“Nothing beats the taste sensation when maple syrup [claps his hands] collides with ham.” Dale Cooper, government employee
“But I am, of course, a dirty leftist commentator, and will play fast and hard with the truth.” Alaska Wolf Joe
“The younger people are probably the most junior people on the team; for them to say something, they would have to be really confident in themselves. To have a younger millennial account person go up to a senior creative person and say, ‘We’re not going to do this, we think there’s a problem with it’ — that’s an uncomfortable power position to put a young person into. Products don’t solve problems. They’re trying to present a product as a solution to a very large, very important, very serious cultural and societal problem. The only way a company can get away with doing that kind of thing is if they’re really doing something. You can’t tell me that you’re doing that, Pepsi.” – Mara Epstein, Ph.D., Professor of media studies at Queens College
“I think the message that Pepsi hoped would come out of it is that Pepsi is in touch with what is going on. It would get young people thinking, ‘Is Pepsi a brand for me?’ But they missed the point. It’s completely overproduced. If you want something to feel at all genuine, why are you using celebrities? Let alone celebrities that have no association whatsoever with the thing you’re advertising. It makes sense that this was done in-house because it doesn’t have the creative rigor that an outside ad agency would bring. People at the agency rip each other to pieces if something isn’t good. It’s harder for that stuff to get made by an ad agency. I think what probably happened in this case is that someone just really wanted to use Kendall Jenner. Someone inside attached themselves to the thought that she is really of the moment. It’s really transparent when we do that. If you’re going to use a celebrity, you really need to have a good reason to use them. The world is craving authenticity, even if authenticity is a completely overused word. People want these things to feel real. Like use real people. This ad was the least relatable piece of communication I’ve ever seen. It feels manipulative. People are not stupid. I think they were smart to take it down. It looks like it could cost $2 million just for production alone … And having Skip Marley do the music doesn’t make a difference. Even if you had Migos do the soundtrack. Even if Offset had written the soundtrack, purely out of love for Pepsi, it wouldn’t have worked. – ad exec who did not wished to be named
“The Theater of the Absurd dramatizes the recent dilemma of Western man, the man of action who appears not to be involved with the action. Such is the original and appeal of Samuel Beckett’s clowns. After 3000 years of specialist explosion and increasing specialism and alienation in the technological extensions of our bodies, our world has become more compressional by dramatic reversal. As electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village. Electric speed in bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion has heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree. It is this implosive factor that alters the position of the aristrocrat, the teenager, and some other groups. They are now involved in our lives, as we in theirs, thanks to electric media.” Marshall McLuhan 1958
“It is not very easy to fix the principles upon which mankind have agreed to eat some animals, and reject others; and as the principle is not evident, it is not uniform. That which is selected as delicate in one country, is by its neighbours abhorred as loathsome.” Dr. Johnson
Now and then we like to have an outing that will keep our credentials as cultural anthropologists in good working order. Our preferred destination for such things is Los Angeles, but time and Alaska Wolf Joe’s ongoing experimentation with being a coastal elitist on the opposite coast have limited our options. Sure, Portland’s close, but even there we’ve worn down the possibilities there to little more than running out some tepid snark about the town being wholly dependent on foreign beard oil.
Instead we decided on coastal Oregon so that we test the proposition, “In Heaven there is no high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that’s why we put it in everything here.”
Make yourself comfortable, we’re gonna be here awhile.
The central engine that drives coastal Oregon forward is neither lumber nor tourism. Instead the entire area seems to run on a limitless supply of pancake batter and whipped cream. The more successful eateries resemble one of those infinitely re-arrangeable executive toys you’d find in the SkyMall catalog. It makes little difference if you come alone or with a party of 12. The tables can be bent or shaped into any number of configurations as if they were made from Silly Putty instead of wood. The ensuing breakfast, which the locals still believe is the most important meal of the day, is surprising low on dairy products. Perhaps the butter would only get in the way of the whipped cream, several flavors of syrup, and soda pop which seems to be every bit as popular as coffee at that time of day.
These scalable breakfast nooks also come with attached gift shops as knick-knackery is a serious component in the coast GDP. Each offers a wide selection of Christmas ornaments year-round and the following items, each of which we took a pass on:
– Plush Oregon Duck mascot
– Plush Santa Oregon Duck mascot*
– Plush leprechaun Oregon Duck mascot*
– Plush Easter Bunny Oregon Duck Mascot
– Plush camo/Rambo Oregon Duck mascot
* Denotes discounted item
Pushing away from the breakfast table and wandering out to work off the HFCS we’d injested we found this retail establishment.
When we tried the front door we found they weren’t open yet, but my mind was reeling.
Is he in a tank in the back or some old bathtub? Did they caulk up and old show stall and keep him there? Does he have a name like Free or Wind? Wondering aloud about that last one Mom said, “Alligators live in water, so you gotta think of a water sign, probably Aquarius or Aquaria if it’s a gal gator”.
OK, but does he do tricks? Does he play hacky sack with a trainer? Can tourists buy little bags of pressed quinoa cut into shapes that look like little fish?
Because if those were around it would blow open the synapses on each and every French postmodernist alive!
Oh hey – speaking of semiotics – while in Oregon my Tuesday began with this 3-minute video popping up in my Tweety.
And my afternoon ended with Kendall Jenner sticking the HFCS to The Man!
Here to explain all things related to those on the lower rung the Kardassia is our own Alaska Wolf Joe –
Consider, I suppose, that the Pepsi ad is much like the Syrian attack which it so closely pairs with chronologically, a simile of bourgeois hors d’oeuvres and red wine, flesh and blood. Perhaps as Barthes would point out, red wine itself creates insatiable thirst at best, and at worst is a consequence of the social event (war). (Barthes’ Mythologies, “Wine and Milk.” To summarize here, I recall Barthes’ analysis of wine as being paradoxically dry but thirst quenching – in that in his own terms, “[…] at least thirst serves as an initial alibi for its consumption[…]” (Mythologies 79) To note briefly here of war, it is similarly a galvanizing act of quenching, its initial process claims to be a reagent in the reaction of peace, at least at the outset.)
No doubt in the mythology of the infamous Kendall Jenner advertisement, Pepsi itself is portrayed a nourishment of the body, that which quenches thirst. A better question to be asked of the commercial may be this: Why are they thirsty? The ideological supposition itself is immediately formed, “They are thirsty for justice!” but this is a lie.
I read it as that they thirst because they are attractive, creative, and have a surplus of sexuality – they are thirsty precisely because they are bodies in motion, but particular bodies: bodies of enjoyment. This thirst is not caused of a natural biological need, rather at the outset we can compare it with surplus value: it is the thirst of those who can afford to waste their biological energy in Spectacle. It is their raw hedonism of pleasure through protest, pleasure through art, pleasure through imagined narratives of “countercultural critique” which enables them to be thirsty. It is the perspiration of jouissance. They can only afford this thirst because of their status with regards to Capital. If they were truly proletarian, this Spectacle would be impossible, the thirst would become dangerous. It is not so disparate of course, worker’s hands have still manufactured this Pepsi, but it is precisely this which causes these young bourgeois to thirst. For the workers themselves are already thirsty, are already suffering – they could enjoy a nice cold Pepsi. The young bourgeoisie lacks this thirst; they do not have nearly such a miserable condition in life. They must become more symptomatic, more laborious. They must create thirst in order to enjoy this Pepsi. And what an enjoyable Pepsi it will be, once they have earned it.
To compare, here is Zizek on soft drinks:
A more pressing issue is at hand that regards the political in the commercial itself. I had recently watched Fritz Langs’ Metropolis, a great film of ambiguity regarding the bourgeois support of the worker as Spectacle. One of the things most mystifying about the film is that we do not know precisely what it is that the machines do. In the inadvertent gaze of Langs’ directorial sensibility and the overtones of the script, this renders the workers even more as an inanimate object unto themselves – even more as an undifferentiated whole only recognizable for labor value, removed and alienated of their subjectivity, brought through to the “self-consciousness” of their position in the master and slave dialectic. There is nothing more they are conscious of, and nothing more that we are conscious of, than that they are laborers. Their machines are nameless, their work is nameless, and they themselves (virtually) are nameless.
Contrast this, of course, with what we are offered here in the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. Its most infamous initial image is simply of that of protest signs devoid of any coherent message. It is a revolution without organs. A woman in a hijab scribbles on photography. What is she photographing? Kendall Jenner poses in front of a mirror. What is she modeling for? A man plays a cello. We do not hear the music he plays.
It extends too to the actions: This man perspires over his cello, this supposedly Muslim woman throws these photographs aside, Kendall Jenner discards her wig and (miraculously) changes into a proletarian costume, revealing her “authenticity”.
Inevitably, there is no answer. For what is there to consider of it but Spectacle? What are they joining, of course, but Spectacle? The musicians in the street, the break dancers whispered of briefly in the montage are the most authentic consumers in the whole commercial: they are already aware that this is a celebration, a perverted Carnaval, a burlesque of revolution.
Do not focus on the moment which has now cemented itself in our cultural conscious of Kendall Jenner handing a Pepsi to a cop1. Focus on the sequence afterwards, in which the cop smiles and looks over at the other cop in a knowledge of agreement. An agreement to what? An agreement to enjoyment. This is precisely what is novel about this commercial, what is truly revolutionary. For there is no longer a moment of free love, the uninhibited flow of orgone, no longer mass revolt, no longer “hanging them by the last bit of rope which they will sell us” there is—enjoyment. The revolution here is that the entire world will become a Pepsi commercial. The gross surplus enjoyment, the raw and impossible jouissance of all existence is nothing but an orgiastic enjoyment of Pepsi unto infinity.
Consider then the impossible fantasy of a Pepsi commercial, so enjoyable that it never ends – it is a never-ending montage of fantastical commercial enjoyment, it is this revolution without organs which we have glimpsed carrying on ad infinitum, it continues until the entire world’s factories have stopped, that the world’s population is starving, the clouds have darkened with pestilence, our urine has turned black with blood from kidneys which have tasted naught but Pepsi for years, and finally into the absence of God’s position in the heavens a lone voice screams: “Pepsi!” This is the horrid jouissance of Pepsi. The impossible horror of a commercial reaching its liminal conclusion in death.
Is this not how the end of the world will look? Will it not look like this commercial?
AWJ’s thoughts on Pepsi and Syria continue here.
As that’s all a bit much to chew on in one sitting, no matter how much Log Cabin syrup and whipped cream you put on it, I shall be succinct.
Barthes becomes difficult to use in after information becomes suddenly ubiquitous and easily manufactured. The old media was based on the scarcity of the means to produce content which is why co-opting symbols – as seen in the video above – made sense. His Mythologies remains an important read and maybe well go into this more at a later time.
Meanwhile – being the low season on the Oregon coast the store’s hours were highly variable and thus my search for the vegan alligator will have to continue in the summer months.
Until then I will whistle this happy tune.