Deconstructing an American icon, API's Brooke Alexander, and two of her ads, "Carbon Blackmail" and "America, King of Carbon."
Meet The Lying Pantsuit Lady
March 3, 2015

A version of this piece first appeared at digby's Hullabaloo. GP article archive here. Image: American Petroleum Institute's Brooke Alexander, their trademark Pantsuit Lady

I've written quite a bit (for example, here) about the spokesperson in the ubiquitous American Petroleum Institute (API) ads. She's almost an institution, the way "Flo," the spokesperson for Progressive Insurance, is an institution. I've called the API actress "Lying Pantsuit Lady" for a reason. She's omnipresent, like carbon and the lies she tells defending it.

There she is now, just above, saying America is number one (in planet destruction). The lie? She talks like that's a good thing.

I've so far resisted putting her face in my posts, not from a tender interest in the fact that she's providing for her family (yes, she has one) by helping bake the planet to a golden brown, but because I can't find an online version of her most striking ad, the one I call Carbon Blackmail. Its message goes like this:

Brooke Alexander (paraphrased): "Like that TV–iPad lifestyle you're living? Want to keep it? Oil is part of the mix that brings it to you, along with wind and solar, of course."

See? Blackmail. The underlying message is this:

"If we don't stop the carbon, we'll start exiting modern life in 30 years. But that's 30 years away, and if we do stop, you won't like the result.

"So how about this — we keep burning carbon, you keep your Breaking Bad and your ESPN, and we'll add some soothing solar to the mix. It's a tough choice, right? No carbon and less TV for a while, or carbon till you die, and then who cares? We choose number two. Deal?"

Unfortunately, that one's not a lie. The geniuses at API understand the situation perfectly, better than most Americans, in fact. If you find a YouTube version of this ad, please send me a link.

But this will suffice to present her to you, since she and API have a new ad that's almost as bad. I'm calling this "America, King of Carbon." Watch, then I'll show you the lies:

About the lies, here are the two big ones:

Hydraulic fracturing technology is safely recovering lots more oil and natural gas.

That one's obvious. Fracking is safe? And:

Hydraulic fracturing technology is ... supporting a new century of American energy security.

That one's less obvious, but if we don't get a grip on the climate problem, neither America nor China will have a "new century" in which they're energy-secure. Nor will either be a single country, but at some point will have broken apart into civilized zones and wandering hunter-gatherer zones. In America's case, you can't rule the West Coast from the East Coast across a chaotic middle. In China's case, much of their "breadbasket" will be under water, and there are many regions to the south and west that are streaked with valleys, gorges and ravines. That break-apart situation has already happened once to them.

(By the way, did you notice that the American flag in the ad's second shot is a child's chalk drawing? That's a third lie if you think about it, the suggestion that promoting carbon is good for your five-year-old.)

Lying Pantsuit Lady, "LPL," a modern American icon. She stands for all that destroys us, and she stands for it proudly and well. She's been with us a long time (as has "Flo") and for a reason. She's that good.

Remember our LPL. I'm sure she'll come up again in these pages. I hope her son, and his daughter after him, enjoy their adult lives as much as she apparently enjoys hers. Carbon dollars are still dollars, you know. I'm glad for her success; it really is hard to make it as a non-star actor in Hollywood, and her career is long and filled with soaps. In Hollywood terms, LPL is the role of a lifetime, a Big Break.

But I'm also sorry for her effect, and I do think she bears a responsibility, similar to Henry "Reverse Mortgage" Winkler. Some things should not be promoted.



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