This may or may not be a new recurring feature around here, but sometimes you have to look at a promotional campaign, or a public figure, and ask yourself… Are you even trying?
Today, I ask this of the people trying to pitch the idea of “drinking less.”
Don’t drive drunk, you moron
First of all, convincing people not to drink themselves into oblivion and then risk innocent lives by driving a car is a noble aspiration. I know several people who could stand to learn a thing or two about that. I know more people who say “I’m not drinking tonight, people are depending on me to get them home safely,” and that’s admirable and should be celebrated.
Some anti-drinking and driving ads manage that. One ad on the radio recently has a woman talking to her friend about that great guy who gave up drinking for a night to be the DD, and how she totally let him take her home (she’s describing it fondly the next day, so we may assume he wasn’t a serial rapist). Another ad in the same campaign celebrates the drunk dial, as a man calls a friend in the middle of the night because he’s had some epic adventures and needs a ride home.
Well done, those ads. Show us the alternatives to driving drunk and make them look cool. That’s the way to do it.
And then there are these idiots.
No! Only drink at designated drinking areas!
Watching the Daily Show on the Comedy Network website means dealing with ads. Fine. I read Achewood or surf Reddit and mute that terrible Mio ad set to Eye of the Tiger until John Oliver is back (I imagine this trend will continue once John Stewart returns). But one of the frequent ads is from a campaign called “Every Drink Counts.” They’re fighting against drunkenness by attacking the idea of pre-drinking. They show a bunch of people preparing for a night out, with the banner “pre-drinking…”
And then this happens.
The idea being, once you start drinking, it’s called drinking. Pre-drinking still gets you drunk, you fools!
Okay. Where to start.
Nobody thought that having drinks before the party would mean they were still sober. That concert or bar or birthday party doesn’t have magic powers. The beers don’t suddenly become alcoholic or not because of the place you drink them, and we all know that.
Let me explain it to you, Every Drink Counts. By and large, “pre-drinking” doesn’t mean “drinks before we start drinking.” It’s an abbreviation of “pre-event drinking,” meaning “we want a bit of a buzz when we get to the party, because it’s fun and we’re goddamn grownups.” Yes, it is possible to have a good time sober. Look at my colleague the Video Vulture. He doesn’t drink and he’s one of the most fun people I’ve ever known. But it’s also possible to have fun with the aid of some adult beverages, and we get to do that, because we live in Canada, not Egypt.
So if we want to have a drink or two before we leave, and we have a ride, so be it. We know we’re getting drunk when we pre-drink. That is the entire point. Combating this notion by saying “No! You’re still drinking!” is aiding nothing. Stop it.
Although demonizing excessive drinking by demanding you only drink in the designated venue doesn’t come across nearly as stupid as trying to make moderation seem awesome. Observe.
Woo! Fitting in with the preferences of officials! PARTY!
I don’t know if this campaign made it outside of my home city of Calgary, so maybe you haven’t heard of Responsibly Beer and Responsibly Coolers.
Basically, it was a series of radio ads and billboards selling the notion of moderation the same way advertisers in the 80s and 90s tried to sell Coors Light. A male announcer would talk excitedly about hitting the town with Responsibly Beer or a female announcer would talk excitedly about having a ladies’ night with Responsibly Coolers (women don’t drink beer, silly people) while either a hair metal or calypso band, respectively, sang things like “Moderation!” or “Safe!” or the real kicker, the money phrase anyone looking for a good time wants to hear, “Government approved!”
I don’t care what calypso crooner or Poison cover band reject is singing them, the words “Government approved” are never, ever going to sound awesome or cool. You’re just going to have to accept that.
They’re not trying to say drinking an entire bottle of Jagermeister and throwing up all over someone’s living room is perhaps undesirable (I don’t want to do anything in that sentence, personally). They’re trying to say a three-pack of beer (or a two-pack for the ladies…their claim, not mine) is a party.
It’s just… how to… argh. One the one hand, just sitting around drinking does not qualify as a party. It’s merely something one can do at a party. But on the other hand, there is just something inherently futile in trying to dress up responsibility as awesome good times. Say that we can still have fun with only three drinks? Fine. I believe you. That is true and a positive message. But I just want to doubt you so much because you’re coming across like a 45 year old white math teacher trying to seem “hip” and “with it” by saying trigonometry is “the bomb” and describing a “totally fresh” way to find the hypotenuse.
Basically, Responsibly Beer, you’re not wrong. But you’re embarrassing both of us.
Alright, wrapping it up…
I give these campaigns a hard time not because I think “drink less” is a bad message. From time to time it’s an unnecessary one, provided you’re being safe, but it’s not a bad message. I just hate to see someone do an important thing badly. Like when awareness of gay teens being bullied hit an all-time high and the almost annoyingly gay-friendly series Glee responded by being weirdly pro-bully.
Before you disagree, ask yourself: did the people who bullied Kurt for being gay, or Finn for seeming gay, or the people who tried to destroy Mr. Shuester (mostly Sue), or threw eggs at Rachel, or who mocked that girl until she had an eating disorder years after I gave up on this show for being a hollow, badly-written exercise in selling bland, toothless, auto-tuned covers of popular songs on iTunes … did any of them face any sort of consequence? Or did Finn, Mr. Shuester and all face a consequence for daring to fight back?
That’s a digression and I’m sorry. Where was I? Right. Drinking responsibly isn’t a bad idea, but you’re making it look like one.
I mean come on. Are you even trying?