Thursday, May 28, 2009

You're Gonna Make It After All

I was looking over some of the random scribblings I wrote in my pocket notebook the other day and I came across a note to myself to comment on the above Chase banking commercial. It has been a while and I'm pretty sure the commercial doesn't even air anymore, but I figured it's better to have a hopelessly belated post rather than to have never posted at all.

The obvious reading of this commercial and the ostensive message conveyed by its producers is how liberatingly helpful and flexible Chase banking services are. In displaying that message, it also co-opts the excitement and optimism of a young adult experiencing the exhilarating novelty of being an independent adult; earning their first paycheck, opening their own bank account, living on their own, etc. On top of that you throw in a dash of modern generation female empowerment with the girl rock cover of the Mary Tyler Moore theme song "Love is All Around". Overall it's a well produced textbook example of the first part of my unified three part theory of banking commercials. The theory is that all banking commercials essentially fall under a three part life cycle trilogy: (1) commercials about opening an account, earning reward points, building credit (youth); (2) commercials about getting a mortgage, refinancing a mortgage, building your business (middle adulthood), and (3) saving up for retirement (death).

So at the time this commercial was still running, about six months ago, I commented to my younger sister, who had then recently started her first big time career job working as a buyer for Macy's in the big city and at the time was balancing her checkbook online (she actually uses Bank of America), that with all this new found grown up independence and responsibility she reminded me of the protagonist of said commercial. She was familiar with the commercial as well and surprisingly commented back that she really didn't enjoy it and found our blond banking heroine to be an incredibly sad and pathetic figure. She thought the character's downright ecstatic reaction to such an unremarkable act as receiving a paycheck and opening a bank account was unrealistic and more than a tad ridiculous. She also was a little off put by the character's disturbingly compulsive monitoring of her account balance via cellphone and her psychotic wide eyed joy from completing every mundane financial transaction. She also suspected that the girl was paying for the companionship of her "boyfriend" since it appeared that she was paying for everything and had to make sure her deposit cleared before she could even kiss him.

I initially laughed off her unexpected take on the commercial, but the more I saw it, the more I started to agree with her viewpoint. Colored by my sister's context our commercial protagonist comes across as quite a sad figure. This is a person who has never really lived. Whatever sheltered life she had before setting out on her own in the big city must have been so repressed as to make everyday tedium like personal banking such an unbelievable thrill. You can tell from the first scenes at her workplace and the eye rolling cynicism of the guy handing out the paychecks that she had already irritated and alienated her fellow workers with her psychotic chipperness in her first two weeks. Her immediate reaction to getting her first paycheck is to sprint directly out of the building and into the first Chase branch she can find to open an account. One can only imagine the scared look on the Chase employee's face as the woman reacts as if she had won the lottery after being given her temporary checks.

The hired rent boy theory also appears valid as well. She has to constantly monitor her finances while on "dates" with her man to make sure she has enough to pay off his hourly companion rates at the end of their day. She even has to break up their kiss right in the middle just to see if she'll be able to afford him for the duration of the movie and later on. When she sees that her deposit has cleared, she goes back to kissing him with the confidence of having enough funds to keep him. Also on the topic of purchased relationships, I'm also suspicious about the circle of friends she's having lunch with. To me they could either be compensated friends that are paid to humor her insanity or her actual friends who are all also similarly insane.

By the conclusion of the commercial where she's doing her best Ophelia impersenation in front of the fountains, I start to worry about the fate of that poor dog and wonder if she hadn't inadvertently killed it via some Lennie Smalls-like misguided, overly enthusiastic petting.

P.S. For all you eagle eyed viewers out there, as it turned out the girl in the commercial is indeed Jess Weixler, star of the refreshingly original yet still fairly terrible horror/dark comedy "Teeth".


  1. It's pretty clear that she only keeps her friends around so that she can scoff at them as they take out their petty paper money, while she shames them all with her shimmering plastic.

    Teeth was pretty terrible.

  2. I agree with your sister. Not only is this woman sad, she is delusional. She landed some entry-level job as a data analyst or something and her first paycheck motivates her to prance around every time her bank performs the most minor transaction. Was she raised on a farm where the only form of currency was fresh churned butter and eggs? Also, the reason you probably don't see this commercial anymore is that it is horribly depressing to the newly-unemployed populace in this country. She's so upbeat and together and all the rest of us can do is sigh and remember that first, sweet taste of meager compensation.

    p.s. that dog was totally sacrificed in some weird, off-camera satanic ritual.