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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Volkswagen & Vicarious Traumatization

posted by on December 7 at 11:37 AM

For what seems like the past 17 months, Volkswagen has been running TV commercials like the one above, wherein a carload of friends is leisurely driving and chatting until CRASH!

At first I grudgingly praised the ads for their ingenious exploitation of the mechanics of trauma (when adrenaline skyrockets, memories get implanted more deeply, and the commercials’ post-crash info on the Jetta is probably deeply ingrained in the brains of countless viewers.)

Now I’m just sick of feeling like I’ve lived through 600 car crashes at the end of a leisurely evening of TV-watching. Who’s with me in filing a class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen for vicarious traumatization?

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Wow. That's quite possible the most stressful commercial I've ever seen. It makes me glad I don't have T.V....

Posted by caitlin! | December 7, 2006 11:51 AM

a DVR would let you skip commericals...

Posted by The Peanut Gallery | December 7, 2006 12:04 PM

...or are you one of those people that can't stand to watch tv knowing you are 85 seconds behind the network feed?

Posted by The Peanut Gallery | December 7, 2006 12:06 PM

You can only sue for vicarious trauma if the actual trauma was physical and happend to an immediate family member in front of you. Like if your kid gets hit by a car and you're watching from accross the street.
And yeah, that commercial was an adrenaline producing good time.

Posted by Sandy | December 7, 2006 12:06 PM

Upon seeing this commercial for the umpteenth time (they show it during The Simpsons,) my nine-year-old daughter told me that we should never buy one of those cars because they are always crashing.

Posted by Goldy | December 7, 2006 12:08 PM

After seeing each commercial (I believe there's two) once, I knew exactly what I was watching each subsequent time. So, I don't feel like I've experienced several hundred car crashes.

Posted by keshmeshi | December 7, 2006 12:27 PM

Oh when those commercials come on, I get scared because I know they will crash! I don't like them anymore. So stressful!
"I Don't Need To See That"

Posted by Nick | December 7, 2006 12:33 PM

Allstate was running the same kind of commercial awhile ago. I wrote them to complain and got a lame form letter back. I have a feeling the same thing would happen here. They are horrible commercials and even worse if you have been in a car accident. I will never purchase a car from them for that very reason. What if kids are watching? Plain and simple, they suck.

Posted by K | December 7, 2006 12:34 PM

Can you imagine what would happen if kids saw a car crash on tv? We need to protect their fragile little minds.

Posted by PDXRitchie | December 7, 2006 1:07 PM

My husband finds them traumatizing in that he hates that they always cut off the sound before the "shit" in "Holy shit!" is uttered.

Posted by StressKitten | December 7, 2006 1:13 PM

Those ads are directed by Phil Morrison, who directed the movie Junebug and the apple commercials with John Hodgman.

Posted by Emmakat | December 7, 2006 6:29 PM


David (and co), if you ever come to Australia, make sure you don't watch any TV here. We have quite a few ads with very graphic car crashes, often in slow motion, with people ending up bloodied and hurt or even dead, etc. They're usually about seatbelts or speeding.

Posted by Tahn | December 7, 2006 9:26 PM
Posted by Tahn | December 7, 2006 9:40 PM

The first time I saw one of these I was defintiely jolted, and thought it was quite compelling. After repeated viewings, I now just ignore them. I think it's especially dumb that they filmed at least two (I think there might be three) versions of basically the same thing. The message I'm getting (especially with this one) is that Volkswagen drivers are so busy yapping to their friends that they don't pay attention to their driving. If you see someone driving a VW - take another street!

Posted by genevieve | December 7, 2006 10:53 PM

I've hated these commercials from the moment I saw them. There are a bunch like this, tho (think BK with the "King" crashing a motorcycle in a stunt) and they're all huge mindfucks.

Posted by Dianna | December 7, 2006 11:47 PM

David, if you think that's stressful, you should see public service commercials in the UK. They employ both real and simulated car accidents in horrible detail to shock people into paying attention while driving and to not drive drunk. You're at the cinema about to enjoy a movie, or at home watching some late-night TV, and suddenly you just want to curl up into a ball and you feel sick to your stomach.

Posted by Gabriel | December 8, 2006 2:24 AM

I was just about to tell my very own recent car wreck story when I had a sudden strong case of deje vu. I'll spare you the details but I'm really done with those commercials.

Posted by monkey | December 8, 2006 9:47 AM

TAHN, you have it right. I saw some of these ads in Australia, and have made it my mission to get a similarly realistic look at traffic crashes and their costs.

David, the thing that pisses ME off about these commercials is that they ALWAYS end up with everybody being OK!

Posted by Action | December 8, 2006 2:47 PM

I agree with David, although I have a grudging respect for any commercial that breaks from the pack (which seems to be Morrison's stock in trade). That said, what irritates me most about these ads is that I never get to hear the end of the conversation (shallow, but there ya go). I mean, I'm glad they're okay, but I feel like I've been cheated somehow.

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | December 8, 2006 5:12 PM

Give me a car crash anytime rather than all the pharmaceuticals. . cancer, enlarging prostates, ED:
Thats true vicarious trauma

Posted by joebob | December 9, 2006 3:20 AM

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