At the risk of invading my friend Steve Green’s terrain, some thoughts on a pair of booze ads seen on this past Sunday’s episode of Mad Men. First, Christina Hendricks of Mad Men posits the notion that a glass of Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks would be an exceptional idea:
Despite the late Christopher Hitchens insisting on numerous occasions that it’s his “Breakfast of Champions,” I’ve never tried Johnnie Walker Black. But when Christina Hendricks says it’s a good idea – and looks and sounds that good while cooing the notion into a microphone, with swingin’ Vegas-style lounge music underneath that adds to the swank of the whole Rat Pack/ Mad Men-era vibe, who am I to argue?
It also helps that there’s no guy in the ad. So if you’re a guy watching the ad, you’re free to picture yourself however you want – presumably a cross between Sinatra, Cary Grant and Don Draper based on the music and the ad’s overall atmosphere. With Christina Hendricks about to hand you a Johnnie Walker. Life is Good.
In contrast, Southern Comfort takes a different approach. A very different approach. If you’re a middle-aged guy with a porn ‘stache and aviator frames who likes to drop by the beauty parlor to have your Gregg Allman ponytail shampooed while being photographed Instagram-style in washed-out vintage film stock for the complete 1973 vibe, well, Eat a Peach and break out the Southern Comfort; have I got the hooch for you:
You can trace the decline of western civilization by the man who immediately comes to mind in any given era when the words “Southern gentleman” are spoken. From the 1930s through the 1950s, it was Clark Gable. In the 1970s, it was Burt Reynolds. In the ‘80s, it was Don Johnson. At least the fellow in the above Southern Comfort commercial getting his ponytail washed has a certain low rent sense of style. Another Southern Comfort ad in the same series jettisons that notion entirely, letting it all – far, far too much of it, to be precise – hang out for the world to see:
Incidentally, I love the “Drink Responsibly” reminder underneath this poor sod’s protruding belly.
The Johnnie Walker Black commercial harkens back to an earlier, swankier era, JFK’s New Frontier, when the future appeared both stylish and limitless. Today is that future, and Southern Comfort says it’s as bleak, ugly, and as nihilistic as how it envisions its ideal customer.
Good night America, it’s been fun!