is brilliant, financially. Ethically it’s abhorrent, but the levels and encouragement of greed in this country pretty much overrun anyone who won’t sacrifice the common good, and I guess I just expect it. Isn’t that how we built this country? Not necessarily founded, but industrialized and made great?
And yet, it’s a rabbit-hole, isn’t it? How far is it from “big companies are only concerned about their bottom line” to “the government is actually controlled by spacemen?” The path is winding and gray, and sloped oh-so-gently downward. I hate what conspiracy theories do to people. I hate how they can turn otherwise intelligent, reasonable people into tinfoil-hat-wearing zealots who think they are close to The Truth-With-A-Capital-T. Believing that the authorities are against you turns into wondering who you can trust, and suddenly it’s all too easy to turn into That Guy. You know the one. The guy without electricity or running water living in a trailer lined with mylar bags, scanning the radio waves for Proof and yelling at the neighbors for spying on him with their minds.
Where is the line? Where can you sit back and say, “I seriously doubt the data they’re using to arrive at this conclusion” and not be angry that this confusion of causation and correlation is being used to influence people to buy more vitamin supplements full of snake oil? Oh, and don’t even get me started on the whole issue of food vs. nutrition. Hoo boy, that’s a whole other can of snake oil. Or worms. Or whatever protein source you prefer.
Just promise me you won’t get all your medical information from Oprah, okay? And go easy on the antibacterial stuff. Your immune system doesn’t need it.