Harry and Louise will support anything for 15 more minutes of fame

Harry and Louise, 2008 editionI’m not sure how many of you know this, but I’m young. Not like Miley Cyrus young, but young enough that when HillaryCare was first discussed, I was far more interested in Fruit Roll-Ups and baseball cards than I was in “old people” on TV talking about health care coverage.

So when people talk about the “Harry and Louise” ads that ran around that time, I’m familiar with them the same way I’m familiar with Hall & Oates: Despite my lack to true first-hand experience, the incessent cultural references make avoidance impossible. (I promise — super-duper promise — to avoid making any jokes about Hillary Clinton being a “maneater.”)

Being vaguely familiar with these HillaryCare-bashing ad stars, I was intrigued when god’s gift to public radio, “On the Media,” started telling the story of the return of Harry and Louise. Not only are they back for another round of advertising in the public interest, but they’re basically on the exact opposite side of the issue.

Now, I understand that there’s all sorts of room for nuance and explanation and clarification here and that a case could be made that they’re not really “on the opposite side” of the issue: HillaryCare wasn’t the right solution, but after all these years, there’s been no solution, so Harry and Louise are back, etc. But “On the Media” host Bob Garfield sums it up well:

During the Clinton era health care reform debates, Harry and Louise reckoned the problem was government bureaucrats. … Now, 15 years later, they just can’t wait for Washington to get its hands on health care.

Isn’t this kind of like Tiger Woods saying, “Forget Buick. I really dig those Cadillac Cateras.” Or Carl Pohlad saying, “Hah! Change of heart! I’ll pay for the stadium…” Does this have an effect on how the message is received? Was the original long enough ago — and people forgetful or apathetic enough — that it doesn’t really matter? As a communication strategist, I’m not sure my first thought would be to have a spokesteam pull double-duty on both side of the same argument, but hey, I’m just a kid.

9 thoughts on “Harry and Louise will support anything for 15 more minutes of fame

  1. bruce benidt says:

    Notice how Keliher works in early the fact that he’s young?

    Something the rest of us on this blog can’t say? Most of the rest of us were around when Harry and Louise were kids at home receiving house calls from their doctors. Except Hornseth — he’s a little younger, but acts old.

  2. RE the mention of my youth at the outset: Those in the Crowd who perhaps studied communication theory or rhetoric probably have a fancy term for that. I call it “being a dick to the old guys.” 🙂

  3. Hornseth says:

    Ah, I used to be you, Keliher. Be easy on Benidt. I suppose you think it’s easy maintaining an Ethernet connection to that Selectric.

  4. I’ll obviously get to the point, in many years, where “Harry and Louise” is the longest bit of TV programming I can watch without falling asleep, but I’ll always be younger than Benidt. 🙂

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