If You Think the Godawful "Pajama Boy" Obamacare Ad is Godawful, You're Probably Not Its Audience.


If you think the latest bid to reboot the public image of Obamacare is absolutely godawful, disturbing, pathetic, you name it (I know I do!), I've got news for you: You're probably not the audience for it. And you're playing into the aims of the image's creators.

For many—arguably most—Americans, this guy is hipster douchitude on a cracker. Jeebus H. Christ, at least be swilling brandy. The whole packaging, including the Christmas postcard styling of the image, the infantilized image of man-child, the vaguely imperial "GetTalking" hashtag, etc., runs through me like months-old egg salad.

Yet, as with the widely ridiculed Life of Julia agitprop rolled out during the 2012 campaign (read Reason's response here), the image above works perfectly as propaganda (and it turns out that Julia spoke pretty loudly to its audience, with women— especially unmarried women—overwhelmingly going for Obama).

First, it creates not just a clearly defined in-group (those who see this and identify either with the guy in the picture or his larger situation) but a clearly defined out-group (those of us who see this and wonder what injuries to karma we committed in previous lives that we are looking at this sort of shit in our current incarnations). Like Life of Julia, it is widely talked about and has effectively won the internet for at least a few days. And it creates a whole host of carriers for its essential message via parody, satire, screeds, and more.

Some of the parodies and rewrites are genuinely funny and some are not ( the ones that reek of conservative insecurity about sexual identity strike me as their own form of unfortunate expression). But they all ultimately do what the spot's creators wanted: They get people talking about health insurance.

And with that, I'm zipping up, albeit not in meta-ironical checkerboard pjs.