There’s nothing good about [ __________ ]. They don’t [engage in beneficial activities]. All they do is [cause a specific problem]. That’s their sole contribution to mankind.
And that’s why, they have to die.
It’s that simple. You cannot rehabilitate [ __________ ]. You have to kill him, his little friends and the [reproductive capacities of “his” community].
What you need is a quick, easy extermination plan. [One simple step] and you’re done. And here’s the really good part: everybody dies!
And while there is joy in all creatures living in harmony, it’s nothing compared to killing [ __________ ]. Now, that’s a rush.
What would you think filled in the blanks? What would you think of the language? What would it remind you of?
Don't worry; this was just the style of a fire-ant-killer commercial I heard Friday. Still, it bothered me so much that I came home and looked it up to see what the hell was creeping me out.
This commercial is supposed to be funny, but in talking about exterminating fire ants, it relies on language and imagery used throughout history to talk about the extermination of people, as well. Think what you will about my fascination with language and animals-as-stand-ins-for-humans in media, but really, how many pest extermination spots have you heard delve into the intrinsic worthlessness of pests? Annoyance and inconvenience, sure. But no-contribution-to-"mankind?" I don't run across that everyday.
I'm also hearing the commercial in a historical context as well, I suppose. I've talked previously about how media outlets reinforce connections made between people of color, particularly immigrants, and vermin/pests. Late 19th/early 20th century cartoons often portrayed Chinese Americans as living with/eating/making pets of rats and the queues of men of Chinese descent were drawn to look like rats' tails. Another example is the racist comparison of people of Mexican descent to cockroaches. And think about the ways we talk about immigration, in terms of "swarms" and "invasions."
Anyway, you can hear the commercial here.
Below is an actual transcription, with links that help provide context as to what I found so unsettling.
There’s nothing good about fire ants. They don’t pollinate your roses, they don’t make cute little sounds when they rub their legs together. All they do is build a big mound in your yard and bite the hell out of anyone who gets near it. That’s their sole contribution to mankind.
And that’s why, they have to die.
It’s that simple. You cannot rehabilitate a fire ant. You have to kill him, his little red friends and that big fat queen down there making more fire ants.
What you need is Orthene Fire Ant Killer from Ortho. You put one tablespoon of Orthene over the mound and you’re done. You don’t even water it in. The worker ants track it back into the mound. And here’s the really good part: everybody dies, even the queen!
And while there is joy in all creatures living in harmony, it’s nothing compared to killing fire ants. Now, that’s a rush.
Orthene Fire Ant Killer from Ortho. Guaranteed to kick fire ant butt.
Now, do I think the Ortho people are operating from the same place as this turn-of-the-century company?
No. I'm just saying that language matters. Ortho's advertising people might not even be able to pinpoint what made them write the ad in this style, but for me, the cultural influences seemed obvious.