Duracell's Hearing-Loss Appeal Is Tone-Deaf

Do deer consume wild turkey? I mean actual turkeys in the wild, not the toxic malted death swill. The reason I ask: During my early-morning trot around the neighborhood the other day, I passed a deer who (that? my relative-pronoun etiquette is lacking) appeared to be sneaking up on a nearby turkey. Or perhaps the two animals were in cahoots, setting me up for an ambush by their confederates. It’s anyone’s guess, really. I should start carrying identification during these excursions, just in case.

I returned to the house and shared these suspicions with my wife. After a quick flicker of the getting-an-annulment-can’t-be-THAT-hard facial expression with which I’m so familiar, she asked what I heard. To this I responded, “Hard Promises, but I skipped over “‘Letting You Go.’” The thirsting-for-annulment look melted into one of deep, abiding pity. “No, not what you were listening to, bozo. What you heard. Did the deer or turkey make any noise?”

I hadn’t heard anything, because I never do. I used to pass off my hearing issues as an outgrowth of my charming personality (“it’s not that I can’t hear you, it’s that I’m not paying attention”), but it has become embarrassingly clear in recent years that I need to address them. The hearing problems, in fact, bother me more than all the other age-related indignities (aches, pains, lethargy, hair loss on head, hair growth in/on/around ears, inability to sprint up stairs Rocky-style, acute intolerance for teenagers on lawn) combined.

So I had to watch Duracell’s “Stay Connected” clip a few times to make sure I accurately assessed its tenor. The video features the travails of a 50-ish dude with fairly advanced hearing issues. He doesn’t hear his wife calling for him when he leaves for work. He doesn’t hear coworkers attempting to get his attention. He can’t keep up with the whimsical banter at a poorly lit dinner party. Most distressingly, when he babysits his granddaughter, his need to crank the TV volume to 11 - because consuming televised sports sans commentary totally neuters the experience, especially when that delightful Chris Berman fellow is involved - prevents him from hearing the apoplectic child down the hall.

After that last experience, the dude gets religion. We next see him and his wife in something approximating a clinical setting, with the doctor/clinician/battery-instructing-consultant-person showing him how to use the Duracell hearing-aid battery. (Short version: You peel the strip labeled PEEL ME and it works.)

Our aural-processing-of-screaming-baby-challenged protagonist then places the hearing aid in his ear for the first time and, well, life begins anew. He’s a conversational supernova at a much better lit meal with friends, from which he departs the moment the kid starts crying again. He dispenses an opinion about said kid (“she’s doing great”) with life-affirming confidence. All is well in his world, at least until he happens upon circa-2016 talk radio.

On first viewing, “Stay Connected” seemed a little jokey - “oh, look at the dingbat who’s either too dense or too stubborn to do something about his hearing!” The reason for this, I think, is god-awful casting. The guy underplays his response to the first kid situation, overplays his distress at not being able to hear his coworkers and friends, and triple-turbo-overplays his gratitude in the wake of the nice battery lady’s instructions.

Meanwhile, his castmates appear to have been given two directives: “Look concerned” and “look concerned-er.” Nobody is asking for Streep-ian commitment to the sublime craft of acting here, but it’s amazing how easily a few dippy facial expressions can hamstring the entire operation.

I’m also confused why Duracell pushes its “don’t miss the moments that matter” tagline at clip’s end, as it doesn’t appear relevant within this particular context. The guy is missing out on everyday, mundane moments, not Obama’s speech in Selma or Vin Scully’s call of a Maria Callas aria. Like everything else about “Stay Connected,” it just feels a little off.

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