To Hazel: An Infomercial Love Letter
by Alison Baitz
Imagine you wake up, hungry and hungover but perfectly coiffed and dressed, in your friends’ McMansion in a nondescript beach town. Hopefully your friends, the owners of this massive prefab house, are not “Mick” and “Mimi,” infomercial spokespeople for the Magic Bullet, a small, torpedo-shaped blender. While your day may call for hours of fun in the anonymous sun, Mick and Mimi have other plans for their house guests: an all-day educational symposium on the virtues of corners-cutting cooking with a tiny plastic blender.
The Magic Bullet’s potential customer base (Mick and Mimi’s overnight binge friends, though I can’t speak for you) is varied but inoffensive. There’s the cheery, nondescript middle-aged couple who can relate to Mimi about, you know, cooking for kids or something. There’s the cheery, nondescript young couple who don’t seem to understand the point of the lecture. There’s Berman, the disheveled fortysomething drunk who seems to have stumbled in off the street. And then there’s Hazel.
Hazel saunters onto the scene, delayed and without explanation, right as Mimi blends blueberry muffin batter into a sickening shade of blue-gray. She’s clearly a little older than her friends; her mess of hair sits delicately askew on her head, she’s wearing a white nightgown under a floral housecoat, and she’s fake-sucking an unlit cigarette in desperate need of de-ashing. She’s wearing heavy blush and lipstick, with chained reading glasses tilted just slightly. She says to Mimi, in her thick New York accent, that “most meals” start with “stinky, nasty garlic.” So what the fuck is her deal? She’s out of place in this strangely cheery suburban scene. But the more we observe Hazel (and even her white-bread/alcoholic peers), the more we grow to love her.
Hazel gets it: Dinner is “always a production” for her (and, you know, the time-strapped home cooks who might think they need this tiny kitchen gadget). She may be haggard and in desperate need of a shower and a few more hours of sleep, but she’s generally a nice, eccentric lady who just wants to support Mick and Mimi in their entrepreneurial ventures. In fact, everyone’s genuine surprise at this blender’s ability to make common blender foods is strangely endearing. Not to mention that Mick and Mimi aren’t exactly gourmands. This blender — which looks like it would take its own life by falling off a counter if you approached it wearing anything other than a Hawaiian shirt — constantly churns out “food” that forges new meanings for the word. Broccoli soup is suddenly a disturbing shade of acid green; the almighty of mighty sauces — pesto — somehow manages to look sad and gloopy when prepared in the MB.
The food is scary, yes, but this is a special piece of film. The Magic Bullet elevates the infomercial with its complex narrative and, of course, Hazel. And for that, we infomercial enthusiasts — sad night owls — have reason to rejoice.
Alison Baitz was thankful for this assignment just for a valid excuse to watch this infomercial again and again.