Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine

This song is not on the soundtrack for The Graduate, but it should have been. When Ben takes Elaine out, they end up at a car-hop (a restaurant where the waiters come out to the parking lot to take your order and serve you in your car). The car next to theirs is playing a discordant song on the radio, and playing too loudly for Ben and Elaine to talk. They ask the teenagers in other car to turn it down; being teenagers, they turn it up.

Bad news for our couple, who have to roll up their windows and pull closed the ragtop to keep out the noise. But good news for the viewers, because they get to hear a snatch of this tune, one of S&G's most fun and energetic songs.

The song makes fun of advertising, its willingness to prey on the vulnerable, and its outlandish claims of alleviating all ills. The snake-oil being pushed this time is the unexplained Pleasure Machine.

All we know about it is that is both "big" and "bright green." But we are told that it can: "eliminate your pain" and even "end your daily strife"... all for "a reasonable price." It is possible that the device is narcotics-related; one of its abilities is to "neutralize your brain." But that could also mean it is some sort of television or computer.

The nature of the device, however, is irrelevant. The salient point is that we are told to "buy" something, and that will erase our problems.

The main customer for this device is your average emotional doormat. The song starts, "Do people have a tendency to dump on you?" Then it lists these people: "hippies," "figures of authority," "[ones'] boss" even "[one's] girlfriend." The target consumer, it continues, is one who "sleep[s] alone," has no occupational or financial security, and tends to "nervously await the blows of cruel fate." Our poor fellow is "worried and distressed," and "looking for a way to chuck it all."

The Pleasure Machine stands in for anything that offers an escape rather than a solution: drugs or candy, TiVo or the Internet, a day spa or an amusement park. This thing will make you happy... "you'll feel just fine." At least, for "now."

All of these claims are false, of course. No one thing could magically wipe away all your problems.

Not even a ShamWow.


Next song: The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)

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