I’d like to post a bit of a follow-up to a post earlier this month about a television commercial about workplace safety on Canadian television that features incredibly graphic images of a woman with her skin peeling off as the result of accidentally throwing hot oil all over herself. First of all, if you didn’t read the comments to the post, I found a copy of the commercial on YouTube later on, although before I link to it I just want to reiterate that this commercial is extremely graphic and nearly made me vomit. That being said, if you think you can stomach it and want to see what all the fuss is about, knock yourself out. The commercial has aired during the late-night games on Hockey Night in Canada each of the past two Saturdays, but I’ve gotten a lot better at switching the channel before the commercial becomes so horrible.
First of all, I should mention that there is a Website that goes along with this campaign, a Website which I tried to visit several days ago, but given that everywhere you go on the site there’s a theme of this severed hand — even if it’s a cartoon severed hand — I just got sick of it and stopped trying to see what all was in there. Again, let me preface this by saying that this isn’t nice stuff, but if you want to see how this campaign has been translated to the Internet, the Website for the campaign is prevent-it.ca.
Naturally, I was curious to see what kind of news coverage this campaign was getting, and I found a good article about it at canada.ca. This link is safe, thank Goddess. However, given that I’d argued in my first post that late-night Saturday shouldn’t be considered a "safe time" for this commercial given the high number of youths who watch Hockey Night in Canada, I was shocked to discover that the day I first saw this commerial, it also aired during a matinee hockey game that afternoon on CBC. In other words, CBC was showing a commercial that depicted a woman whose skin is, in the words of the article, "peel[ing] off in bloody ribbons," at four in the afternoon. How anyone could think that a commercial like this is suited for Saturday afternoon television just completely astounds me.
In my original post on this topic, I’d mentioned that I thought that the body that produced this commercial did so because they wanted to grab the attention of young adults who have been growing up on the Saw movies. (It was right after Halloween, so the movie franchise was kind of fresh in my mind.) After reading what that news article had to say about the kinds of comments that were posted about the commercial on YouTube, though, and after going back to YouTube to read more of the comments myself (you know, the ones with expletives that couldn’t easily be reprinted in a news article), I couldn’t help but think of Beavis and Butthead when reading through some of the replies. Having once again painfully reminded myself of how old I am, I tried to update the reference in my mind to Jackass, because shows like Jackass have likely led a whole generation of young people to think that televised depictions of these kinds of horrors are, well, cool.
As I said in my first post, though, I’m too much of a First Amendment believer to suggest that these commercials should be censored, although given the kinds of things that have been censored on Canadian television in the past, it doesn’t make much sense to me that these commercials have been allowed to air. Still, though, even if I don’t believe in government censorship, I think there’s a lot to be said about self-censorship, self-restraint, and plain old common sense, and whoever thought that this commercial would be suitable for Saturday afternoon television is plainly lacking in one, or all, of those things. I’m all for calling attention to workplace hazards, particularly those hazards that are caused by corporate greed and indifference to workers (which, ironically, this campaign is all about), but if the sampling of comments I’ve seen on YouTube are any indication, this commercial may, ironically, be having quite the opposite effect. Regardless, I sincerely hope that I don’t run across this commercial again, and that it gets shuffled off to viewing times when young children aren’t so likely to be watching CBC.