|Publisher:||Hunt, John Publishing|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Twerking to Turking
Everyday Analysis: Volume 2
By Alfie Bown, Daniel Bristow
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2014 Alfie Bown and Daniel Bristow
All rights reserved.
The Pure Advert: Analysing Perfume
Much television advertising shows us images of commodities in ways calculated to make them desirable: cars driving on impossibly empty roads, soft drinks that are too good to be true, phones that will organise and improve your life. Some products, like cosmetics, cannot be shown directly and have to be represented through their effects. For this reason we have shampoo adverts that show hair becoming shiny and skincare adverts that show the effect healthy skin has on the opposite sex (and it is always, so far, the opposite sex). All these adverts are — in one way or another — forms of wish-fulfilment. This tells us that we are in the world of dreams, since Freud has shown us that, in all cases, 'a dream is the fulfilment of a wish'. It is a world Walter Benjamin associates with the growth of commodity fetishism in modern life, a phenomenon of which advertising is an organic outgrowth.
One product is so ephemeral, though, that neither it nor its effects can be adequately represented. This product is perfume. Perfume is nothing but a scent, a trace, and therefore utterly resistant to visual presentation. Even shampoo and spot-cream can be illustrated through the material effect they produce on the body, but the only thing perfume alters is our smell, our aura. How then, is perfume to be advertised? The answer is through the language of dreams themselves. If all advertising is a kind of dream, the perfume advert takes that logic and extends it so that there is no product at all at its centre. All that remains is image and sensation. Adverts like those for Chanel No. 5 with Audrey Tautou or Dolce and Gabbana with Keira Knightley offer up a confusion of identity, space and meaning that matches what we encounter in dreams. Such adverts often show people in bed, as in the case of Audrey Tautou, who appears to fall asleep in the Chanel advert. While any bed is sexual, here the bed gestures more specifically towards a dream of sexuality. Watching this advert, we are invited to ask: is the man real, or is he a figment of her (or our) imagination? This is a question that might equally be asked of perfume, which is already almost nothing.
If all dreams and all adverts are circulations of desire and fulfilments of wishes, we might be tempted to say that the fulfilment offered here is sexual. Yet this is not the case, at least not in the way it first appears. Keira Knightley only tempts her man with a dab of perfume to the neck before she walks away, leaving him behind. Audrey Tautou may end the advert being kissed by the man she has been searching for, but there is no sense that this is any more real than the rest of the dream-like sequence: the man is no more solid now than when he appears as an image on her camera a little earlier. Instead, to understand the wish that is being fulfilled we have to return to Freud, who proposes several forms that might be taken by wish-fulfilment in dream, one of which is the 'wish to sleep'. This is a powerful force in all dreams, but especially sexual ones: 'The operation of the wish to continue sleeping is most easily to be seen in arousal dreams, which modify external stimuli in such a way as to make them compatible with a continuance of sleep'. It is this that we see in the perfume advert; the wish being fulfilled is not that desire is satisfied, but that it is extended so we can continue to sleep. This makes the perfume advert the purest of all adverts, since it reveals something fundamental about the way all advertising works. Advertising constantly works against something Freud pointed out over a hundred years ago: 'throughout our whole sleeping state we know just as certainly that we are dreaming as we know that we are sleeping'. All advertising is at once the revelation and the repression of this fact, but nowhere does either operate more powerfully than in the perfume advert.CHAPTER 2
No Surprises: Kinder Eggs and Blue and Pink Economy
'We do not advocate or promote our products as gender specific.' This was how the Kinder Surprise brand addressed complaints about their new range, where the usual chocolate eggshell containing a plastic toy comes with a new pink or blue-tinted wrapper. So, this Easter, children can look forward to 'limited edition' superheroes, cars, etc. in the blue eggs, and princesses, dolls and ponies in the pink ones. Of course, no gendering intended: as the company's statement goes on to explain, the new coloured eggs are merely to 'help parents navigate the toy ranges on offer and make purchasing decisions based on what is most relevant for their child.' Why does a popular product aimed at young children move its marketing strategy away from unisex and towards crass gender stereotypes via a multi-million pound campaign, whilst having to publicly deny that this is the case to save face?
Children's culture is becoming increasingly gendered. Where, up to the late nineteenth century, young children wore the same sack-like dresses, and up to at least the mid-1980s, girls and boys were assembling towers out of primary coloured blocks in the same dungarees, today even newborn babies within reach of globalised consumer culture tend to come in colour-coded nappies. There is an increasingly conspicuous discrepancy now between the triumphalist embrace of a discourse of equality between the sexes in the urban West, and the gender ideals on sale. Pink and blue for children conjure the traditional gendered binaries; active/passive, essential/supplementary, pragmatic/decorative; and Kinder Surprise's adverts sum up a whole market when they pitch 'cars to fuel the imagination' vs. a 'range of ponies, accessories, locks, bracelets, and dolls for creative play'.
But why do we say one thing and buy another? Brands are quick to excuse themselves via their customers' desires: 'this is what the research says people want', and via narratives of choice: 'we're not the ones who decide whether a child gets a pink or a blue egg — you, the parents, do. We are simply helping you navigate your purchasing decisions'. If the Pink and Blue Kinder chocolate eggs stand out, it's only because of the amusing inconsistencies of its promises: it's supposed to be a surprise — except one that now requires awkward gender-based pre-sorting. Surprise is the point but apparently no longer what we 'want'.
Even before pink and blue, there has been something paradigmatic about Kinder Surprise. Cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek, with reference to psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, points out how the chocolate eggs demonstrate our desire for something beyond the thing we want: the hollow chocolate shell is discarded for another shell, with a toy inside, thus revealing the mechanism by which we replace one object of desire with another without ever arriving at the thing itself: the ultimate fulfilment of desire. In this way, a basic structure of desire is harnessed by the commodity: Kinder Surprise offers the 'something more' (toy) beyond the initial object purchased but neglected for it (chocolate); but it is an addition for its own sake: mostly, the experience ends up dominated by the structural void between the two. So, Zizek claims, Kinder Surprise makes money on desire itself, without selling much of an object, and comes dangerously close to displaying 'too openly the inherent structure of a commodity itself'. Pure consumerism then, without any claim to use-value beyond a temporary excitation of desire.
The important point is that Zizek renders the eggs not as paradigmatic of some atemporal, eternal desire, but desire under post-industrial capitalism. Perhaps the Pink and Blue eggs draw attention to themselves because they display another structural arrangement too openly: that the void in the egg is also the void to be filled with some narrative. Our desires aren't our own, and this couldn't be more evident in the case of the three+year-old consumers of Kinder Surprise, who so obviously did not know they were to want either pink ponies or blue cars (rather than everything in the world, in all its polymorphous perversity) until they were told. But there is no ideology here in the traditional sense, no overarching system of ideals as the basis of a political and economic system. And this is already beginning to be true in the early twentieth century, when big American department stores decided to promote pink for girls and blue for boys in order to increase their profits: if the average family has a boy and a girl, convincing parents to buy gender-specific clothing will mean fewer hand-me-downs, and more clothes sold. One explanation, then, is that pink and blue dominates today not because we believe in biological differences more than the Victorians, but because the most dominant narratives are decided by profit imperatives, not by conspiracies of sexists. Gender-specific paraphernalia means more stuff gets bought, and now the pink and blue culture is so pervasive even a tiny unisex surprise toy has become unattractive. This is not enough to explain this strange and growing culture of pink and blue — but it raises the distinct and uncomfortable idea that children's ideas of themselves as boys or girls are largely dictated by profit motives. Somehow the old devil patriarchy made for a better enemy. Kinder Surprise makers aren't patriarchs, they are players in post-industrial capitalism. But they are part of a culture, and a market, that sells crude, binary gender ideals that will have effects on the shape of our desires.
Art by Isabela Fawn.CHAPTER 3
Three Cold Sore Treatments
There are currently three main remedies for outbreaks of the herpes simplex virus, or cold sore, available over the counter: the lotion, the protective patch, and the 'invisible light treatment machine'. Whatever their relative merits as palliative treatments, what allows three so different products to simultaneously claim to achieve the same thing is the radically different rhetorical — and, we can say, ideological — strategies they employ. As Roland Barthes puts it in his classic 1957 discussion of different brands of washing powder: 'the relations between the evil and the cure, between dirt and a given product, are very different in each case'.
The rhetorical claim of the lotion, first, is that it assimilates the troubling difference of the cold sore's arrival into the body's ordinary running. We use lotions every day, and are used to thinking that different parts of our bodies — hands, face, lips, eyes, hair, feet — require different kinds of lotion to keep them at their best: why shouldn't the same easygoing relativism be extended to this, the body's newest arrival? 'From a tingle to a blister' is the advertising slogan of the market-standard producer of cold sore lotion, which goes so far as to attribute to the cold sore its own narrative, independent of the body it has taken as its host. Ideologically, then, the lotion is 'a multiculturalist liberal', happy to play down tensions between the body's communities, and to acknowledge that the 'other' may have a story of its own to tell. But also in keeping with that ideology, the cold sore 'other' can only be integrated in this way if it abandons its most characteristic cultural properties. The lotion's habitual language of 'cooling' and 'reducing redness' demonstrates its double gesture: the cost to the cold sore of being blithely welcomed into the body's daily beauty routine is the demand that it be subsumed into the homogeneity of that body.
The protective patch seems to employ the opposite gesture. Far from integrating the cold sore into daily life, sealing it with a transparent sticker suggests a compulsion to cover it over, pretend it never existed, to slowly suffocate it. In this treatment, contagion is the main factor, and the attempt at sealing it off works to delimit its spreading to other part's of one's body and to those of others. But the heavy-handed literalness of this rhetorical cure only barely disguises its logical contradiction. For the dangerous 'other' being contained is being contained inside one's own body. The protective patch's knee-jerk 'nationalist' impulse to close all borders and 'send them back' comes with the resigned acknowledgement that pure national belonging is always only a fantasy, and that there are shards of the alienated immigrant within all of us.
If these two conventional cold sore remedies portray the relationship between the supposed interloper and the body proper in ways roughly analogous to the two mainstream positions on immigration in the West, then where do we situate the innovative third available treatment: the 'invisible light treatment machine'? The machine works by sending a concentrated beam of invisible light into the affected area, supposedly stimulating the body's immune system, and so destroying the cold sore. We should not ignore the apparently ludicrous analogy of the conclusion of the first Star Wars film, where the malignant globular Death Star explodes after a single laser is fired into its core. (The sci-fi loopiness of the product is inscribed in its clunky B-Movie name). Nor indeed the political capital Ronald Reagan — the figure most often evoked by today's neoconservative hawks — took from the franchise in his own escalation of America's military scope under its name. For the 'invisible light treatment machine' actively plays out the hawkish fantasy only nervously implied by the other two: that of the complete and technologised obliteration of the other, and an abrasive indifference to the possibility that the other is part of oneself.CHAPTER 4
Can the Advert Say: 'You're Not You When You're Interpellated'?
There is a trend prevalent online of taking a source material and divesting it of its original intention to re-present it as an insightful or inspirational soundbite. It falls in the category of those snippets of new-age pep appearing in front of psychedelic backgrounds in Facebook feeds, which suggest that feeling good about your life will save the planet, etc., and the moving-image manifestation of this is the excerpted motivational business video, the 'real-life' sob story, or, commonly, the re-presented advert.
One of the latest that begs close reading is the re-presentation of the Australian 'You're not you when you're hungry' Snickers advert, which has appeared in various places across the net under headlines like 'Aussie Builders Surprise Women With Loud Empowering Statements', and so on. As an advert it does what most do; derives its humour from playing around with a stereotype. The intention of the ad's re-presentation is, however, to suggest that there's something to this play, and that — imagining for a moment the ad isn't just ironic, or sarcastic — the world could learn something from it.
The stereotype it plays with is that of construction site workers shouting sexist remarks at passing women; instead of 'nice tits/arse, etc.', the builders shout complimentary comments about these women's dress and hair, and end up collectively calling for an end to misogyny. This is billed by the re-presentation as women receiving empowering encouragement from these builders.
The ideology of the advert in general, however, is such that, whilst playing with stereotypy, it nonetheless reinforces it; that is, the advert tends not to actually subvert stereotypy in and of itself. Through re-presentations such as these this ideological manoeuvre is shown precisely in its actual mode of functioning. In other words, the mechanism by which it works is perceivable in this re-presentation, as it is here that we can see it working on those who spread it virally.
To the re-presentation of this advert as a feminist message can be raised many objections (as has been happening). To list a few in no particular order:
Initially, the stereotype of builders prevails in that they are all men, which discounts any moves in gender equality already made in this sector of work.
The message appears that the builders' statements are 'empowering', but what of women's ability to empower themselves?
In terms of class presentation, the builders are clearly visually defined as working class (albeit ironically not as working crass), and the women tend to be smartly dressed to perhaps suggest they are businesspeople. If this implies their success, the question again arises as to why they can only yet be validated by men.
The gender specificity has only ostensibly disappeared in the redirecting of comments away from body-parts to clothing, for example; why don't the builders compliment passing men similarly on their colour choices?
Even theatrically, the blocking of the scene perpetuates bias; the men launch their statements at the women from lofty heights above them.
Excerpted from Twerking to Turking by Alfie Bown, Daniel Bristow. Copyright © 2014 Alfie Bown and Daniel Bristow. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Contents0. Introduction: Write on What You Enjoy! (or, EVERYDAY aNALYSIS) – Culture and Contemporaneity,
1. The Pure Advert: Analysing Perfume,
2. No Surprises: Kinder Eggs and Blue and Pink Economy,
3. Three Cold Sore Treatments,
4. Can the Advert Say: 'You're Not You When You're Interpellated'?,
5. One Foot in the Grave and One in the Distant Past: Jonathan the Ancient Tortoise,
6. Cat vs. Rabbit: The Object of Desire,
7. The Assassination of J. D. Salinger by the Coward Richard Prince,
8. If You Haven't Got Anything Nice to Say, Don't Say Anything,
9. On Art and Disobedience; Or, What is an Intervention? The Knight's Move from Guernica to Social Space,
Books, Literature, and Reading,
10. A Note on Feeling an Affinity with What You're Reading,
11. Ian McEwan and Intentional Fallacy,
12. Morrissey and Canonicity,
13. Reading Childishly: A Case Study,
14. Is God Dead in Harry Potter?,
15. Reading Between the Lines of What Stays Within Them: Genre Fiction, Normality, and Analysis of Structure,
Dating, Relationships, Sex, and Love,
16. Soft Focus: How Dating Websites Subvert the Romantic Ideal,
17. Getting Google's Approval,
18. An Archive of Your Ex,
19. Social Media Image-Crafting and Hyper-Analysis,
21. Use Your Imagination!,
22. Big Data, the NSA, and Heidegger's 'Standing Reserve',
23. A Plea for Self-Expression(ism),
24. For Peaches,
25. What Really Goes on in an 'Outstanding' School?,
26. Sneamp, Queep, Bamph, Pleesh: The Phonics Screening Check and Educational Testing,
Film and Television,
27. Nymphomaniac: The Male Gaze Meets its Maker,
28. Poversion: The Perverse Position of Poverty Porn,
29. The Bling Ring 'Thing',
30. Mars One: A New Future for Reality Television,
31. Epic and the Hysteria of Modernity,
32. The Banking Crisis in Deal or No Deal,
33. The Word 'Popping',
34. Fail is the Ghost of Success,
35. Yeh No But,
36. Nooks and Kindles: Media en Abyme,
37. Points of View: The BBC's Gaze in Media Hegemony,
38. On Almost Bumping into Someone when Walking Around a Corner,
39. On Seeing Yourself on a Big Screen,
40. Secret Santa: A Christmas Analysis,
41. Capitalistrology! Astrology as Another Stupid Adaptation to the World of Capital,
42. A Homeless Person of One's Own,
43. On the Stehzellen, Block 11, Auschwitz I: An Analysis Based on a Visit to the Concentration Camp,
44. LONG.LIVE.A$AP: The Voice as Trill,
45. Robin Thicke and the Position of Feminism,
46. The Sinthomic Blank in Future Bass and Dubstep,
47. Are Rammstein Fascist or Postmodern?,
48. Record Store Day, and Why Home Taping Should Kill Music,
49. Anxious About UK Grime,
50. 'I am Burial': Anonymity, Gaze, and The (Un)True Self,
51. Big Questions, Age-Old Debates, and Problems We Will Never Solve,
52. On Zizek Writing for the Guardian,
53. Go on Ahead, and Write a Letter to Your M.P.: On Not Getting Through,
54. What's Really at Stake in Women Serving on the Frontline?,
55. Resisting Arrest: The UK Home Office's Tweets,
56. The Mark Duggan Inquest: Politicians and Fetishistic Disavowal,
57. The Knavery of David Cameron, The Foolery of the Coalition: A Note on Political Engagement,
58. Nelson Mandela: Symbol or Allegory?,
59. The Revolution, As It's Being Televised ... Brand, Badiou, and Voting,
60. Sending Shit to UKIP,
61. A Politics Now!,
62. Playing at Being a Sportsperson at the Winter Olympics,
63. Dani Alves: A Banana Used as a Banana,
64. Loving Football,
65. World Cup 2014: Sky Sports Live! and Alain Badiou's 'Event',
66. Croatian Football and Racism,
Superheroes and Comic Universes,
67. Superman vs. Batman: The Quest for American Exceptionalism,
68. The Beast, the Sovereign, and The Superior Spider-Man,
Work and Play,
69. Brecht, Benjamin and Bad Service,
70. The Scrabble Squabble; or, the Plight of Online Opposition,
71. Talking Behind the Back,
72. Amazon Turk and Inevitable Capitalism,
73. What is a Strike?,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
ON YO MAMA!! B?ITCH!!