To serve the twin masters of comedy and abnormal behavioral science, somebody should stick a GPS chip on me as I navigate the grocery store. At first, the tracker would reveal a typical up-and-down-the-rows journey, interspersed with pauses as its subject tries to recall which brand of pasta his wife prefers. But somewhere around the third-to-last aisle, the tracker would, technically speaking, lose its mind. It’d capture the panicked gyrations of a desperate dope pinballing from one side of the store to the other and then back, accelerating in velocity and then grinding to a halt for what even a robotic sensor could identify as a crying jag. It would then develop human feelings and recommend the conveyance of both an inhaler and a hug.
I bring this up because it’s a lack of impulse control - if I can’t find the specific type of non-mayonnaise sandwich spread advertised on that one show… you know, the one with the caddish bachelor and the irascible pawn brokers… my world will cease to have meaning - that sends me on my willy-nilly way. This morning, I was jonesing for Dr Pepper, but it could just as easily have been Cap’n Crunch or Vlasic Kosher dill spears or Fantastic Delites Curls.
I don’t know what Fantastic Delites Curls are, but I want them. That name sells the product by itself. “Fantastic” connotes superlative excellence, “Delites” connotes cheekily misspelled-for-effect wonderful happiness and “Curls” connotes state-of-the-art gastro-engineering. Fantastic Delites Curls - ooh, I bet they’re crunchy and not straight. I could sell Fantastic Delites Curls, and I have the marketing IQ of a BlackBerry executive. Stick a professional extrovert on the street with a live mic, hand out product samples and ask whether Fantastic Delites Curls deliver upon the myriad promises and glories implicit in their name. Boom.
I am thus conditioned to like Fantastic Delites Curls even before the buzzkill nutritionists weigh in with their crazy talk about “transfats” and “death by sodium.” That’s why the folks who make them should go out of their way to ensure that nobody ever sees the profoundly obnoxious and blithely mean “How Far Would You Queue For Fantastic Delites Curls?” If need be, they should apply for some kind of emergency reverse-Freedom of Information Act order to quash distribution of the clip. As of 1:57 p.m. LST (Larry Standard Time, which is the time where I am) on Thursday afternoon, only 39,882 people had viewed “How Far Would You Queue” on YouTube. The damage is containable.
The concept is pulled straight from a grade-D “Candid Camera” knockoff: Passersby are offered free Fantastic Delites Curls… that is, if they’re willing to wait in a nonexistent line for however long the “crowd control” authority figure says they must. At one point, the line monitor waves through a young girl - but not her older brother or mom. A child feeling even the teensiest amount of peril or confusion = the opposite of clever.
The pacing also makes no sense. After 1:35 of line-based shenanigans, the clip cuts to a similar maze at an ice skating rink for 20 seconds and then to an algaeified pond for 15 more. The clip closes with a blink-and-miss-it glimpse at somebody attempting to climb up the side of a building for the chips. Call me cynical, but I totally have a feeling that last bit might’ve been staged.
(Here is where I recommend that the many innocents in the Video Critique audience stop reading this column. I am about to use a not-nice word 50 or 60 times, because it is appropriate in this particular instance. If not-nice words impede your enjoyment of written content, please click away now. Also, maybe stop using the Internet.)
I cannot imagine a reaction to “How Far Would You Queue” other than, “Wow, what a bunch of assholes.” That was my first, second and third thought after watching this thing: That every person involved in its design and execution must be an asshole to some measurable degree. They must derive joy from asshole tactical maneuvers, like road blocks and filibusters. Perhaps they majored in macro-assholery in college, with a minor in anthropoassholeism? That’s a question you’re gonna have to ask them.
Worse still, they are assholes for the singular sake of being assholes, because there’s no payoff commensurate with the hoops through which they ask the clip’s subjects to jump. A small bag of chips and a smile after the authority-figure obstruction and obstacle courses? Why not throw in a five-percent-off-your-next-purchase coupon while you’re at it?
It’s a problem for the Fantastic Delites Curls brand, at least among snack-food non-aficionados. With the possible exception of Cool Ranch Doritos in the 80309 zip code, chips are fungible. If it comes between grabbing a bag of the asshole chips and the one immediately to its left on the shelf, you’re going to buy the non-asshole chips. Unpleasant brand associations tend to linger.
I’ve reached a point in life where, on those occasions when I say or do or write something stupid, I no longer retreat into a defensive bunker and start strafing everyone in sight with rationalizations. Instead, I apologize. I say, “That wasn’t my finest choice/course of action/limerick. I apologize.” People respond well to this. As a culture, we’re suckers for a sincere apology.
To that end, the folks at Fantastic should bury this thing, then release a statement along the lines of, “Wow, that was unfunny and a little mean. We’re sorry. Here, have copious volumes of free chips and fine nectars with which to wash them down.” Undoing all brand damage should be so simple.