“An Analysis of the ‘Non-Sequitur Red Bull Commercial’”

Anybody who’s been watching TV in the last five years knows that these animated Red Bull commercials are pretty much the pinnacle of existence. They feature droll, unique little characters, all drawn in soothing, pastel tones, and range from cute, to bizarre, to downright mind-blowing, as is the case with one of the most recent installments. In the spot I’m discussing, a group of parrots sits on a tree branch, all expressing the same plaint, in rapid clamoring, of “It’s not like the good ol’ days.”

The first thing I’d like to mention about this particular moment is the sharp element of human vice that’s offered. The writer, in fact, is appealing to our emotions, in the sense that anybody watching this segment would feel an active disdain for these plaintive oafs and their lazy, selfish din. This is important because, ultimately, this commercial is to act as a snapshot of the lowest of human mentality — one that would be associated with the complete lack of vision and ideal and which would tailor in the firm tendency to resist change, like a society adhering obstinately to antiquated ideals.

Anyway, the grieving parrots are met, ultimately, by an older parrot. The older bird comes bequeathing Red Bull drinks to them, in a move that’s ultimately inconsequential but humorous for its tongue-in-cheek attachment of Red Bull with innovation and with heightened human cognition. The commercial is essentially responding to a straw man figure, that is — one that doesn’t really exist but perhaps represents something adjacent to a person’s prideful unwillingness to take advice or to go against the grain of general thinking. These maladies are represented by the five identical birds who were on the tree brach initially.

Upon giving them the drinks, the older parrot declares that they “Stop parroting (sic) everything… instead, drink a Red Bull, and think for yourselves.” One irony here, of course, is that the older parrot does not take exception to the fact that they’re complaining and doing so in such a ridiculous fashion, but rather just the fact that they’re all mimicking each other. So he’s not even burdening them with the obligation of optimism and maximization of resources, but rather, just, an initiative toward original thought and away from issuing ideas which are identical to those of others. This is important, again, because it serves to stir up more ire in the viewer, as the identical birds are only insolent and cross with his request. Their abhorrent responses then come in the forms of, respectively, “Since when do you dictate what we do?”; “Exactly… you’re not the boss of us!” and “Power to the people!”

By the end of this exchange, then, the viewer has beheld a level of discursive human baseness and mental atrophy that’s almost unprecedented in the history of television or cinema. The effect, of course, is comedic, or tragicomic, perhaps, as if representing a significant annihilation of human society by way of these obfuscatory, prideful tendencies to herd mentality and resistance to change. The identical birds on the initial branch have taken the advice to gain individuality and shamed it, ultimately adhering to uniform mental assimilation to each other and, hence, a complete lack of a self, or individual identity. Of course, in the fact that the older guru’s request was to think for themselves and stop following the path of others, lies the overarching irony of the commercial — even the impetus toward free thought and away from assimilation can be accepted as an act of coercion, given a prideful and obstinate enough mind in the given member of society. It may very well be a reaction to those who would take offense to “non-conformists” (for a while I think there was a shirt that said “All you non-conformists are all the same”): this type of person likely is incapable of forging their own path in life and is highly inclined to belikening themselves to others when it comes to things like dress, behavior and attitudes. But their very antipathy toward the concept of individuality obviates a certain lowered mental element, like fear or insecurity, and so they go on existing in the quagmire of uniformity, of course, at the same time, lacking happiness and inclined toward lazy, oafish statements like “It’s not like the good ol’ days.”

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