China Will Win Your Capitalist American Heart With This Weird-Ass Music Video
Comic Book Guy: I must Protest! Volkswagen Buses Were Never Manufactured In China!
From China's Xinhua News Agency comes proof that, whatever the formerly socialist nation's successes in introducing aspects of market economics to their planned economy, they're still getting the hang of producing advertising that works for Westerners. This 3-minute slice of psychedelia is meant to be a Public Service Announcement to educate us foreign devils about the Chinese Communist Party's 13th Five-Year Plan, aka the Shi San Wu. It is beautifully insane, and features a multiethnic band of cartoon hippies/punk rockers riding atop a VW Microbus (11 long-haired friends of Jesus sold separately) and singing a happy folk ditty about how the Five-Year Plan comes together -- a bit like a People's Republic version of Schoolhouse Rock dosed with equal parts LSD and Coca-Cola commercial. As the nice people at American Public Media's Marketplace put it, it just might be "the catchiest song ever sung about centralized planning" -- in much the same way that Liz Phair's "HWC" is the most cheerful anthem ever written about its particular topic (link NSFW unless you have headphones). And it's way boppier than the 1979 dance sensation, "Hold High The Great Red Banner, Smash The Gang Of Four, And Shake That Thang For The People."
But enough of this teasing: You will watch the video now, comrade, and you will be amazed. The visual style is like socialist realism and Yellow Submarine had sex while watching Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" video, with a couple of yearning sidelong glances at that hippy-dippy ad for Oregons' Obamacare exchange, and that Canadian goose-man political ad, too. And as one YouTube commenter says, "The guy with the Ziggy Stardust facepaint really brought this home for me." Not to mention the blue star pasties on his nipples.
And the song itself! How can you possibly resist this catchy little earworm, with lyrics like:
[Spoken:] But who makes all the plans?
There's government ministers and think tank minds
And party leadership contributing finds
There's doctors, bankers and farmers, too,
And even engineers who deal with poo!
Eat your heart out, Toby Keith. That there is some wordsmithing! We can leave aside the minor detail that after the fourth or fifth iteration of the chorus you begin to suspect that the song will never end.
Marketplace, ever the dutiful public radio program, does at least ask an Expert what the hell the People's Ministry For Edutainment, Public Enlightenment, And Songs About Tractors was thinking when they spawned this sucker:
“I think for the last few years, the Chinese government has tried to master the language of the meme culture of the Internet and new media," said Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of Danwei, a firm that tracks Chinese media and the Internet, "and they’ve perhaps done it more successfully in the Chinese Internet. But this is one of the more interesting examples of them trying to do it in English to a foreign audience” [...]
“You can’t really make what the current Chinese government is doing into some kind of folk song that will appeal to people who think a VW bus is cool. It just doesn’t quite work," he said.
Oh, we aren't so sure. Since the Zoom household discovered this puppy the other day, Kid and I have constantly been asking ourselves how even the most mundane activities will conform with the Shi San Wu.
We can hardly wait for the inevitable Tori Amos cover!
And if China's Ministry of Culture really wants a hit, it should make an animated TV show about the band. They could drive around China in their VW van solving mysteries, denouncing local officials caught hoarding sorghum, and praising factory workers who exceed the quota for production of machine tools, maybe with the help of a talking panda.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.