Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

01.10.21

Today I went to lunch at Price’s Barbeque House. The TV was on showing the Auburn-Arkansas game. As I got my food the network moved to a commercial break. The commercial was for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup candies. It was a special commercial made to come out around Halloween. This is at least the second season that I can remember seeing it. It is a great commercial. The screen is black. There is the announcer’s voice saying that, “There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.” A ghoulish voice says, ”I like to eat the peanut butter first.” Then a sucking sound…then the screen fades in as the sun rises and we see a peanut butter cup with two fang marks in it. We now know how Dracula takes his Reese’s.

This commercial struck me deeply at that moment. My first thought was that this is an amazingly complex signaling device. It is a device targeted at a broad audience that depends for success on a multitude of people being able to make the exact same very specific connections instantaneously. It is very concept heavy. The makers of this commercial wager that we understand the nature of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, that we understand what a vampire is, that we can associate the action of sucking the peanut butter out of a peanut butter cup with the action of sucking blood from a living creature. But what really intrigued me is that they wager that we can immediately tune in to a very specific realm of meaning. There are so many ways to take this commercial yet they confidently expect that we all will take it the right way. Think about this narrowly defined realm of interpretation in which the success of this commercial lives. If it is over-analyzed, even a little, it fails. The peanut butter as blood in a chocolate body as a simile only works if you are willing and capable of looking at it just right. If one zooms in too much, if one gets out the scalpel and really dissects, then the peanut butter occupies the role of organ, tissue, skeletal structure, and blood. So there is an articulation in what is referenced that is not dealt with in the simile. The chocolate, likewise, bears comparison to skin but does not adequately reference the rest of the body structure. On the other hand, if the connection of chocolate as body and peanut butter as blood is not made then the play on concepts also fails.

How do humans instinctually hone in on the right interpretation of any given phenomena? Something is put before us without instructions as to how to take it and yet we take it…as we are supposed to?(Conditioning)…in a way that is both most convenient and beneficial for our continued existence?(Instinctual)…? What does this suggest about our knowledge domains and our engagement with context and event? Are these patterns we jump to that which hides the most from us. If so, what is architecture’s role in this? Obviously we try to manipulate pattern to our benefit and our comfort. But what if these patterns are mean illusions to be overcome? Then how does architecture’s role change?

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