Commentary

Diesel's 'Make Love Not Walls,' Deconstructed

Is there anything inadvertently funnier than high-fashion brand videos? This is a question with which I’ve wrestled many times in this space. Finally, I have an answer: Yes, there is. And that something is high-fashion brand videos that boldly - nay, bravely - dare to tackle the Big Issues Of The Day.

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I present for your perusing-while-paying-half-attention pleasure the brand video that clinched it for me: “Make Love Not Walls,” in which Diesel sics its skinny-jean army on the notion of walls. It is everything you’d imagine, and yet still more. Here’s a time-stamped breakdown:

0:05: Oh look - this was directed by David LaChapelle. Based on his photography and music videos, I expect a linear, buttoned-up operation. Think “Madagascar,” but without the frank depiction of lemur sexuality.

0:08: Shirtless model-looking dude with elaborate wheel tattoo on stomach (hereafter SMLD) appears in a stretch of mountainous terrain. His pale blue eyes could melt tungsten, or even a block of parmesan. Something appears to be vexing him.

0:12: Oh, great. It’s a wall. Even worse, it’s the kind of wall about which you’ve been hearing so much lately: Way high, rimmed with barbed wire and roughly as inviting as an ingrown nose hair. If this wall were a person, it would be a really tall, really broad person wearing a barbed-wire beret.

0:17: SMLD looks up at the wall. Yup, that’s a wall, alright.

0:19: A car has materialized in the background. Some production assistant probably caught the unkind end of a rat-tail for that.

0:21: SMLD bends over and unearths a delicate yet resilient white flower from the dirt. He looks at it. This is totally a flower.

0:23: SMLD registers his dismay by throwing the flower over the wall - er, that’s dismay for the wall, not the flower. He loves the flower. Given the chance, he’d make that flower an honest flower.

0:24: Fly, flower, fly! Be free!

0:25: But the joke’s on SMLD, because flowers are bound by the same unkind laws of gravity that ultimately tether pebbles, lawn furniture and Neil deGrasse Tyson to the earth.

0:28: Weirdly angled shot of the barbed wire atop the fence. Boy, this video sure has a problem with walls. What’s up with that?

0:29: SMLD despairs. You can tell by his slightly downward gaze. A tattoo of what appears to be Babe Ruth, who used to smack baseballs over walls, is visible on his right shoulder. Sensing a theme here.

0:32: But wait! There’s a blonde on the other side of the fence. She returns the flower to its rightful owner - not that anybody can own nature, of course. We’re all just renting in this life, man.

0:37: Now SMLD is a classically trained ballet dancer. He grand jetés like nobody’s watching. As part of a whirling conclusion to his impromptu recital, he sends the flower back over the wall.

0:40: Blonde-haired person on the other side of the wall is now revealed to be blonde woman overdressed for the occasion unless she just got off a motorcycle (BWOFTO). She’s joined by a guy who looks a little bit like Vin Diesel if Vin Diesel favored neck scarves (GWLALBLVD). GWLADLBLVD backs away from the flower. Trust no one.

0:44: BWOFTO throws the flower back. Tag! You’re it!

0:47: As if to aurally commune with her fellow flower-chucker, BWOFTO presses her ear up against the wall. SMLD either kicks dirt against it or mimes a kick in its general direction. Either way, it’s a gesture of contempt. How dare you prevent me from a more conventional exchange of this magical flower!

0:50: Now there are like six model types attempting to climb over the wall from GWLALBLVD and BWOFTO’s side. That escalated quickly.

0:55: Just as SMLD is about to slam himself against the wall in double-despair, kablammo! Somebody blows a hole in the damn thing, uniting the flower friends but completely undermining the psychology that underlies the existence of this, or any other, wall. Walls are not insurmountable or indestructible, apparently. There goes our foreign policy.

0:57: SMLD hugs GWLALBLVD. A woman in a bra does a series of backflips. The wall is revealed to be graffitied within an inch of its life - with all kinds of hippie crap, no less. At the very least, this is a felony; at worst, we’re talking war crime/treason. Susannah, fetch me my festive extrajudicial garb.

1:01: And now people are gymnasto-jumping over the fence and striking poses on the fence and SMLD is doing his angry ballet kicks again but now maybe they’re celebratory ballet kicks?

1:05: Diesel is a fashion brand. It sells watches, too. Its marketing and media budgets are bigger than yours.

1:07: The smoke clears and we see that the hole in the wall is heart-shaped. Sure, why not.

1:11: Hipster-model-looking people stream through the heart hole. In security parlance, this is known as “trespassing.”

1:11: A gay wedding is performed, complete with a lustier deal-sealing kiss than you’re likely to see in an ad for, say, Chick-fil-A. A bouquet is tossed and the attendees party like it’s 1999, in 2017.

1:19: Lots of dancing, lots of jumping, lots of making out…

1:22: …and a guy in a headband sticks out his tongue.

1:27: There are around 100 people here now. Not to rain on anybody’s metaphor, but it would be logistically impossible for this many individuals to assemble in the 30 or so seconds since the wall was breached. If there’s anything else I can reality-check for you this afternoon, please let me know.

1:29: We finally have an explanation for the hole in the wall. It was created not by dynamite or the collective will of the fashion community, but by a rainbow-striped balloon tank. SMLD dances in its shadow. Carry on.

1:34: “Make Love Not Walls” and the Diesel logo are transposed over the heart hole, and the music ends.

Postscript: Turns out Diesel’s brand folks weren’t sure we’d be able to wrap our brains around the events chronicled in “Make Love Not Walls,” as witnessed by this syntactically dazzling sentence from the YouTube blurb: “Diesel takes on the Wall, a symbol of separation by definition, breaking it down to create strong storytelling throughout the imagery developed around it: walls are built and the Diesel love tank breaks it with a heart shape turning a symbol of separation into a happy place full of flowers of celebration of freedom and love.”

I am now going to invent a time machine, head back to 1988 and rename my high-school band “Diesel Love Tank.” LD out.
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