Disclaimer: The American Dream may not be all that it seems


Loon Star State. By Ben Sargent for The Texas Observer.

After a couple of years here I have to admit that American television adverts have nearly broken me: the frequency and incessant repetition, the mindless drivel, and the fact they ruin the narrative of anything you are trying to watch (apart from PBS channels, bless them, that have no adverts). It’s driving me nuts. Although I did have reason to smile during one recent commercial.

It was a car advert and involved an oft-used motif involving about 10 cars of the same model whizzing around the desert, extravagantly weaving in and out of each other in a complex mechanical ballet–you see it all the time in car adverts. What I liked were the disclaimers I noticed at the bottom of the screen, especially: “You will not be allowed to do this on a test drive.” That one cheered me up.

Advert disclaimers in America are a big thing–especially when it comes to adverts for medicines which are big on offering reminders of one’s mortality and frailty in the form of the manic, sped-up voice-over that typically comes at the end of the commercial–usually accompanying images of people gurning like the Cheshire cat and who have just been waxing lyrically about how the medicine has transformed their lives for the better–saying: ” Medicine X should not be taken by those suffering from or prone to…taking Medicine X may lead to head explosions, your eyes melting in their sockets, instant combustion,” and that sort of thing.

Texas is big on presenting itself as a nirvana of opportunity, the last frontier of the American Dream. What those pushing that idea don’t talk about so much is how it ranks highest among U.S. states for the worst sorts of social-justice inequalities, such as being No. 1 for people without health insurance, No. 2 for having the most citizens in a state correctional system, etc. With Texas and the American Dream, there’s always some harsh small print that’s easy to miss.