Monday, May 22, 2006

Annals of Cultural Criticism.

To the many, many things that 9/11 changed, you can add car commercials. Writing in Flak Magazine about the new Jetta ads featuring car crashes -- if you haven't seen them, think Adaptation, but happier -- Stephen Bracco says:
For all its nicey-nice, the Jetta commercials are basically recruitment ads for the contemporary state of war. Can you buy what it takes?

These ads would never have come into their violent existence without September 11. Just as the event itself was practically a living, breathing ad for cell phones, so too does the new age of international insecurity bring the front lines right to your driveway.
Um, right. Heck, let's blame 9/11 for SUVs, too.

First, thanks for reading the review and I’m glad it inspired you to write a response. I don’t mean to “blame” 9/11 for the direction of American culture in a reductionist way, but merely to highlight the event as an influencing factor. Is it so hard to comprehend that a national catastrophe is used by advertisers/spin doctors to peddle their product/candidate/lifestyle?
I don't think I put my reaction particularly well, so let me try again. I can buy that advertisers -- and certainly spin doctors -- might use 9/11. I'm pretty sure that I've blogged here about the way that the Bush Administration has exploited 9/11 for its own partisan ends. But I just don't see that happening in these Volkswagen commercials. For one, Volvo has been advertising its safety consciousness for a long time, carving out a particular sort of reputation. As I understand it, other car companies have been reluctant to go there, for fear of eliciting the wrong reactions. I think the VW ads work, in that they leave you with the happy ending as well as the scariness.

For two, the whole notion that the streets are an aggressive place has been out there for several years. Road rage. The kind of armor you see on SUVs, especially the Hummer. Easterbrook's piece in TNR (to which I linked) is especially good on how the industry has exploited these baser instincts to sell SUVs which are risky in their own way, and which threaten others.

So I guess I just don't see the 9/11 influence here. But, hey, thanks for the response.
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