Monday, July 27, 2015

What are we sharing when we share a coke?

By Lin Yan

The answer is obvious, according to numerous commercials of Coca-Cola, we share happiness when we share a coke, the carbonated drink, the ultimate American invention, the epitome of global consumerism.  The first stop if you tour the museum of coke in downtown Atlanta is to see a long happiness commercial on big screen where hyper-happy people get proposed, get their surprise birthday party, get the dream house, get to see their loved ones, get to fall in love, and get to do feats at 30 thousand feet in the sky, all in the company of the happiness bottle, the coke, of course.

The land of happiness itself is actually a bit sorry looking, a small building with a gigantic coke bottle encased in dirty glass on the top.  When the pilgrims from all over the world come to the holy land of world’s number one soft drink, they get to hear the sugary welcome speech expertly delivered every five minutes, drink in all the happiness in the happiness commercial, rock in the chair while giggle themselves silly in the 4D theatre with coke bubbles showering in their face, taste coke of various degree of sugariness all over the world from fountain islands on sticky floor, get a tiny bottle of coke on the house, and pay for the key chains, glasses, bags, towers, shakers, clothes, stuffed animals, baseball bats, magnetic and non-magnetic stickers, and stationeries on sale in the brave new world, all plastered with an embarrassingly big Coca-Cola Logo.  All the happiness you can buy with money.

One is certainly happy when one can easily buy a coke to quench the thirst.   Yet the source of happiness may not be the signature taste or the promised better mood, but, more likely, the affordable price and the convenient availability.  Also, by drinking coke, one is not only having water, one is consuming a soft drink.  He (she) becomes a customer in the globalized market, a participant in the ritual of modern consumerism, and a certified citizen of the Coketopia. So what are we sharing when we share a coke? Certainly not happiness, if we are honest with ourselves.  The association between a coke and the feeling of happiness is created by Coca-Cola advertising, and it stays there.  What we are sharing when we share a coke in the real world, in all probability, is an assurance that we are still relevant in that global village crowded with American logos.

Yet, however strategically promoted as the universal utopian wonder drink and however much it aspires to be, coke is still lacking compared to Soma, the perfect pleasure drug popular in the paradise-engineering world of Huxley.  The taste itself takes some getting used to.  It has unnatural color however naturally induced.  And it is gassy. 

But, never mind, as the welcome speech commands, come and have a drink, after today, you will never be thirsty again.    

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