Volkswagen A-ha Commercial Inspires Thoughts About Adulthood and the Passing of Time

Categories: Arts


I can't fight this feeling any longer, and yet I'm still afraid to let it flow.

The year is 1985. The place: a South Florida suburb. My perennial battle with acne vulgaris is breaking bad. I sit alone in my four-cornered room listening to Madonna's Like a Virgin LP, playing with my Rubik's Cube, eating Nerds candy, and fantasizing about Punky Brewster.

"You're so fine, and you're mine. I'll be yours, till the end of time."
I ride my Santa Cruz Jeff Grosso skateboard to the video arcade for my Q-bert and Robotron fix. I am young, wild, and free! Smartphones and the World Wide Web are still just concepts that you may have caught a glimpse of in a movie that ended up on Mystery Science Theater 3000: "Captain, the gray aliens we are battling have mobile transmitting devices with internal video cameras!"

Additionally, a cutting-edge television channel shows nothing but music videos 24/7. If you were to tune into this state-of-the-art happening called "MTV" in the glorious year of 1985, you would certainly recognize a breakthrough conceptual piece called "Take On Me" by Norwegian pop group A-ha.

The song is hella catchy, the video is totally rad, and the hair is... Bitchin' camaro! Spikey-haired 12-year-olds around the world sing along while rolling up the inside-out sleeves of ID# shirts before being dropped off at the roller-skating rink by someone's older sister. I'm just burning, doing the Neutron Dance!

Today, we are going to overanalyze a soon-to-be-celebrated Volkswagen automobile advertisement that has indubitably pulled the '80s trigger in almost a million brains (including Hollywood icon Valerie Bertenelli's, but we'll get to that in a minute). This made-for-TV-commercial is essentially a eulogy for all of the above. It is a 45-second A-ha moment, bringing us down the sacred vestibule of memory lane. A joyride if you will, through that celebrated decade: Girls just wanna have fun, she wore a raspberry beret, let's hear it for the boys, MTV get off the air, she works hard for her money so you better treat her right, but I've got it bad so bad I'm hot for teacher... I want to know what love is, and I want you to show me.

But wait, there's more! While viewing this on YouTube time after time, my flight-of-fancy became further restless as I began to daydream; (smooth operator) which is one of the underlying propositions of this completely magnificent work of video art. I was reminded that I saw a stylish Ramones blouse on a mannequin at the mall, concluding that rebellious youth cultures and their accessories always seem to morph into multimillion-dollar organisms as decades flash by, and looking further beyond, they become enshrined artifacts in a museum.

Youth cultures grow old along with their crusaders. When I was 20, I thought 40 was really old. But now I'm 40, praise the Lord, and feeling perfectly swell. Adolescent fists pumping the air to Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" in 1985 are slowly developing arthritis as the whole movement becomes an antithesis of what it originally stood for. Bad seeds unintentionally bloom into the most fruitful of bad trees.

Illustration: Back in the mid-1960s, some hippie on LSD started tie-dying T-shirts while listening to the Who sing "I hope I die before I get old," which over the course of time evolved and ripened into what we now call "Whole Foods Market," but we'll get to that in a minute. The young angry crusty punk throwing rocks at police officers and listening to Black Flag in the early '80s is now managing a Hot Topic. It is true blue, baby I love you.


The teens of our world have always, will always, and at this very 2013 moment feel alienated from the generation that existed before them. They will find exhilaration through disorderly conduct and self-destructive behavior, aiming their angst at the architects (i.e. "fuddy-duddies") of the already existing society at large. "We want the world, and we want it now!" they howl by proxy via their current generation's own drug-addled rock star/spokesperson, who will inevitably overdose at the age of 27. It is what we call growing pains (shoutout to Kirk Cameron).

It is the human postpuberty experience, which is quite pleasant when you get used to it, don't you think? The Bible calls it being "transformed by the renewing of the mind." But as we put away childish things and become sophisticated adults, we realize that making lots of money is actually a very good idea. Besides the fact that falling off of the proverbial skateboard as a drunk 40-year-old is way more painful than when you were 15.

Throughout time, this "A-ha" moment has guided countless entrepreneurs and inventors to accelerate civilization with their ideas. Life suddenly has a purpose. There is new motivation and a drive to hit the grindstone with focused intensity, as the idea manifests into profitable products and services for humankind. God sends riches from heaven with ideas! For example (as mentioned earlier), Whole Foods Market is the punchline of '60s and '70s hippie culture jam-packed into a fancy-upscale modern bazaar. All those organic weeds and sandals that hippies endorsed more than 40 years ago (which they were ridiculed for by their elders) have become essential commodities for today's bourgeois (i.e., the person in that demographic reaching out to purchase organic gluten-free barley powder is most likely wearing a Rolex and, ironically, may have been smoking weed while rolling around in mud at Woodstock Festival in 1969).

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