A writer and activist investigates corporate America's inroads into—and alliances with—the cultural underground.
"There's an industry around you that works, whether you agree with it or not."—Alec Bourgeois, Dischord Records label manager
For years the do-it-yourself (DIY)/punk underground has worked against the logic of mass production and creative uniformity, disseminating radical ideas and directly making and trading goods and services. But what happens when the underground becomes just another market? What happens when the very tools that the artists and activists have used to build word of mouth are coopted by corporate America? What happens to cultural resistance when it becomes just another marketing platform?
Unmarketable examines the corrosive effects of corporate infiltration of the underground. Activist and author Anne Elizabeth Moore takes a critical look at the savvy advertising agencies, corporate marketing teams, and branding experts who use DIY techniques to reach a youth market—and at members of the underground who have helped forward corporate agendas through their own artistic, and occasionally activist, projects.
Covering everything from Adbusters to Tylenol's indie-star-studded Ouch! campaign, Unmarketable is a lively, funny, and much-needed look at what's happening to the underground and what it means for activism, commerce, and integrity in a world dominated by corporations.
An indie journalist and activist rummages around in the messy subjects of integrity and selling out, and asks how to clearly define one or the other. In 2005, packages were mailed to zine-makers, small publishers and other indie luminaries with cool and authentically DIY-looking Star Wars-themed stickers and T-shirts. Although they were part of a Lucasfilm marketing push for Revenge of the Sith, the company's name appeared nowhere. More recently, well-known graffiti artists were hired by Sony to tag buildings with cleverly disguised ad copy. When caught by police, they received miniscule fines compared to the severe punishment handed down to spray-paint vandals not endorsed by a multinational corporation. Moore (Hey, Kidz! Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People, 2004, etc.) hashes out these hard-to-parse subjects and more in her discursive, repetitive, tendentious and ultimately quite well-considered meditation on the difficulty of maintaining integrity in an age defined by "our big fat remix culture." The first great temptation for selling out to corporate interests is simple: It pays better, and once indie artists start getting into middle age, accumulating responsibilities, children and the like, it's ever harder to resist that siren call. Also, when the corporate strategies are spearheaded by people (like the folks at Lucasfilm mentioned above) who genuinely appreciate what they're attempting to co-opt, it becomes more difficult to say that one's work is being compromised. While there are always good and hard-to-dismiss reasons for selling out on limited occasions, Moore ultimately concludes that the branding'screepy, virus-like spread into nearly every aspect of our lives should be resisted, before it wipes out independent culture and integrity (however hard to define). Already, she sadly notes, "Marketing has become so diffuse as to be a social activity . . . The infiltration is complete: there is no Us versus Them anymore."Occasionally a drag, and Moore could have provided more examples, but this is a work of honesty and, yes, integrity.
Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)
Meet the Author
Anne Elizabeth Moore is the co-editor of Punk Planet, The Best American Comics series editor, and the author of Hey Kidz! Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People. She has written for Bitch, the Chicago Reader, In These Times, The Onion, The Progressive, and Chicago Public Radio WBEZ's radio program 848. She lives in Chicago.