Parentamorphosis? I Wish - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Parentamorphosis? I Wish

We may be living in the golden age of funny insurance ads. (Funny ads about insurance, not ads about funny insurance.) You find the ever-amiable “Jake from State Farm” trying to persuade Aaron Rogers and Patrick Mahomes that regular people get the “same great rate” as they do. In another series, Peyton Manning irritates his “bandmate,” country singer Brad Paisley, as they pitch Nationwide Insurance. Doug and Limu the Emu alternate with a quirky lineup of New York waterfront pitchmen to serve up “Liberty, Liberty, Liberty.” Geico has fielded range of fun characters, including their gecko at a clothing-optional beach, Pinocchio as a motivational pitchman, and a pig squealing “Whee!” as he rides home with pinwheel out the car window. And yes, there’s Progressive, with three main players — Flo (with Jamie), Baker Mayfield (homesteading at the Cleveland Browns’ stadium), and the unctuous Dr. Rick (whose ministrations help young adults avoid becoming their parents). The “clinical” term for his target illness — “Parentamorphosis.”

Most of us stop everything to watch with pleasure when these goodies appear. But, as we enter the Christmas season, I’m going to play a bit of the Grinch over one of the Progressive characters, Dr. Rick. I’ll grant you that his service as a “parenta-life coach” is a clever conceit, and it’s a great gig for actor-comedian Bill Glass. (I have to wonder if his portrayal of a condescending, therapeutic twit is as effective at ridiculing that tribe of adepts as it is at embarrassing parents; perhaps even intentionally so.)

I’ll grant you, he’s right to question the forest of pillows on a couch, and, if there are older relatives who text with their index fingers instead of their thumbs, they should up their game. And fair is fair when it comes to fashion: We parents (and grandparents) gig you for your faux-frayed, skinny jeans, and “manly,” cultivated stubble, so you can mock those of us sporting fanny packs or an Ed Grimley ensemble. But is Doc right when he says your plane trip is “off to a horrible start” if you hold up a paper boarding pass? (I’ve never had a bag check or gate scan misfire over a paper document, but texted QR or bar codes sometimes falter — “Can you adjust the brightness?” “Try it again, but at this angle.” “Hold it farther away.”). And, speaking of airports, I was not amused but not surprised recently to see some stuff at a concourse quick-stop costing three times what you’d pay at Publix. So is it really that stupid to bring your own snack on board?

To continue (with apologies to those unfamiliar with the series): In a day when we’re everywhere pressed to “stay on the line” to answer questions on service satisfaction, is it really dumb to tell a grocery store manager that one of his employees is doing an especially good job? And does Progressive have the demographics right when it mocks inspirational placards in the home? I’ve seen a lot of them in the houses and apartments of “kids”(not to be outdone by their matresfamilias). No, Dr. Rick, you don’t “really need a sign to ‘Live. Laugh. Love.’” Nobody is saying that. And why must we “put away parking talk”? Is it really “not pretty”? Sharon and I made the “beautiful” discovery that, after the symphony, we can get out of the Nashville parking garage across the street in five rather than twenty minutes if we’ll use the basement levels. (And don’t tell the other patrons; we don’t want the selfish people to spoil our deal.)

Okay, silly quibbling with silly stuff. But I think there are deeper problems:

1. I do want to become my parents: Yes, of course, there are some differences. In the ’70s, my taste ran more toward Deerhunter, Mom’s toward Pippi Longstockings, and she’d press the latter on us at Christmastime. And I’m more into contentious writing than my dad was. But, they were more winsome.

My dad came from a broken home in rustic East Tennessee and went on to earn a doctorate in church history at the University of Edinburgh, with which (along with a seminary MDiv) he was tapped to preach and teach widely, in four colleges and countless churches. My mom came from a privileged home in Detroit, her father the founder of the Detroit Economic Club, her mother a vice-president of the Northern Baptist Convention. Before shipping out for Guadalcanal as a Navy chaplain, my father, Raymond, did a tour at the Ford Motor Company Naval Works in Dearborn, where he met my mother Agnes, a graduate of the University of Michigan (where fellow class officer and Heisman winner Tom Harmon called her “Aggie”). My grandfather was so disgusted with the union that he refused to attend the wedding; he wanted better for her than a preacher from Dixie with a sketchy family history. (Grandpa did, eventually, come around, and was kind and welcoming toward the family.)

My stay-at-home mom distinguished herself in so many ways as a church woman (Woman’s Missionary Union president) and community volunteer (working with black families in our Arkansas community during the Jim Crow era and “manning” the Christmas House, with free items for the poor throughout the holiday season) that she was appointed to the governor’s commission on volunteerism. (When she died, the local Baptist association named its disaster-relief fund after her). Not to be outdone, my father, well into his 90s, was delivering Meals on Wheels to the elderly. And, as a young man from a poor home, he learned to repair cars and do carpentry, both of which came into play as he kept our clunkers running and designed/built our house.

In one episode, Dr. Rick comes upon one of his “patients” reading a book about submarines. He asks, “Who else reads books about submarines?” and hears, “My father,” at which point the good doctor pulls the book from the guy’s willing hands. Check and mate. If Dr. Rick presumes to take Guadalcanal Diary or James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones (both of which I found on my parents’ bookshelf) from my hands, he’ll have another thing coming.

Well, I could go on about my parents, but let me say they were so godly, classy, and admired that I’ve basked in the association from the get-go. (“If Raymond and Agnes were his parents, he can’t be all bad.”)

Very quickly, let me raise three more objections to the ad:

2. It splashes accelerant on a dumpster fire. I suppose this is SOP for every generation, but this one seems to resonate quite well with what candidate Obama said in 2008: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” They’ve learned that our heritage is toxic and systemically foul (thanks, in part, to the execrable 1619 Project); that you can cancel traditionalists by the vicious and mindless deployment of the word “racist” and the suffix “phobic”; and that tweets and likes are the hallmarks of wisdom. And I would argue that the growth of the “nones” among this generation is fueling their hellbent (literally) effort to jettison the wisdom of the past, aka Western Civilization. So, I suggest that the last thing they need is some smug tool encouraging them to look down their noses at older folks and see them as horse holders for the Überkinder.

Turns out, this attitude has been part of Progressive Insurance’s DNA. Peter Lewis, CEO/Chairman for nearly five decades, stuck with the name his father chose for the company in 1937. Back then, it didn’t have Sanders-AOC connotations, but Peter did what he could to turn it that direction. A patron of the arts, he bought Andy Warhol’s Mao series in 1974 and hung the ten paintings on a headquarters wall. By the time of his death in 2013, he’d been a major donor to the ACLU, the Democrat party, and groups pushing the  legalization of marijuana.

Whether or not his “progressive” political spirit lives on in the company, Dr. Rick is certainly carrying his water as their marketing team seeks to ingratiate the brand to those convinced they’re “the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

3. It helps dumb down the culture: We baby boomers jettisoned Sinatra’s plain spoken lament heard “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” for The Kingsmen’s mumbled “Louis, Louis,” and we preferred the angry “[I can’t get no] Satisfaction” of the Stones to the wistful reflections of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?”

We traded “Rick’s” Casablanca café and airport disquisitions (“in all the gin joints”; “Here’s looking at you, kid”) for the round-the-campfire, dope-addled dialogue in Easy Rider — with “George Hanson’s” take on freedom and “Billy’s” remarks on UFOs, wherein he deploys the filler word “Man” ten times in thirty seconds. That’s what adolescents (young and older) do. And that’s what the patrons of adolescents serve up. Today, we get generous helpings of “stick it to the conservative man” and a lot of Marvel stuff. Okay. But how about more generous helpings of grownup stuff for those not addicted to CNN, Xbox, and double-down darkness (from nihilism to the living dead).

I used to ask my students what five DVDs they’d take with them for a year on a desert island. (Lord of the Rings was a favorite.) And I’d pitch in my dog’s breakfast of choices, including Chariots of Fire, Three Amigos, Fantasia, Blues Brothers, Forrest Gump, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Scanning the cineplex fare for this week, I’d be inclined to leave the player back on the mainland if those were my choices. (Yes, I know I’m talking old technology.)

4. It ignores the pachyderm in the parlor. All that being said, it’s still painfully obvious that we need a host of children to not become their parents, what with the spiritual, social, and political mess that a great many moms and dads have made of our country. And we’re not talking about submarine books and inspirational placards. God give us a generation of kids who are ready to break with their parents by cherishing the sanctity of marriage, the sanctify of life, and the call to discipleship, a generation not so susceptible to the blandishments of fools and their idols.

So is Parentamorphosis a malady? Well, it all depends.

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