The long dark night of the Siri

Although much of what I write about here is Apple-specific, there are topics I stay away from:

I’m going to break format here and talk about the third one. Specifically, Apple’s current commercials for the iPhone and Siri.

Because of the NBA playoffs, I’ve been watching more TV than usual, and I’ve been seeing Zooey Deschanel, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Malkovich talk to their iPhones an awful lot. At first, I wondered if they were really Apple ads, as they all end with Verizon’s red logo on the screen. But Matthew Panzarino looked into it, and despite the carrier branding, they are indeed produced by Apple and its ad agency.

Unlike most Apple ads, these seem to be engendering hatred among Apple users, and rightly so. The Zooey Deschanel ad is, like Zooey Deschanel herself, annoying at an almost cellular level. There’s nothing I can say about it that hasn’t already been said by thousands of aggravated viewers. Just Google Zooey Deschanel rain tomato soup and you’ll learn you’re not alone in your disgust with all things quirky and winsome. This one’s my favorite.

The Samuel L. Jackson ad isn’t as disliked as the Deschanel, in the same way that Göring compares favorably with Hitler, but it’s not a fan favorite. I have an iPhone 4, so I can’t judge how unrealistic Jackson’s interaction with Siri is, but people like Paul Kafasis are calling bullshit.

The Malkovich commercial is in heavy rotation now. The Great Actor, wearing a suit that was tailored in the 1920s and apparently overdosed on ennui, opera, and absinthe, lies back in his chair making bizarre one-word demands to his phone.

You’d think the common thread among these ads would be “Wow, iPhone and Siri are awesome!” but it’s actually “Wow, these celebrities are really sad and lonely!” With no other humans in their lives, they spend their solitary hours talking into a slab of glass. Malkovich clearly believes that no one understands him as well as Siri does. And Zooey Deschanel, refusing to leave her house, is one step away from Norma Desmond territory: “I am big—it’s the ukeleles that got small!”

“Wait,” you say, “Samuel L. Jackson isn’t lonely. He’s making a romantic dinner for date night.” Really? I’m not buying it. My guess is that he gives Siri the night off so she never learns that he spent the night sitting in his kitchen, silently crying into his risotto.

I hear the next commercial in the series has an even more depressing scenario: Chevy Chase asking Siri about his film career.