29 April 2007

Zeitgeist Advertising

I've wanted to write this for months, but the cold and rainy weather has generally kept me away from taking outdoor pictures...

In any case, congratulations to Manhattan Mini Storage for their clever series of ads poking fun at current American politics and pop "stars." Not everyone thinks they're funny, with one person calling them "egregiously political for no reason and extremely off-putting," and some even object to making a joke of "poor" Paris Hilton - she who works so hard to make a joke of herself.

Bah-humbug to that. The ads are not only funny, they're effective in the way that advertising always desires to be but so rarely is. They perfectly capture the contemporary tone of our society, and the cynical political exploits that have characterized this most narrow-minded of administrations. That's rare enough for real journalists these days, let alone advertisers. Congrats, Manhattan Mini Storage.

18 April 2007

Say Yes 2 Breasts

Three years ago, I wrote an essay about “authenticity,” and different aspects of how our society is or is not obsessed with it. Building in part from an even-earlier piece about reality TV shows that were simply and blatantly about judging women for their looks, I included the following on the authenticity of breasts:

Breast implants call into question all sorts of authenticity-related issues and beliefs, depending in large part upon the function a given person wants breasts to play. Breasts that have been surgically enhanced may seem perfectly and reasonably authentic to the man or woman lustily watching someone walk down the street, or to the patron of a strip club who finds larger breasts desirable; they may look smooth, firm, and enjoyably unsubtle. Yet others may find the knowledge that a pair of breasts has been surgically enhanced diminishes their attraction – even if they, too, find larger breasts generally desirable – or that the reduced sensitivity or inability to breast-feed that might result from implants is a turn-off rather than a turn-on.

It’s not as though finding pictures of breasts in our daily lives is a big challenge; walk down any street in most American cities and they’re on billboards and magazine covers galore. Now, though, JANE magazine has tossed down another breast gauntlet, to help women celebrate the real and (as one woman proudly noted) asymmetrical breasts of their lives. They’ve even included a blog so you can submit pictures of your own breasts! (As of this writing, only two people have taken advantage of this special opportunity.) Formally, this section is called “The JANE Guide to Breast Health,” but I think that depends on whether celebrating with a slide show of “perfect breasts” counts as “health.” Still, and clearly, we’re looking at pure authenticity here!

I suspect Gawker has the right idea... Go nuts, folks (but might not be good to read in the office).

14 April 2007

Imus v. Gibson

I wonder if Don Imus, the recently fired radio- and TV-talk show host is standing in his local watering hole, throwing darts at a picture of Mel Gibson. Many, many news cycles ago, Mel Gibson followed-up his hardcore Christian film-making success, and his father’s holocaust-denying comments, with an evening of racist and anti-Semitic ranting after being pulled over for drunk driving. At the time, much “debate” ensued, about whether this bigotry was revelatory of the “real” Gibson, of whether an apology would be forthcoming – and suffice – and to whom specifically Gibson might direct his apologia or otherwise show his contrition. Gibson has in the past employed Jewish PR counsel, and he has worked for Jewish executives in Hollywood, and so whatever one wants to say about Jewish control of the media, the whole episode did eventually fade away.

(Oddly, there seemed to have been little discussion over one specific element of Gibson’s tirade: Jewish “control” of “the media” is well know among anti-Semites around the world [along with international banking and other important desk jobs], but we’ve never been known for our domination of the nation’s police forces. So it seems a stretch that there really was a conspiracy to pull Gibson over: that would have required a lot of high-level coordination between Los Angeles’ media-controlling Jews and whichever minority group it is that secretly runs their police.)

For one brief moment, I felt vaguely sorry for Don Imus. He never even had a chance to get out ahead of this “story,” one that The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart aptly noted was the only media buzz even remotely competitive with the announcement about poor, dead Anna Nicole Smith’s baby’s real father. What Imus said was undeniably stupid, certainly offensive, and very probably racist. Unless it wasn’t racist and was, in fact, just stupid and offensive. He apologized, whatever that really means; if he’s a bigot, as some claim, it means very little; if he’s not, we’ll never really know, and the apology will just linger as more words in a broad, continuing war of media-driven clichés. We Americans (Jewish and not) have a very complicated relationship with repentance and forgiveness: we say we believe in it, but we often act as if we do not ... until time passes and we all just move on.

At this point, it doesn’t much matter. Having lost both his CBS radio and MSNBC cable shows, Imus will surely take a brief public break before re-emerging on satellite radio or elsewhere, a rebirth keyed – as most American ones are – to his continuing potential for revenue generation. Maybe he’ll write a book about how this experience proves whatever it is he’s been saying about America for years, and hope it does better than Gibson’s Apocalypto. Whatever happens, Imus is still richer than most of us will ever be. In the meantime, he’ll likely just keep throwing darts at that picture of Mel.