Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Yellow Wallpaper

If you have not read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper", you are missing out. I mean that seriously. You may have skimmed it in freshman English, but this one is really worth a second read.

The story chronicles a woman's descent into psychosis as she is confined to a single room of a summer home rented by her physician-husband. The windows are barred and she is not allowed to keep a journal (though she secretly does). It is here, with nothing else to hold her focus, that she begins an obsession with the room's yellow wallpaper. 

"It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw – not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper – the smell! ... The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell."

While this short story, written in the late 1800s, offers a wealth of insight into mental health and women's issues, that is not why I am discussing it today.

I was thinking about "The Yellow Wallpaper" recently after my millionth sighting of the following ad:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my yellow wallpaper.

This ad for the show The Big Bang Theory has been stalking me in every single subway car I step into. While it is certainly not uncommon for the same ad to be posted in multiple cars, I am sort of convinced that this one in particular is haunting me.

I have never seen The Big Bang Theory. I am unfamiliar with the premise (something about smart people? Nerds maybe?) and the only actor I recognize is Mayim Bialik, and that's only because she was Blossom from the show Blossom.

Now, if this image was plastered all over the subway, I would be delighted. (Also, is that a pizza in the middle of that sunflower? Is that what a sunflower looks like? I need to go outside more...)
Many people have suggested that I watch The Big Bang Theory. These are people that I know and trust -- people with full-time jobs and a clean mental health history. It very well could be a show that I'd like, and before this subway advertisement, I might have obliged. With medium-to-low expectations, I might have streamed an episode and maybe a couple more after that. Who knows? Maybe I could have been a die-hard fan.

But now that I am being haunted, there is just no way.

Whoa whoa whoa, Christy! Slow down. 
(This is you talking now, and you're being a little condescending).
It's just an ad. I mean, you wouldn't judge a book by it's cover.
(Yes, I would. I do it all the time.)
I don't even really see what's so bad about it to begin with. It's kind of cute. 

Well, sure. You're only just now seeing it for the first time (unless you're from New York and you've just learned to tune crap like this out of your life). The first time you see it, you don't even really think about it. But take another look.

Now take a closer look.

Now look at this ad where they are slightly more spread out:

Now imagine that every single free ad space on your subway car is occupied by this ad:

Now zero in on this guy:

Now ask yourself, why are his hands ineffectively prepped for some type of fighting scenario?

Now start imagining what this photo shoot must have been like. 

Was the photographer like, "Jim, could you give me a face like you're apologizing for walking into the Oval Office thinking it was a bathroom?" 

"Hey Johnny. Show me some kind of hand puppet thing but keep its mouth closed."

"Hey guy in the red shirt. Just..."

Now look at the girls and wonder, how come they don't get to make silly faces? 

"And blonde-glasses girl, you can do whatever you want because we are going to make you embarrassingly tiny next to everyone else."

I am not trying to be dramatic, but the first circle of Hell has to be the set of this photo shoot. Each actor is brought in individually to have awkwardness captured on camera, and you are forced to watch. It probably takes all day and you can't eat from the craft services table.

"None for you, prisoner!"

It might not be totally justified, but I really do hate this ad, and I can't wait for MTA to get it the hell out of my life. I realize, though, that I may have not done a good job at all of making you hate it too. It's very possible that you are a New Yorker who sees this ad every day, and you could seriously care less. 

But the truth is, we all have that one thing that we hate just a little bit more than everybody else. For you, it might be cilantro. For someone else, it might be the way pennies smell or how the Tom Bombadil story-line was left out of the Lord of the Rings movies. 

Observing someone's hatred for something benign can actually be really funny sometimes. For example, someone I work with HATES that song by Gotye (and if you have to ask which one, I have to ask...do they have more than one?). Every time it comes on when I am in her company, I seriously get pre-giggles knowing that she is about to say something hilarious. 

How do you come back from this, Gotye?

While I firmly believe it is far better to bond over the things you believe in, there is something just so human about commiserating over the things you utterly can't stand. When someone is hating on a movie or a restaurant or a certain trend, you know they are being real with you. And when it goes from a minor annoyance to a Yellow Wallpaper-esque obsession, I say it's even better.

I would like to close this entry with a quote that Daniel randomly read while I was writing this. This one comes from Tim Hardaway, a former NBA player. At the time of this quote, he was playing for the Miami Heat and he was discussing his feelings about the New York Knicks. 

"I hate them with all the hate you can hate with. Can you hate more than that? If you can, I hate them more than that." 

For Tim Hardaway, the Knicks are his yellow wallpaper. For me, it's that damn Big Bang Theory subway ad. What is your yellow wallpaper? 


  1. Christy, you are in my mind at every minute. I was looking at this ad on Monday's ride home and thinking about how utterly awkward it is! Typically, I am a New Yorker and read a book on the subway and pay no attention to Kaylie (Kylee?) Cuoco's smirky face but since I do not have a book to read, I noticed. And hated it.

    It really made me miss 8 Simple Rules. That's all that show (or any ad for it) ever makes me do so I never watch.

    In other news, I hate potatoes. HATE. Hate more than hate hate.

    -- Alex

    1. Wow! Potatoes! That is an awesome yellow wallpaper. Potatoes are in everything and they are so overly-celebrated in our culture. How do you even avoid them?

      So glad we could bond over this ad! I was afraid I would be the only one...

  2. Want to write something pithy but don't have it at the tip of my tongue! Having ridden the subway with you, I can see that when you ride it by yourself, you have nothing to do (unless you have a book) but to look around. The lady and the Yellow Wallpaper and your carrying it forward with this blog is really fun...and deep at the same time. I really enjoyed reading it! It also answers the question which has been in my mind every time I go to the movies here in San Antonio. Some radio station (and it's sure not one I'm interested in) shows clips of some of the artists it plays. I recognize some, but then there's always this pasty looking weird guy with lipstick. I now learn from you and your blog that it's Gotye. Thanks.

  3. This is how my brother feels about Pinterest, so I have to make a point of bringing it up whenever he's around :)

  4. Seriously, Tom Bombadil was such a great part of the story! Arrghhh

  5. hahahah ok first I liked the post and I got an extra kick because I actually hate the show. But your analysis of the photoshoot/ad in general is SO spot on I can't even handle it. Ugh I can't even stand looking at it for the length of this blog post so I am afraid I would have descended into psychosis mighty quick if I actually had to live in ny and see this all the time.


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