Saturday, February 06, 2016

Cultural Hooks

The Acura NSX ad hit my Twitter feed this week. In the commercial a car is crafted to the soundtrack of David Lee Roth shouting and screaming, music building with percussion, and finally Eddie Van Halen’s signature guitar. It’s the intro to Running with the Devil, a big hit from the late 70’s.

The curious twist is when the song is really kicking off, the words “What he said” appear on the screen. No lyrics are every sung. The message is clear (at least for me), if you buy this car you’re running with the devil too. It’s a brilliant piece of marketing. At least for a child of the 80’s who grew up on Van Halen and what is now called, “Classic Rock.” And with a price tag of $150,000, people my age are probably exactly the kind of people Acura is targeting.

Or are they? I watched the commercial with my 18 year old daughter who loves cars. I’m not sure where in our family this comes from, but she could be classified as a motorhead. She loved the ad, the way it played up the car, the streamlined body, the powerful engine, but when I asked her after we watched it, “What do you think ‘what he said’ meant?” She thought it had to do with the screaming; the fact this car is so awesome you too will want to scream (and maybe that’s correct). But she missed the cultural hook.

This commercial got me thinking about the Bible. Not in the, “how can I stop running with the devil” way, but rather the many times the characters or writers of the New Testament quote the Hebrew scriptures with one tiny fragment when they might have intended it to be a cultural hook.

One needs to understand that people in Jesus’ day had basically memorized the entire Old Testament. Since there were very few copies of the texts, students (which was pretty much all of Jewish society), would spend time memorizing the entire set of 39 books. When a religious leader wanted to make a point, he would quote one part of the passage and expect his listeners to fill in the rest.

For example, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, he quoted Psalm 22, verse 1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) And a reader can easily stop there. However, if a person reads on (or has memorized) the entire Psalm, some very rich insights emerge. I encourage the reader to do this.

In addition, the writer of the book of Hebrews does something similar in numerous places in the book. For example, in Hebrews 2:12 the author also quotes Psalm 22:22 which again points to the entire Psalm and the work of Jesus.

There is more to be written on this topic, but I’ll stop for now. My commitment this week is to be more mindful of how I use cultural hooks as well as to identify where cultural hooks are being used all around me. I also want to check more closely when I find these hooks in literature, poetry, or my reading of the Bible. And I’ll especially be on the lookout for them when I watch the advertisements during Super Bowl 50 tomorrow.