I despise commercials. This fiery hatred has been a response to my short attention span, the ingenuity of DVR, as well as the general awfulness of recurring corporate ads.
If you say Flo’s name three times, she’ll be summoned to your TV screen
There’s always been one recurring commercial that stands above the rest. The Sonic Guys. These fuckin’ guys. They’ve been invading our living rooms since 2004 to share their wacky hijinks and admiration for tater tots. One of my greatest fears in life is turning into one of these sad, lonely men. It seems inevitable that one day I too will take solace in ritualistic trips to Sonic to escape middle-aged, suburban life.
As the years have gone on, I’ve noticed something. The Sonic Guys are insane. There’s a much darker element here. What starts as wacky hijinks slowly devolves into a sadistic ritual full of Chili Dogs and self-loathing.
Speaking of self-loathing, I decided to watch their entire 12 minute anthology on YouTube. Here is the harrowing tale:
:15 seconds – The clips start off innocent enough. The two guys made a song about tater tots. It’s all in good fun but there are clear signs of instability here. The bald guy even brought party poppers to cap off their jovial sing and dance routine. No one is this happy about fast food. Except this guy.
:40– The Sonic guys are enjoying tater tots again. The bald guy mentions that his friend Barbara loves tots. For a second, we are led to believe bald guy is normal and even has a budding romance. Curly hair guy seems intrigued. The bald guy then reveals that Barbara’s full name is Barbara Totslover. This is not good. The bald guy then reveals Barbara to be a sock puppet, complete with her own tot lovin’ accent. Curly hair guy reveals his name to be Pete and bald guy is T.J. Pete is concerned for T.J. and says he needs a woman in his life. T.J. continues this charade and proceeds to Lady and the Tramp a tater tot with Barbara. This is the most disturbing sock puppet since Anthony P. Coleman.
1:13 – My god they have costumes now. Pete and T.J. dress as if they are in a Shakespearean Tragedy while ordering more tots. This is poetic knowing what lies ahead…
2:00 – Pete and T.J. are promoting Sonic’s new popcorn chicken. You guessed it, they’re wearing costumes. This time they are dressed as farmers but have upped the ante by using props. At least a dozen chickens are wildly roaming their car. Pete says he regrets his decision. I’m not sure if it’s in reference to the chicken mutiny in his car or that he forgot to order tots.
2:21 – Now we’re getting somewhere! Pete and T.J. are enjoying some late night snacking, this time with Chili Cheese Dogs. Pete has a “Baby on Board” sign displayed on his windshield. He’s a family man, you see. Pete refuses to eat his chili dog and requests that T.J. turn the loud speed metal off. This mature, neutered version of Pete does not please T.J. one bit. T.J. yells at Pete – “Remember what it’s like to live!” The beginnings of a strained relationship begin to surface.
2:38 – Pete and T.J. have formed a band. Pete strums the guitar while T.J. plays the bongo drum. There is even a third, anonymous band mate in the back seat. T.J. kicks Pete out of their “band” due to poor bongo playing. Their power struggle continues. T.J. insists Pete eat more popcorn chicken to calm him down.
3:08 – Years have passed and Pete’s child is now elementary school age. They’ve gone to Sonic for the suburban version of “Happy Hour” and revel in the 99 cent snacks. Pete mentions he picked up his daughter from school. T.J. laughs at this notion of school and claims he is self-taught. Pete quizzes T.J.: 99 cent tots, I pay with a dollar, what’s my change? T.J. struggles to answer the question. He gets out an abacus to help him with this remedial math. Pete’s daughter asks if they should help, but Pete is taking far too much pleasure mocking his companion’s learning disability.
3:30 – The guys have now changed from a minivan to a convertible and are on a road trip. Pan to Pete and T.J. sharing a tent. Pete hears a nearby bear. Terrified, he checks to make sure T.J. has not brought any food into the tent. Of course T.J. has brought food into the tent. He can’t go more than two hours without Sonic or he’ll need an IV of ranch dressing to prevent withdrawals. The scene ends with the bear inching closer and we’re led to believe they are about to suffer a Revenant style bear attack. Their friendship is officially strained.
6:21 – They survived the bear attack. The Sonic breakfast burritos, breakfast toasters and chicken clubs seemed to have had mystical healing powers. They now banter about Father Time and time machines. This leads to a further revelation. T.J. has the hots for Pete’s wife. Pete asks what T.J. would do if he had a time machine. T.J. reveals he would have asked out Pete’s wife, Laurel. Pete is disgusted that T.J. has been fantasizing about his wife for years. T.J. quips, “she wouldn’t be your wife anymore, would she?”
6:55 – Back to “Happy Hour.” Pete is wearing work clothes. T.J. clearly just rolled out of bed at 3:30 p.m. T.J. like’s Cherry Limeades…a lot. He has the delusional idea that he can call the President to convince him that the Cherry Limeade needs to be the national drink. He then calls Pete and believes himself to be speaking to Barack Obama. T.J. is now off his meds.
8:25 – After another ill-advised road trip, T.J. claims that his taste bud is his “taste bro” whilst crushing a flat melt. This is an attempt to be exclusionary and leave Pete out of his friend group. T.J. references that his “taste bro” and him went on a nature trip but things didn’t get weird. Something must have happened in that tent.
9:03 – Things are a little shaky for Pete on the homefront. First he references that his daughter has been mouthy and is spilling secrets to his wife. He then mentions that Laurel has been bugging him to take trips. Pete, perhaps drunk on Island Breeze Slushees, tells T.J. that he is going to give his wife a Slushee and that it’s better than an island vacation. Then he drops the bomb. This isn’t just any gift, it’s an anniversary present. IT’S HIS ANNIVERSARY. Pete wants T.J. to back him on this plan, but even T.J. knows he’s gone too far. Pete has put the nail in the coffin of his marriage. Sonic is his true love, and she will never leave him.
9:36 – Pete is literally hiding from his wife at Sonic. Apparently, his anniversary present did not go well. She wants to keep Pete from his daily (hourly?) trips to Sonic with a man who has spent 20 years fantasizing about her. T.J. is an agreement that Laurel is way out of line. “Why would she deny you your pleasure?” T.J. laments. Laurel shows up! She walks by and says, “Hi Honey” while not breaking stride. Pete needs a divorce lawyer ASAP.
9:57 – Pete and T.J. are back to eating tots. Their Sonic addictions are now affecting T.J.’s personal life. He says that his mother won’t let him play with his food. T.J. calls his mother. After hanging up, he reveals he has to go home and is grounded. T.J. lives with his mother. This reveal is not shocking, but sad nonetheless.
10:32 – It’s a summer day, so Pete and T.J. enjoy shakes. Pete talks about the joys of the Summer Solstice. Confused, T.J. thinks Summer Solstice is an attractive blonde he used to know. He refers to her as, “A long tall Sally of a golden beauty…” It is clear that Pete must take action and get his friend help. Pete is either neglectful or revels in his superiority over this developmentally disabled man.
11:21 – Despite his impending divorce, Pete seems to be salvaging the relationship with his daughter, Fiona. He has brought her for a “tea party” while he and T.J. sip on iced teas and inch closer to diabetes. Fiona pours them each refills out of her play tea set, but T.J. is confused as to why no real tea was added to his cup. T.J. can’t separate reality from perception. This is T.J.’s Inception.
11:47 – Mercifully, this is the end of their saga. Pete and T.J. are loving Sonic’s new hotdogs and describe it as a reinvention. Much like how T.J. reinvented himself as J.T. His alter ego J.T. wore a sideways visor and used terms like “funky fresh.” He reveals that this got him beat up by a bunch of 14-year-olds. T.J. has hit rock bottom.
After further review, T.J. and Pete are not healthy, well-adjusted adults. T.J. clearly suffers from learning disabilities, to the point that he can’t do basic math, understand social cues, or live without the aid of his mother well into his 40’s. Pete, on the other hand, laments his 9 to 5, suburban life. His trips to Sonic are his only escape from his boredom and regret of a life never lived. He even goes so far as to bring his daughter into the mix as some sort of power move against his vengeful wife. Despite T.J.’s delusions and infuriating hijinks, Pete continues to go to Sonic with him. Let this be a cautionary tale of addiction. What starts out as a few tater tots eventually turns into morning, nights, and evenings of getting that Chili Dog fix.
These commercials are extremely upsetting – but sadly they make up a small portion of the twisted commercial world. I’m coming for you next, Jake from State Farm.