“I Am Fenwick” – Kudos to Southwest Airlines’ Arte Commercial

img_4620_cropAre there any among us who have not seen the recent Southwest Airlines commercial, “I am Fenwick?” If so, look it up on the internet – well worth the effort. Were there Oscars to be given for best commercial, this one is my overwhelming nominee. Besides being entertaining/funny, it is a work of art.

I watch a lot of San Francisco Warriors NBA basketball games on television, and I take the time to do so because they play the game with uncommon excellence. I appreciate excellence. Luckily, I have a DVR not only to record the games, but to fast-forward past so many of the horrible commercials featuring previews of upcoming action movies that often sponsor such telecasts. I am so bored by the flash/bang action of hurtling, exploding cars and general mayhem featured in these new films. Seen one, seen them all. These films are hard on one’s eyes, ears, and general sensibilities – no subtlety whatsoever. Moving on.

Southwest airlines is one of the regular sponsors of Warrior games, and their commercial, “I am Fenwick” plays at least three times each telecast. I have watched it dozens of times, now, and still enjoy it every single time. Why? Because it is a work of film art and very deftly delivers Southwest’s advertising mantra, “Wanna get away?” It accomplishes this through a brief micro-drama involving a member of “the King’s” armored minions who are assembled en mass and facing a small, rag-tag group of captured enemy. One of these prisoners is especially notorious and faces severe justice once identified by name.

The opening scene reveals this assemblage as the prisoners are about to be addressed by the knight-in-chief.

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Standing without helmet to the left of the white horse, the knight-in-chief asks: “Who amongst you goes by the name…Fenwick? Tell me, and the rest of you will be spared!”

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The camera zooms in on a nervous individual who hesitates. After the virtual thought-bubble over his head dissipates, he honorably blurts out, “I am Fenwick.” Almost simultaneously – virtually in unison – a comrade standing just behind echoes, “I am Fenwick” followed by a ripple of the same mea culpa throughout the prisoner’s ranks.

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The knight-in-chief, being blessed with quick mind and sharp eye, sees at once what is happening, here.

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Suddenly, a bumbling, oblivious prisoner pushes through the captive ranks, intent on the shield he is holding. He walks directly up to the nervous fellow warrior whose comrades have just attempted to save.

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“Hey Fenwick, have you seen my shield? This has vertical stripes on it; mine has horizontal!”

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Oops! The knight-in-chief is no dummy – unlike the dude with shield!

Now, the sound of a broadsword rapidly pulled from its scabbard accompanied by a triumphant, knowing cackle.

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Uh, did I say something wrong, here?

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Wanna get away?

I love this commercial from Southwest, and I never fast-forward through it because it is a mini-masterpiece of filming. It is funny in the subtlest of ways, made possible by the impressive setting and costumes along with perfect camera timing and sublime acting on the part of each performer. And its core message delivers Southwest’s commercial punch-line perfectly – with ironic “oomph.”

This one is easily one of the very best spots I have ever seen. It puts most of those vaunted, now over-rated Super Bowl commercials to shame. Kudos to Southwest and the production staff who created “I am Fenwick.” Give us more!

5 thoughts on ““I Am Fenwick” – Kudos to Southwest Airlines’ Arte Commercial

  1. My favorite commercial as well. I love it. Thanks for the stills. They make your analysis even better.

    But I keep over-thinking it. Shields need hand-grips on the inside, whose orientation fixes the way the “stripes” go: ([ ) vs (_). So the bumbler has a point. He got the wrong shield.

  2. I will look it up…or tune into a Warriors’ game. I have two favorites. Of course they involve dogs. One is the Farmers’ Insurance commercial. The well known actor (we all know him) says at the end, “We know a lot because we’ve seen a lot” or something like that. It involves one dog on the sink who turns the water on. It overflows, the room is filling with water and that dog plus four more jump into the ‘pool’ created by the sink overflow at the same time. They come up out of the water doing synchronized ‘dog paddling’ in a circle. I find it hysterical, well done and extremely entertaining. I first saw it in the Olympics but it is still occasionally aired. The other one I love is not aired often anymore but it’s the one with the golden retriever family and dad is driving the car. One I love he’s watching anpoodle walk in front of his car and mom is a little ticked off at him. She’s looking at him and growling. The other has the puppy strapped in and asleep in the back seat. He turns into the driveway, stops the engine, opens the door and the pup wakes up crying. He closes the door, starts the engin and drives off. I just love those and can’t tell you for sure what they’re advertising but it’s a car. To me those are the sweetest and cleverest commercials but I’ll check ou “I am Fenwick.” Like you I usually fast forward commercials but never those.

    • Thank goodness for commercials like these. I can hardly believe some (or most) of the rest of what we see on TV these days. As an aside, Linda and I caught the video of an old “What’s My Line” show which featured Debbie Reynolds as the “mystery guest” that week. The sponsor was Coca Cola, and we could not believe the earnest, low-key commercials for Coke which ran back then. Such a contrast to the dance, prance, and clang the cymbals counterparts, today. We had forgotten the true nature and virtues of that quieter, gentler television time! Thanks for commenting.

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