Monday, February 27, 2006

Svarnik and Byll in Utah

Svarnik and Byll are anti-tobacco nerds who star in a series of television PSAs in Utah. They are dressed as medieval knights, and tell people not to smoke. The ads kind of suck in a school assembly way, but are funny in a Napoleon Dynamite way. (If anyone can find these in video or transcript, please tell me; I've Googled around without any love, and they're not on Ad Critic.)

I was just watching one where Svarnik and Byll are disparaging the series of PSAs that preceded them, involving a lab rat who became addicted to nicotine talking to people on a park bench. Most of the people don't want to talk to the rat. Example: "I wish smoking was easy to quit, like you could just eat a piece of banana bread. (Beat) Cause I likes banana bread."

This is my abbreviated approxa-transcript:

Svarnik and Byll are sparring near a park.

BYLL: Man, can you believe they tried to get people to stop smoking with a bunny?

SVARNIK: I think it was a rat.

BYLL: Bunny, rat, whatever. Why didn't they just say that smoking is really bad for you?

SVARNIK: Yeah, they could just say that. And that it's a sin.

BYLL: Yeah, it's a sin. (looks at girls smoking in park) Sinners!

Needless to say, in a state dominated by Mormon culture and politics, this is pretty crass. For that reason, funny.

But it's also an unintentionally revealing portrait of the way Mormons can stereotype non-Mormons as beer-swilling, tobacco-smoking, promiscuous divorcee anarchists. If you watch The Singles Ward, for instance, the non-Mormons in the film are portrayed as such, exclusively. The non-Mormon roommate has a mohawk (rainbow? I forget) and bungees his New Beetle off the edge of a cliff. When Main's wife leaves him, she immediately starts smoking and drinking. I would be inclined to say this is self-parody, but the climax of the movie depends on playing it straight. Either way, there is a grain of truth to it.

One time this happened to me was in Chinese class. I don't fault the guy who did it, because it was part of his culture. I should add too that he was one of my best friends in the class, and I would enjoy his company still, if I had the pleasure. One day he found out I wasn't a Mormon, and said, in effect, Well, I'd never have known, Dan... you're clean-cut and all. "'Hmmm. You don't look like an anarchist', he squinted and rubbed his chin" was the unspoken, unacted subtext.

He never found out that only Protestantism keeps me from completely going psycho on all you guys all the time.

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