Looking for a cure to happiness? Well look no further than Toyota's latest blight of viral videos extolling the hipness of the "Swagger Wagon" (a.k.a. the Toyota Sienna minivan). As if gas pedals, computer problems and brake difficulties weren't enough, Toyota now has to drag parents born in the sixties and seventies out from the proverbial moron closet. There has not been a corporate slap like this since the early 1990s when marketing people co-opted Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and made it mall fodder.
The Swagger Wagon video (for those lucky enough never to have seen it) features what people in marketing were told by people in market research are a typical "Gen X" couple. He wears clothes that would be more appropriate on a fourteen year old and looks the way one might imagine Ben Folds now would had the whole music thing not worked out. She is remarkably unremarkable, cast, no doubt, to be a relatable everymother with just the whiff of frat parties long past steaming off her. They rap ("I got a swing in the front, a tree house in the back, my 'number one' dad mug says, 'Yeah, I'm the mack.'") and engage in comic moments that are just oh so real.
The dire duo drives a Swagger Wagon because they're still cool despite being parents. They haven't copped out like their mom and dad did. They are the sort of forty-something grey-heads who listen to Them Crooked Vultures and never go anywhere without their laptops. Horribly, as of last week Swagger Wagon had over two million views on Youtube and there is, of course, the requisite Facebook group. The message is clear (and as old as advertising itself). Buy this. You'll be cool.
There is so much wrong with the Swagger Wagon advertisements that one could write a graduate thesis on the subject. But time is of the essence, so I'll try and break it down in brief.
We were never cool. Never. That was never our thing. Being born "post boom" meant a life in the slipstream. Baby boomers worried about getting old. They worried about conforming. Gen X? We worried about our hair gel. Was Dep too brittle? We didn't get obsessed with our place in the world because we didn't have one. The sixties generation had The Graduate . We had Risky Business . They had Dylan. We had Duran Duran. That's why the Swagger Wagon's desperate attempt to rationalize owning a minivan is so galling. It's falling into the baby boom ("I'm youthing myself") mentality. Our rock groups, for instance, were never supposed to do reunion tours. I used to ease myself to sleep by thinking "Well, at least the Police never got back together." Then they did. Yuk. You want to impress me with a video Toyota? Show me footage of a Sienna SE crashing through a big screen TV that's playing the touch football scene from The Big Chill .
Here's the deal: the baby boomers get all the attention. They're cool, the generation that changed the world and all that. We're the tweebs who came after. That's the downside. The upside? They have an insatiable hunger for drugs. There isn't a drug they won't take. That means they are the guinea pigs for our generation. Viagra? All that jazz. They'll use these pharmaceuticals and suffer all the side effects and as a result, when and if we ever need them, those drugs will be ready for us with all the bugs worked out.
Here's the thing about being cool - you're cool because you don't care about what people think about you. The Fonz? Didn't care. Captain Willard from Apocalypse Now ? Didn't care either. He had a Marlon Brando to kill. Both were cool.
You shouldn't worry whether driving a minivan is cool or not. Drive one proudly because you have a lot of kids and it's what you can afford. Owning a minivan is a sign that you are easily aroused and don't always think things through. Just own it. You know, it's strange, having kids used to be a sign of virility. If you were a dude, the more you had the more of a man you were. Now the goal is to be Peter Pan heading out to Vampire Weekend concerts with your fifteen year old on the weekends and twittering to people about Glee at night during the week.
Minivans are already cool. They have a lot going for them. They're easy on the environment (compared to the SUV) and get good mileage. They're good for transporting kids. You can haul stuff around in them. That's about it but that not so bad, is it?
Leave the swaggering to pirates.
Take an expensive sports car, a curious teen and a garage door - and mix together to get one very embarrassed automotive writer