The best kind of celebrity endorsements are the ones that have very little to do with the product being shilled. The conceit is flimsy anyway. Does Ford actually expect me to believe Derek Jeter owned a Ford Edge in Blazing Copper with a Panoramic Vista Roof? Ryan Reynolds knows nothing about wireless phone service — at least not more than you or I do — and yet we’re supposed to follow his recommendation of a provider nobody’s ever heard of with an obnoxious raccoon for a mascot? It’s all meaningless; just own it up front, and put the pretty face in front of the unrelated widget. We all know what’s going on here.
That brings us to pretty face Kyle MacLachlan and unrelated widget, the first-generation Subaru Impreza. It’s thanks to Twitter user TheAdmiester that I learned about this match, and it fills me with such joy that I’d like to share it with others who were previously unaware of its charms. This is FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper for Subaru’s new-age compact sedan, coupe and wagon.
Immediately, I had questions, as I’m sure you do. My first question, just like yours, was “why?” Funny enough, even though I’m about 90 percent certain I’d love Twin Peaks if I actually ever took the time to sit down and watch it, I never have. So I was unaware that David Lynch’s cult-beloved series about inexplicable phenomena in a Washington town was actually a huge hit in Japan. Mary Hart summed it up as well as anyone could in the June 26, 1992 episode of Entertainment Tonight embedded below.
So too did The New York Times a few weeks later, in August of that year. The thesis — at the time, anyway — was that because the series was carried in Japan on a new pay-TV channel called Wowow, the limited access made it hard to get, and that made it popular. Once you’d sunk the cost into discovering the mystery of Laura Palmer’s death, you’d just have to know how it all ends, right?
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This national enthusiasm reached its peak with the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which actually released to box offices first in Japan roughly a year after the series ended on U.S. television. Fans staged mock funerals, indulged in Agent Cooper’s favorite dessert — cherry pie — and flew all the way to Washington state to pretend to be dead on the beach. From NYT:
Japan has also been awash in “Twin Peaks” paraphernalia. Theaters showing the movie are peddling “Twin Peaks” baseball caps, T-shirts and handheld fans. Bookstores are carrying Japanese versions of books like “Laura’s Diary,” “Cooper Speaks Out” and “How to Be a Peaker.”
Japan Travel Bureau, the nation’s largest travel agency, has organized six group tours, with a total of 300 people, to Snoqualmie, WA. They stay at the lodge where Cooper stayed, eat cherry pie at the diner where Cooper ate and lie on the beach where Laura’s body lay. The five-day tour is priced at $1,600 to $2,000.
All this is to say that you can imagine why Subaru would want to cash in on the Twin Peaks fervor, to make the big marketing push around its new Civic and Corolla fighter really stick. And what better way to do that than with Kyle MacLachlan, the handsome star of the show? Here he is looking pensively out the window of his Impreza WRX Sports Wagon, circa 1993, as you just know he would:
And here he is looking a little more casual — also just looking. At what, we don’t know. We can only assume that’s the face MacLachlan makes when an Impreza in its most practical body style crosses his line of sight. Frankly, who among us could blame him?
This one confuses me the most. Reducing the actor’s previous portrait to a picture-in-picture circle atop half of a pair of jeans that is also water must encapsulate the enigmatic energy I imagine his fans love about him, and his roles.
Again, it’s a wagon! Those must have been his favorite. He wasn’t impartial to the occasional sedan, though.
This is all a run up to the best thing, the thing I’ve saved for last — the TV spots. Yes, this ad campaign took to the small screen, too, where MacLachlan posed a simple question to buyers: “Yes or no?”
This is my favorite though, and you’ll know why at the 15 second mark.
I don’t know what the blemish on his face has to do with anything. Maybe it sends a “picking yourself up when the world knocks you down” type message, which our hero accentuates when he jubilantly punches the air seconds before straightening his tie and commuting to his soul-sucking office job, where I’m sure he’s underappreciated by his colleagues. Chin up, my man — you’re doing just fine!
After seeing these, my day was briefly as bright as Washington’s weather is gloomy, and I hope the same rings true for you. It’s no wonder MacLachlan would later be cast as Portlandia’s mayor; he’d already been indoctrinated into the world of Subaru, after all. Or maybe he was just clairvoyant, and did all his prep for the role 15 years in advance. I’d believe it.