A local chain of (what used to be called) coffee shops was running a commercial touting their inventive use of fresh strawberries in their various breakfast combos. I say “used to be called” because now a “coffee shop” is one of those specialized places that sells a mind-numbing variety of coffee concoctions. The places I’m talking about now call themselves “family restaurants,” which means they serve families, and you can parse that any way you like (“It’s a cook book!”).
I have absolutely nothing against the commercial, fresh strawberries (love them, especially in champagne) or pancakes (although I prefer waffles). I’m not sure I buy into the idea there are new ways to use strawberries in breakfast dishes, but such is the commercial’s claim. (Hmmm (and Mmmm), perhaps an evidence-gathering field trip is required!)
What does amuse me about the commercial, though, is the misfired mother.
[That sounds like a Perry Mason episode! The Case of the Misfired Mother. In this episode, Mason defends the husband of a circus performer who was killed (murdered, of course) when the cannon she was to be shot out of misfired. Foul play is detected, and all clues point to the husband. Mason’s last-ditch court antics save the day when they reveal the real killer was a jealous trapeze artist who had been hanging around.]
Where was I? Oh, right. Strawberries for breakfast. (I couldn’t find a sharable version of the commercial, but here’s a link to its Facebore page.)
The restaurant commercial’s premise is they brought together two famous mothers in order to bring you new delights in breakfast preparations. On the one hand we have Mother Earth, a new-age-y gal, kind of a grown up modern hippie. She brings the strawberries, fresh from wild fields, picked by elves and fairies. On the other hand, the Mother of Invention, a buttoned-up (or do I mean buttoned-down?) sharp business type. She brings the inventive ideas for never before seen pancake combos of unparalleled deliciousness and culinary excellence.
Great idea for a commercial, right? Mother Earth. The Mother of Invention.
They did kind of lean “space cadet” with Mom Earth, I suppose in contrast to the aggressive business approach of Ms Invention.
Considering the full range of what Mom offers (volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.), I am not sure space cadet is the right tone. The Mom I know has a lot more grit and power. (She’s also got a really nice set of mountains, amazing oceans, and really pretty trees.)
[Ha, I just flashed on a beloved Harry Nilsson tune, The Most Beautiful World In The World. “You’re a scary old place out there world, But I couldn’t be happy without you.” I bet I can find a video for you!]
Again, I digress, but do you see a teeny, tiny problem here?
Think about the phrase that gives us the concept of a Mother of Invention. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Invention’s mom is Necessity; Invention is the offspring!
It’s a nice idea, but the commercial is just flat-out wrong in its basic design!
It’s a bit like that “FU” thing I wrote about recently. When you think about it, it’s totally wrong, it just doesn’t work. Yet the meaning is completely clear in both cases. And in both cases, the bit doesn’t work without the error. The mistake is required. Otherwise we can’t have two mothers in the commercial (and no one knows what you mean by “FY!”).
I do wonder if they realized this and just went with it anyway, or did no one question it? Did no one stop for a moment to think what the words, “mother of invention” actually mean?
That, I guess, is what gets a little under my skin. We increasingly operate by icons and symbols without thinking much about the meaning behind them. We increasingly use a kind of social shorthand to communicate, especially in TV shows and movies. In this case, the attachment to symbolism is so strong that the mere presence of the word “mother” was sufficient, and the “of” was lost.
And we increasingly seem to thrive on conflict.
It’s a huge element—perhaps the key element—in most Unreality Shows. It’s also a huge element in much of our news and other informational content. Obviously, it’s a necessary part of storytelling; fiction almost always involves an attempt to resolve some sort of conflict. But it really shouldn’t be so much a part of the public dialog.
(A “science” show about black holes these days will likely focus on the Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!! aspect of black holes, which is such utter stinking bullshit.)
Even this friendly commercial for a family restaurant throws in a little bit of conflict (trying for funny, I assume).
At the end of the commercial, both mothers try to take the credit. That reads a little false to me. (Although I may have an idealized image of the consensual, cooperative behavior among women. I hear a lot of nasty stories about how women treat each other, especially in the work place, and I know a number of women who explicitly do not enjoy the company of other women.)
But Mother Earth trying to grab the credit? Really??
One last question: just how many “m’s should be in Hmmm or Mmmm?
To play you out today, a favorite tune from a favorite album: