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Are Blake Griffin’s Kia Commercials Psychic Warfare?

Sometimes I’m surprised Blake Griffin has time to play professional basketball. In just about every other ad throughout every break, there he is, dressed up in a red suit trying to sell you a car made by a company whose name sounds like it should be...

Blake Griffin takes a lot of shit. Besides the fact that he’s on a team that wasn’t exactly universally beloved even before its owner revealed himself as fuckwit bigot, Griffin is one of those players whose sheer determination draws consternation from most non-Clippers fans, which he uses as fuel in competition. He dunks harder because you don’t want him to dunk. He smiles maniacally when called with obnoxious fouls. There’s some kind of will held inside him that not only has become part of the fuel that’s got him making huge strides as a player but has turned him, in my mind, from someone I kind of didn’t like to someone I kind of like precisely because I don’t really like him—like a smell you keep breathing in precisely because it’s fetid. It’s a commodity you can’t but respect.

All of this is particularly confusing, given Griffin’s frequent appearances in the rotation of commercials currently running during this year’s NBA post-season.

Sometimes I’m surprised he has time to play professional basketball. In just about every other ad through every break, there he is, dressed up in a red suit trying to sell you a car made by a company whose name sounds like it should be selling fruit instead.

But in the grand scheme of NBA stars turned actors, Griffin isn’t one of the worst; you can tell he’s been working with a coach, practicing in the mirror. He likes to take his time, smile, provide some nuance to the obviously obnoxious script. In the same way that he shoots free throws like he’s trying to put a stuffed animal on the top bunk of a huge bed, he’s both somehow childlike and bad-ass-bro’d-out, though his haircut does make me think he’s watched a lot of porn. Softcore, probably—just enough to make him blush.

“Blake Griffin and Jack McBrayer Drop In to Say Thank You”

Scene: A woman gets out of her car, stops and looks up, and there’s Blake Griffin in his red jumpsuit, tied to a black rope in the sky. What’s he doing there? Oh, just dropping by to say you have a cool car. The woman seems impressed, even happy. She thanks him for having taken the time to show up and tell her she has good taste, instead of, like, maybe getting out her mace? So we must assume that she, as we do, knows that Blake Griffin is cool and chill and didn’t come to do anything weird besides surprise you. It’s that nonthreatening aura the makes Blake Griffin a perfect car salesman; he’s large and curly enough to make you want to trust him, and he can dunk.

Of course, then the fucking 30 Rock guy falls out of the sky and hits the pavement like a meteor of shit. It’s meant as comic relief, I guess. Blake Griffin’s look into the camera says more than it might mean to, like he’s suddenly forced to face the fact that everyone alive is not an athlete, capable of extreme fortitude, but that’s OK. The white boy is his friend, and though the Kia is not exactly “hard as fuck,” it is still there in the street; it will continue to exist, and so will you. “You will continue to exist” is kind of what this commercial seems to tell you; “so if you’re going to buy a car, why not this car?”

After all, unlike more transparent commercials advertising automobiles, there is little information offered about why the Kia is actually a worthwhile thing to buy, other than that if you get one, an NBA guy might swoop down out of the street outside your house and half-mockingly thank you for buying from the company who paid him for use of his face.

I’ve always wondered why famous athletes and actors, who already make millions doing what they do, sacrifice their time and talent to play dummies in these ads. I can’t help wishing that every time they come back to the game from another round of commercials, the other team will get to shoot two free throws for a technical foul. But if it’s between this guy and losers like the pale dork KFC hired to say “pot pie” over and over again, I’ll take Blake Griffin every time. Because at least at the end of this spot, as he is pulled off screen into the heavens of not-on-camera, he flaps his massive hands out at his side, as if to remind himself and us that these 30 seconds are now over and we can go back to life.

"Punching Dummy"

This one opens with the same mini-jingle of a bro singing “GRIF-FIN FOOOORCE!” in a way that reminds me of Mortal Kombat played by stuffed animals. It’s weird how I don’t often think about Blake Griffin’s last name being shared with a mythical creature that mixes a lion with an eagle. Out of the jump, we see an old bro going ham on a punching bag, viewed through binoculars by the 30 Rock dork again, like a guy spying on his own future, lame aging into older lame. Though this kind of lame has veracity, Kia insists. The old guy can still throw punches, wield his intent, if only against a plastic model, alone, and for no other reason than to stay fit to serve as purposeless superheroes charged with the task of reminding people who bought a Kia that Kia isn’t lame. Protect yourself from being an old guy who can’t still kick ass and fuck by investing now in a car green-lit by a premier athlete who so far each year of his life has upped his game.

We see Blake lying back on the top bunk here, closer to heaven, only to find the mattress is fat and yellow and kind of oddly matches his hair in weird light. Here Blake offers actual information about the car, noting that the old fuck banging away at the mannequin isn’t as fast as the car, which has a 274-horsepower engine. Annoying White Guy scoffs at Blake, saying he already knew that.

“That’s why you’re my bunkmate,” Griffin responds, halfway grunt-exhaling after another flourish of his delivery, allowing his line to carve its way into the head, creating another instance of what in repetition will be both the thing that irks me most about this fucking commercial and what I wait each time to hear. It’s the same instinct that makes me refuse to unfriend people on Facebook, because reading their annoying updates awakens something furious inside me, like a sort of mental S&M.

Of course, Blake Griffin doesn’t care about any of that, which is what makes him kind of a hero in my mind, because once this shit is over he’ll appear there on the court playing his heart out, paid as fuck, probably never seeing the commercial ever again because when they come on, he’s at work. It’s the corporate employees who write this shit, and choose to funnel it back into the world over and over, who should be the punching bag.

And of course, from all of this there’s no way out. Part of the TV experience is knowing how to tune out enough during the commercials so that you don’t end up putting a dent in your forehead. And before you know it, the crush is over, and the game is on again, and the rules are still the same. Because, after all, each game is just another iteration in its own system of repetition, variations on a series of possibilities, each as possible as the next, beautiful where ads are ugly. Each game ends, and the next begins. There is a winner and a loser. Some guys get paid while others sit at home and bitch. Eventually, we all end up asleep again, and we wake up and buy more shit and watch another game and ten dozen more ads and remember less and less of it the older we get until we can’t remember anything.

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