Disconnected: The Long, Strange Tale of the Verizon Guy

The Atlantic has published a profile of Paul Marcarelli, Verizon's "Can you hear me now?" guy. What's next, a three-part series on Flo from Progressive Insurance? But actually, it turns out the Marcarelli piece is quite provocative, with a recurring and ironic theme of his being stifled from talking by the marketer—raising salient points about consumerism, identity, and the failure to communicate in our media-drenched society.

There are lots of fun, juicy tidbits about the bespectacled actor's decade-long tenure as the telecom's pitchman. We learn, for example, that Verizon made him sign a Draconian contract (just like its customers!) and wouldn't let him discuss his experiences with others. And Verizon didn't burn up the phone lines to tell Marcarelli that it was phasing out his ads, choosing instead to inform him via email. A tad impersonal, but at least there was no danger of the network dropping the call. (He'll still do some work for the company but says, "I'm no longer committed to them like I was.")

The story takes a dark turn when Marcarelli, who is gay, tells of being hassled for years by a bunch of kids driving by his home at night in an SUV. The harassment grew more profane until, he says, "they started screaming 'faggot' up at my house." Afraid that coming out under such circumstances might imperil his ad gig, Marcarelli declined to file a police report.

Currently, he's promoting The Green, a film he co-wrote and produced that tells the story of a town that turns against a gay couple, one of whom is a schoolteacher. The ultimate irony, of course, is that Marcarelli has many interesting things to say but had to disconnect to truly find his voice.