Sunday, February 13, 2011

Don't Believe Them, See it For Yourself

So, because this is the way my mind works, I'm always making connections between things. Some would say, making connections where they don't exist, but I don't buy that. (Once, close to 15 years ago, a teacher said to me that she didn't believe in coincidences, that there was no such thing as a coincidence. I didn't know what to make of that- did she believe in fate? I still don't know what she meant, but what I think is that if you see a coincidence, there is probably some connection.) I'm finishing up a book now on the problem with the philosophy of racial colorblindness and find myself making all kinds of notes in the margins about "The Big Sort." (Yes, I make notes in the margins.) But I've also been collecting links for years about ads that link directly back to the discussion of "Reality Bites Back" from two books ago, if you can remember back that far. I still can, which means it was a good book (or that my memory is improving). And in December, I posted a more scholarly video on the subject.

So maybe you watched the Superbowl last week. Or maybe you've just heard about it. It's this weird event where the whole country stops what they're doing to watch a bunch of very well paid men crash into each other, potentially causing brain damage, all for the sake of a small brown ball. Or maybe, the whole country stops what they're doing to watch the ads between when the well paid beefy men crash into each other potentially causing brain damage. Somehow, the Superbowl has become synonymous with ads. I can't find anything precise on this (help?), but it sounds like basically, the theory is everyone watches the Superbowl, it's a family affair, and lots of money is spent, so marketers feel like this is the Time to Advertise. In 1984 Apple advertised for a new Macintosh and it was on. Now the ads themselves are the spectacle. I mean, you can see big, well paid men crashing into each other, potentially causing brain damage all year long, but the commercials are awesome-er the last game of the year.

Or not. Just like with reality TV, they're just that much less awesome. I don't watch the Superbowl. We all know that my sport of preference involves much more ballet and much less brain damage, and that I don't have a TV. And when a game becomes about the ads, just like in reality TV, it's just that much more dangerous. Check these two ads, nicely digested by About-Face. And read Colorlines' awesome take on this terrible Pepsi Max ad:
How many terrible stereotypes can they fit into one 30 second ad? The angry black woman one sure goes on for awhile. Then you get the black predator ogling the lovely blonde young thing... and apparently, this ad was made for $800 by an amateur. So the only way to make it is to buy into this master narrative. And the amateur sure made it big, straight into the Superbowl. Sweet.

Okay, so forget the Superbowl. What about the rest of the year? Well, in case you don't have a TV like me, and didn't know about "Toddlers and Tiaras," you probably (were lucky and) hadn't heard that 8 year olds need makeup. Yes, Walmart has their own line, through MAC, of makeup targeted to 8-12 year olds. And just like Pozner said, all us girls that wanted to be princesses in tiaras want to go up to be princesses in wedding dresses. With the perfect noses. So here comes Bridalplasty. (Pozner talks about it in the book, but really, this video makes it real. And really really bad.)
So we've got untrustworthy women fighting over someone carving into their bodies in order to have the Most Perfect Wedding because that's what it takes to a)get the man which is obviously what it takes to b)be happy. That's Reality.

Need more? In an advertising imitates life imitates advertising moment, Club Monaco (that's clothes, I believe) has made mannequins that are so starved that their clavicles and spines stick out. In animal welfare, we call that a body mass index of 1 or 2- starvation. But it's cool, because the fabric is draped on plastic women, obviously not real, right? Just like Reality TV. Just joking, it's fake! (Tell that to real models that die, who look like the mannequins.) So now we've got fake body parts being the key to the perfect wedding, fake mannequins selling us the way our clothes should fit us- and our role models as kids are fake cartoon characters who don't even stand naturally. Ads tell us what what men and women want, even down to the color water bottle. This is not fake, people.

I'm seeing connections. This is not a coincidence.