Lots of people have pointed out how corporations use anti-consumerism messages and attitudes to promote their products (and, indirectly, consumerism). So many, in fact, that I don’t have a specific reference handy to cite. (So much for the endless cross-referencing of the web.)
I mention this because of two recent events. The first is the release of the movie based on Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Predictably, it has somehow been transformed from a warning against over-commercializing Christmas into a story of how a small child helps an anti-social loner with an unhappy childhood learn to live with others and restores the original spirit of the holiday to her people.
At least, that’s the impression I get from the previews and reviews I’ve seen, as I have no intention of actually watching the film. Stretching such a short story into a half-hour cartoon is questionable; trying to make it a feature-length film is madness.
Since this is a Designated Hit Film, there is marketing and merchandising everywhere. “Come,” the marketers say, “strike a blow against our empty, over-commercial holiday season by seeing our movie and buying our licensed products!” Visa has a commercial where they mention that Christmas, perhaps, doesn’t come from a store—but just in case, use your Visa card to shop heavily. Somehow, they manage to say this with a straight face.
The second is a Ford commercial I saw recently, which discusses Fight Club. They describe it as a movie about a bunch of guys who get together and beat the crap out of each other. These, the commercial intones, are tough guys. And nothing makes you a tough guy like owning a Ford pickup truck.
Ford doesn’t mention that the Fight Club was formed by guys who felt strangled by corporate society, lashed out against Ikea-style conformity, and declared that they are not defined by what they own. It’s the surface impression of the movie (tough guys who fight) that Ford is interested in.
This sort of irony is happening all the time. Recently, two different ad campaigns used the song “American Woman” in order to present a pro-America, pro-women theme. Never mind that the song is all about rejecting America and American women. Nobody actually listens to song lyrics. Or how about the image of barcoded customers? Doc Searls has collected two such images, one using it to represent all that is intrusive about modern marketing and the other using it to illustrate the wonders of lasting corporate brands. During the New York senate campaign, Rick Lazio put up commercials complaining about how his opponent was running a negative campaign and therefore was untrustworthy and a bad person.
In a way it’s entertaining, like watching Voltron and looking for the places where they edited out the violence and death. But one has to wonder just how stupid these people think we are. #