The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services wants you to dump out the water in every concave item that filled up with rain during our robust rainy season last winter and spring. Buckets, coffee cans, old toilets that you’ve been planning to make an attractive planter out of one day.
The department’s challenge, according to the spokesperson Jennifer Rice Epstein, was this: How to make dumping stagnant water out of an old paint can in the backyard sound fun and, perhaps, maybe even sexy.
While mosquitos do, in fact, find standing, stagnant water extremely sexy—it’s where they happily breed—it’s a tougher sell to the sensibilities of dainty human beings. Yet, the Health Department has risen to the task, digging deep into pop culture for inspiration for a series of social-media ads informing the public about the dangers of mosquitos, who, in addition to being annoying and causing maddeningly itching bites, are also effective spreaders of disease.
So, what’s there in pop culture that has something to do with mosquitos? “Buzz” Lightyear? The musician Sting? Steely Dan’s deep cut “Through with Buzz?” The 1994 movie “Reality Bites”?
No. Something a little more recent. Something the kids can relate to.
The Health Department communications team came up with the “Twilight” movie series. Because not only did the movies feature vampires, but also sexy vampires. Nothing will make you rush out to the area behind the garage and dump out five-gallon buckets full of murky, fetid water more than a sexy vampire.
The ads put out by the department show a romantic couple in silhouette, a woman and a man, one of whom is sure to be a vampire, beneath the legend, “Don’t Let Just Any Bloodsucker Near You” as a lone wolf howls from a nearby mountain ridge and a mosquito flies in a heart-shaped pattern.
Another spot appeals to fans of drag, showing a mosquito onstage—it’s not in drag, just a lone naked mosquito of indeterminate gender—standing before a panel of judges, one of whom utters the RuPaul “Drag Race” heave-ho line, “I’m sorry my dear but you are up for elimination.”
It’s hard to tell if either campaign will effectively reach the demographic that is heavily populated by people who have containers of old rainwater water on their property, but, as they say, if it saves even just one life, it will be a success.
Mosquitos aren’t the sole target of the Health Department and its team of pop culturists. They’ve also enlisted the aid of Barbie to let you know the safest way to spend a day at the beach. For this, the department has your basic generic Barbie-looking woman of Barbie’s age, accompanied by the words, “Come on, Barbie, let’s go party!”
We get a peek inside her beach bag. She’s armed with a bathing suit, sunglasses, lipstick, sunscreen, sun hat and a water bottle—everything you need, more or less, for a safe and healthy party!
Do Long Beachers have anything to fear other than mosquitos and the sun?
Every year Long Beach’s multi-agency Community Response Team throws a family-friendly disaster awareness and preparedness festival called the READY Long Beach Expo and, while it’s promoted as—and is—a fun event, there’s a fairly ominous undertone to the affair, which CERT softens a bit with its own social-media posting depicting What Can Possibly Go Wrong with cartoonish characters taking on the roles of devastating potential events for which we should be prepared: the not-if-but-when earthquake/tsunami disaster, the rogue meteor hurtling toward the Earth (or maybe it’s just killer sun; either way, be prepared), rain storms and the resulting floods and a slimy, three-eyed creature we’ll just call Mr. Disease.
The next READY Long Beach Expo is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 9 at Cal State Long Beach’s Walter Pyramid on Atherton Street at Merriam Way.