December 2009

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One of the most-aired, but somehow least-annoying commercials on is the “Valet” spot: where the Orbitz Guy exits his hovercraft, thows the keys to the valet, and says “Ah… the” to a surprised Hispanic-lite couple.

It’s subtle, but it’s a great opening. It’s a small, but ultimately pretty funny joke at the expense of trying to make a last name that is already plural, plural.

It’s something we’ve all stumbled with, and chuckled about, at some point in our lives. And it’s exactly the same as making the last name “James”, or any other word that ends in “s” or “z” plural.

Except this last name was Hispanic.

Orbitz has quietly re-edited their spot, and removed the extra “…”s, most likely at the direction of some easily offended letter writers with too much time on their hands.

But what is surprising here is the amount of outrage… not over the original version, but over this new, “cleaned up” version:

The original version (“…”) is what we in the industry call a “truism”. A little human touch that helps endears viewers to your commercial. Some commercials and even campaigns are awash in “truism” (see: Just Do It). But most commercials out there are pretty bland, and would fade into the woodwork if it weren’t for these little gems of humanity. A look. A unique line delivery. A perfectly-cast bit player with a strange face. Or, more often, as in this case, a seemingly “throw away” line, that people like. And remember.

Orbitz’s (“…”) removal of this small-but-powerful moment is a big deal. Not because it made a pleasantly decent spot bad (it did), but because it’s a symptom of a bigger, more nefarious issue: Political Correctness.

Offensive language and stereotypes are kind of like Global Warming. You won’t find anyone who will readily admit to thinking that pollution is GOOD, just like you won’t find anyone who will willingly cheer on the insulting of groups of people, religions or cultures. Especially minorities. But the problem is, with this kind of thin-skinned knee-jerk skiddishness, we’re ultimately missing the larger point. And when we focus on these little, unimportant, but still-perceived “slights” we take the focus off of larger, more harmful, and “real” racism.

The natural reaction to people or groups that are overly sensitive is to treat them like little children. And, for groups that are ironically clamoring for respect, that is the most offensive thing of all.

Yes. It’s a stupid commercial about a silly guy in a hovercraft. But it’s a glaring example of a larger, more insidious problem in our World today: PC Thuggery, the attempt to control other’s thoughts and speech, and the overall wuss-i-fi-cation of our society.

Hopefully this reverse-outrage will garner some attention, and start a proper, grown-up discussion. It’s long overdue.

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