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Insurance is All Around

ELA
Songs, movies, celebrities – there's no limit to the ways in which insurance can affect everyday life.
In the tragically underappreciated 2005 movie “Love Actually,” one character (the inimitable Bill Nighy) rerecords the song “Love Is All Around” as “Christmas Is All Around.” The movie, which stars the entire population of the United Kingdom, gets a lot of mileage out the terrible crassness of melodically celebrating the ubiquity of Christmas. Although it might have been even less palatable had the tune been recorded as “Insurance Is All Around,” it would be entirely accurate.

Take for instance, the widespread worries that Lindsay Lohan’s career is over given her being too-bad an employment risk to get insurance. Or consider a recent installation of the Ann Landers column, where a young correspondent identified having one’s own insurance as an example of having truly reached adulthood.

Or, to keep things musical, take the surprising prevalence of insurance in songs. A quick search of iTunes reveals that literally dozens of recording artists have tapped insurance for inspiration. I did notice, however, that many of these tunes are classified under “blues” -- a public perception the industry might want to address. It also appears there could be markets for such innovations as “heartbreak insurance, “wife insurance,” “afterlife insurance,” and “rooster insurance.”

My personal favorite was a contemporary folk song by The Mountain Goats called “Insurance Fraud #2.” It chronicles the suspicion of the narrator that his wife is trying to hasten his death in order to cash in on his insurance. While detailing such casualties as the “burned out shell” of his Volkswagen, the song drops this pearly bit of wisdom:

“Dreams of retirement in Cancun, burning brighter,
There’s a lot of ways of making money in this world,
But I can’t recommend insurance fraud ...
Big plan, big plans, let me tell you something, sister, you will never get away with it.”

You have to add in the guitar strumming on your own for it to be truly effective. However, this week’s most delicious example of insurance-as-a-cultural-touchstone occurred during my serendipitous 6 a.m. channel surf last Saturday. One of the basic cable movie channels was running ... wait for it … a 1936 movie called “Lloyd’s of London!” It starred a host of dewy-eyed stars (relatively speaking) of the golden ages of movies. It was apparently also the golden age of appreciating insurance, since several characters wax rhapsodic about the virtues of underwriting and the honesty that underpins the burgeoning industry (it is set in the late 1700s).

The main character, young Jonathan Blake, and his best friend discover a shipping insurance fraud scam and plan to travel to Lloyd’s coffeehouse to reveal the misdeeds. Blake, besotted by the power of insurance, grows up to be the most daring underwriter of any Lloyd’s syndicate. His best friend grows up to be Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, he of the naval Battle of Trafalgar fame. As naval losses threaten Lloyd’s financial stability, arguments ensue over the need for accurate insurance rates and the industry’s influence over commerce and national security. I guarantee this is the only movie where characters declare in passionate tones, “Insurance rates MUST be mathematically calculated!” It was both a terrible and fabulous movie for entirely different reasons.

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