So, I had initially planned on publishing a blog about my thoughts on E3, and how I no longer feel the excitement and enthusiasm for the show that I once did. As I worked on that piece, I found myself sitting cross-legged on the edge of my bed with my MacBook in my lap while Pawn Stars was on the TV*. I sat there, struggling to articulate my thoughts on why this trade show, the Super Bowl event for the industry that I love, had lost its luster. In my frustration, I closed my laptop and turned my eye towards the TV for a momentary distraction.
That’s when it happened.
I saw something that demanded my time, my attention, and most importantly, my subjugation. Suddenly E3 didn’t matter, and neither did the blog I had spent part of my Saturday writing. In the blink of an eye, the only thing that was important to me was trying to make sense of how a deranged man’s tormented night terrors were supposed to sell me on satellite TV.
The ad in question opens with said man laying in bed, flipping through the channels on his DIRECTV satellite television. His wife confronts him, wide eyes filled with worry as she expresses her fear that this man, her husband, has lost interest in her due to her disability. He assures her this isn’t the case, reaffirming his love for the woman standing at the foot of his bed. Overcome with relief and a renewed desire to impress-slash-reward her man, she sheds her robe to reveal a silky red negligee before and proceeds to give him a show.
It would normally be like any other mindless American advertisement, I admit. However, in this instance there’s just one small problem…
SHE’S A FUCKING PUPPET!!!
In this moment you may find yourself immediately overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information which your brain is trying to process. Was this a misogynistic portrayal of women as literal puppets to be controlled by the man of the house? Maybe it was a less-than-subtle endorsement for agalmatophilia acceptance? Perhaps the message is more philosophical, with the marionette dolls standing in as representations of humanity’s illusion of free will, and how despite what we believe to be actions we take of our own accord we are but puppets in a play having our strings pulled for the amusement of our masters?
These are natural questions to be asking yourself, and I admit that after viewing this one commercial, it would be easy to jump to any of those conclusions. But it’s important to understand that this is merely one in a series of ads which gives us insight into this man’s world, and allows us to peer through the looking glass and gaze upon the twisted madness of a broken man.
We see right away that Geppetto is a man of above-average means. He lives in an extravagant suburban home, and we learn through dialogue he shares with his “wife” and “son” of his obsessive hatred for “ugly” wires, knowing all the while that such talk makes them uncomfortable. It’s this obsession which draws him to DIRECTV. We also learn, again through dialogue, that he loves both his wife and son dearly. Upon looking further, one can argue that he perhaps loves them a little too dearly.
His affection for his family is clear, and yet we also know that marionette dolls are not naturally occurring. After all, you do not give birth to puppets. This means that they were created, but by whom? Who would build life-sized movable recreations of this man’s wife and child?
He would, of course.
But why? There’s only one answer that makes any kind of sense – to cope with loss. It becomes painfully obvious that Geppetto is attempting to fill a void in his life, either from the loss or departure of his wife and child. Unable to cope with their absence, he turns to these idealized caricatures to continue living in an increasingly delusional bubble of contented happiness. this explains his obsessive need to remove all the wires from his life. These cables and cords are but a minor inconvenience, but to him they serve as a constant reminder of his fabrication, and in purging them from every facet of his home and life he will finally be able to lose himself completely in his illusion.
This alone would be alarming enough, but the depth of Geppetto’s only grows more bleak the deeper we delve. After all, his “wife” and “son” are marionette dolls, which begs another question: Who is controlling them? Who is pulling the strings, and speaking on their behalf? Is it a at-home caregiver who has agreed to help feed Geppetto’s psychosis in the hopes that he’ll eventually snap out of it? Or has Geppetto taken someone against their will and locked them away in his attic, forcing them into a life of servitude in which they’re rewarded with table scraps and lukewarm tap water in exchange for their participation in keeping this delusion alive? This is possible, seeing as how his wife and child speak with real fear of garnering his disapproval over their disability. Please don’t judge me because of my wires, they both plead through their actions as they try to keep Geppetto lost in his fantasy.
Or perhaps they’re remote-controlled via computer. It is apparent that Geppetto lives a life of relative comfort, one which could easily be afforded by a brilliant computer programmer or mechanical engineer. That he would have experience with being able to program a machine to competently manipulate marionette dolls would also imply that he has experience with toys or animatronics. Is this man a disgraced Disney Imagineer who lost himself in his work? Doubtful, but still a theory.
Geppetto’s mental fragility is even acknowledged by at least one of his friends. In another ad featuring his wife, we see Geppetto giving a tour of his home to a friend – presumably a new friend who has yet to witness his house of horrors. As Geppetto gives the grand tour, we hear the smugness in his voice as he beams over his new wireless satellite system. In an attempt to relate, the friend remarks that “wires are so ugly.”
This throwaway comment triggers something in Geppetto, who tries to swallow his murderous rage while reminding his friend with no small amount of scorn. “Well, not all wires are ugly…” he begins to say as the wooden clacking approaches from behind. The friend turns, and sees the inhuman creation that vaguely resembles his long-dead (ED NOTE: conjecture) wife.
In that moment, he cannot hide his fear.
The friend tries to stammer his way out of the hole he has dug for himself, but he knows – and Geppetto knows – that his fate is already sealed.
We do not see this friend again, or any other friend. In fact, apart from Geppetto this is the only flesh-and-blood human being we see in his world, and this person is apparently outcast (or worse) after this incident. This also pushes Geppetto deeper into his own madness, to where he seals himself off from the rest of the world in favor of his fabricated family. The illusion stretches beyond replicating the wife and child he has lost, playing out real-world scenarios as though nothing was amiss. Case in point? The next time we see any kind of “house guest” in Geppetto’s home, it’s his “father-in-law.”
Who is also a damned puppet.
Why would Geppetto recreate somebody that, by observing their interactions, he doesn’t particularly enjoy? Because it provides a sense of normalcy. To act out real-world events, even unpleasant ones like a visit from the in-laws, gives him credence that everything he has created is real.
We also see, for the first time, how he deals with conflict. After offending the father with yet another snide comment about “removing the wires” from his home, Geppetto’s father-in-law challenges him to a fight. The puppet, and the puppeteer, are thrown into a rage and lash out in a physical assault on their creator.
And Geppetto openly laughs at their feeble attempt at rebellion. He knows that he is the absolute master of his own fantastical reality, and that everyone and everything around him are merely puppets in his play…
This is the story that DIRECTV is telling. What they may see as a harmless play on the idea of “cutting the cord” and “freeing yourself” from the shackles of cable television, is in reality a cry for help from a man who has lost his hold on the real world. This is a tormented man living a tormented life, unable to come to grips with personal loss and turning his affections, and his wrath, on objects which cannot hurt him, and cannot leave him. In a lost attempt to recapture a blissful period in his life, he has turned his home into a House of Wax-like performance play, and is now obsessed with striking from his existence any reminder of his delusion.
Now doesn’t that just make you want to go out and order satellite TV?
*Yeah, I watch Pawn Stars. Wanna fight about it?