I’m Done With These Uncertain Times

I need a break from all the heartfelt feelings and hypocrisy.

Watching television – primarily via Hulu – is becoming an emotional chore, one that needs to be prepared for and managed as if I were running a marathon or dealing with extended family. The reason? The ads.

Commercials, of course, are few people’s favorite part of the viewing experience. It’s possible to not be a big fan while also recognizing the role paid advertising plays in supporting media and such. But now these are becoming especially hard to stomach.

That’s mostly because of how the commercials have become exercises in seeing how emotional they can make audiences feel by referencing the current Covid-19 pandemic and how the business has adjusted operations as a result.

Inserting coronavirus-themed messaging into the commercials means viewers may not be getting the full effect of the break from pandemic-related news they so desperately need.

The phrases have become familiar and pervasive. “In these uncertain times…” or “As we go through this difficult period…” or “As we all try to make sense of the world around us…” Whatever the terminology, the message is largely the same: The company behind the ad has instituted contactless curbside pickup, or has given their workers a bottle of hand-sanitizer and some gloves so they can keep doing their jobs. All of it is an effort to make sure that the consumer feels doing business with them will be safe and that it treats their workers respectfully.

Sometimes these are funny. More often they’re somber and serious. In some cases they’re thinly-veiled recruitment ads.

Frequently they’re outright hypocritical. Retailers of various kinds running ads about how much they are protecting their warehouse and store workers while the news reports on how those companies are denying people sick leave and failing to track the outbreaks happening in their locations is a pretty remarkable thing to watch.

Whatever the case, there are more and more of them, now accounting for some 20 percent of TV advertising. That means nearly every commercial break now has at least one, often with a narrator speaking in soft, calming tones.

And while there are certainly more pressing matters in front of the world right now, I’m done with them. In fact, I reached my breaking point *because* there’s so much else going on. We all need to give our minds a rest from the constant deluge of terrible news and updates, and these reminders that society has been upended in substantial ways are exhausting.

Oddly, I haven’t seen many commercials talking about how we will get through these uncertain times following the police killing of George Floyd. I’m sure there’s a reason for that.

In the meantime, I could use fewer reminders that things are so uncertain. I know. Every time I go get gas and put on a mask, I remember. Every time I open Twitter, I remember. It’s just that the rationale behind them is so blatant and frequently obnoxious I can’t take much more.

It should be stated that there is one exception to this, the latest Arby’s commercial, which pokes some fun at the reality of the current situation.