Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising - David Lavery

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Nov 13, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

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Consuming Passions:
Brought to You B(u)y:
The Signs of Advertising

Survey of Popular Culture

Survey of Popular Culture

Chapter 2

Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising

Roland
Marchand
,
The Parable of the Democracy of Goods

When You Come Home

[ADVERTISEMENT]



PAIRED READINGS: CREATING CONSUMERS

James B.
Twitchell
,
What We Are to Advertisers

Steve Craig
,
Men’s Men and Women’s Women



Minette

E. Drumright

and
Patrick E. Murphy
,
How Advertising Practitioners View
Ethics: Moral Muteness, Moral Myopia, and Moral Imagination

Jennifer L.
Pozner
,
Dove’s “Real Beauty” Backlash

Eric Schlosser
,
Kid
Kustomers

Julia
B. Corbett
,
A Faint Green Sell: Advertising and the Natural World

Alan
Foliambe
,
Car Advertising

Dominating Nature

Portfolio of
Advertisements

Survey of Popular Culture

Introduction



“borrowing the aura of something that is already popular and hoping
that it will be transplanted to the product or service that is for sale”
(172)



schadenfreude


pleasure in the suffering of others


k
eeping us laughing


sentimental

show Colbert clip on Course Blog


“An Ad Culture” (James
Twitchell
)


stealth advertising (175)


advertising
h
ere and abroad


c
ommodification of desire


populism to elitism


p
arodying ads

Survey of Popular Culture

Chapter 2

Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising


Roland
Marchand
,
The Parable of the Democracy of Goods

When You Come Home

[ADVERTISEMENT
]

Survey of Popular Culture

Chapter 2

Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising



PAIRED READINGS: CREATING CONSUMERS

James B.
Twitchell
,
What We Are to Advertisers

Steve Craig
,
Men’s Men and Women’s
Women

Survey of Popular Culture

Chapter 2

Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising



Minette

E. Drumright

and
Patrick E. Murphy
,
How Advertising Practitioners View
Ethics: Moral Muteness, Moral Myopia, and Moral
Imagination

Survey of Popular Culture

Chapter 2

Jennifer
L.
Pozner
,
Dove’s “Real Beauty”
Backlash

Survey of Popular Culture

Chapter 2

Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising


Eric
Schlosser
,
Kid
Kustomers

Colbert Interviews
Schlosser

Survey of Popular Culture

Chapter 2

Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising


Julia
B. Corbett
,
A Faint Green Sell: Advertising and the Natural
World

Survey of Popular Culture

Chapter 2

Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of
Advertising


Alan
Foliambe
,
Car Advertising

Dominating Nature

Portfolio of
Advertisements

Survey of Popular Culture

Brought to You B(u)y: The
Signs of Advertising

xxxxxxxxxxx

Brought to You B(u)y

Space Boosters

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

The
Pythia

of Delphi has now been replaced by a computer which hovers over
panels and punch cards. The hexameters of the oracle have given way to sixteen
-
bit codes of instruction. Man the helmsman has turned the power over to the
cybernetic machine. The ultimate machine emerges to direct our destinies.
Children
phantasize

flying their
spacecrafts

away from a crepuscular Earth.
--
Ivan
Illich
,
Deschooling

Society


. . . the emphasis on surface; the blankness of the protagonist; his striving toward
self
-
sufficiency, to the point of displacement from the recognizable world. . . . Does
the icy quality of an artificial outer space, the self
-
conscious displacement and
blankness of car commercials, MTV, and "Miami Vice," correspond to a glacial
inner space?
--
Todd
Gitlin
, "We Build Excitement"

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Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

In a late 1980s issue of Marketing Week, a columnist laments the post
-
Jetsons

lack of real Space Age advertising and calls for campaigns more
in keeping with an era of Star Wars and SDI (Myers 12).


Surely he cannot read magazines or watch television. Advertisements
could not be
spacier

than they are now. Never slow to capitalize on the
tacit tendencies of the cultural psyche,
advertisments
, "soak . . . up
certain ideals in circulation at the moment, and squeeze . . . a version of
them back at us." According to Todd
Gitlin
, ads present "the incarnation
of a popular ideal
--
or rather, the ideas of that ideal held by the
marketer." An advertisement is thus, in a sense, a "tiny utopia." The
commercial "conveys what we are supposed to think is the magic of
things; those things which, if we buy them, are supposed to work
miraculous transformations in our lives" ("We Build Excitement" 141). In
the Space Age, it seems, the advertising industry has realized that
virtually anything can now be sold to us through appeals to our
otherworldliness.

Brought to You B(u)y

Space Boosters

Survey of Popular Culture

In their 1953 novel
The Space Merchants
,
Frederik

Pohl
and C. M.
Kornbluth

imagined a Madison Avenue
advertising agency given the task of convincing the
human race that it should migrate to an uninhabitable
Venus. In Ridley Scott's 1982 film
Blade Runner
, we see
an early twenty first century Los Angeles cityscape in
which huge, floating video billboards beam promises
that "a new life awaits you in the off
-
world colonies."
Neither of these science fiction prophecies has come
true (though Sony has now developed multistory video
billboards), but they now hardly seem fantastic to us, for
though we are not yet being sold Venusian real estate,
we are being sold unearthliness.

Brought to You B(u)y

Space Boosters

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

In 1981, I lived and taught in Shanghai, People's Republic of China.
When I left with my family on a long Pan Am flight to an alien world, the
space shuttle
Columbia, then on its maiden voyage, orbited the Earth. It
touched down soon after our arrival in Asia. In the Far East edition of
Time, I read that the successful mission had given post
-
Vietnam, post
-
Watergate America a "mighty lift"; and President Reagan, convalescing
from an assassination attempt, waxed eloquently to the Columbia's
heroes, telling them (I learned), "Through you, we feel as giants once
again.”


On my return to the United States later that summer, badly culture
-
shocked from my time in the People's Republic, I struggled to acclimate
myself again to the frenetic, spacy American way of life. More than
ordinarily attuned to its peculiarities and absurdities, I began to notice a
new kind of advertisement appearing with surprising frequency on
television (and, I might note, I watched television with open
-
eyed
wonder after months without it in Shanghai). The image of space was,
throughout the decade, everywhere.


Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw Space Age microphotography
--
designed, we are
told, to view the Earth from space
--
reveal the epidermis of
a woman's skin in order to convince us of the positive
effects of an
antiaging

cream.

--
I saw the three
-
ply lamination of Glad garbage bags fuse
together, set against the backdrop of interstellar space.

--
I saw Maybelline Dial
-
a
-
Lash tubes shoot off from
launching pads.

--
I saw a fashion model, standing on the lunar surface,
wear Revlon lipstick said to exhibit "out
-
of
-
this
-
world
colors.”

--
I saw a Technics turntable orbit the Earth.

--
I saw the Cincinnati Bell logo transformed into a space
station.

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

--
I saw an ad for Always Plus Night Super Maxi Pads depict
the feminine hygiene product as a UFO.

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

--
I saw a ready
-
to
-
assemble "wall system"
--
labeled, of course, as a
"Space Age" product
--
offer "new heights in
organization" and
"infinite" possibilities for
creativity, solving storage
needs by allowing the
owner to "fill unlimited
space.”

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw a United Negro College Fund appeal, showing African
-
American scholars in graduation robes and mortar boards set
against yet another cosmic backdrop. (For, after all, this
solicitation for contributions informs us that the mind is as
"vast as space.")

--
I saw Taster’s Choice
--
like Tang before it
--
offered to us as the
choice of astronauts (the shuttle astronauts in this case).

--
I saw a spot for Home Box Office show a family in its living
room flying through space, watching HBO

.
--
I saw an insurance company's famous "piece of the rock"
appear in a cosmic landscape resting on an Earth seemingly
without atmosphere (the moon appears only miles away),
orbited by a ranch
-
style, two
-
stall garage home, a sports car
approaching on a highway through space, and a floating
sailboat followed by frolicking dolphins
--
all in keeping with the

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

advertisement's promise that "With the Prudential, the sky's
the limit.”

--
I saw cartoon children carried into space by
Bubblicious

balloon bubbles. ("It tastes so unreal it'll blow you away.”)

--
I saw, during a decade in which (inspired by Reagan
-
era
deregulation) it became increasingly difficult to distinguish
Saturday morning television programming from its
advertising, "
kidvid
" become more and more spacy. (A
television critic notes that producers
--
under the influence of
both George Lucas's and Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars"
--
came
to agree that "outer space, high tech and faraway enemies in
a distant future are a safer, tidier, less complicated way" to
capture an audience (
Engelhardt

1986, 88
-
89).

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw a vacuous blonde, female astronaut in a lunar lander
proclaim to her companions, "Go ahead without me. I've got a
run!" ("She would have been the first woman on the moon if
only she'd worn Sheer Business Panty Hose.")

--
I saw Timex watches link together to form Star Wars
-
type
spacefighters
, accompanied by a montage of images of a man
and a woman in space suits on an alien world, while a voice
-
over tells us that "Timex performs with all the accuracy and
beauty of the cosmos.”

--
I saw a special new antiplaque electric tooth
-
brush
("
Interplak
"), bearing a striking
resemblence

to the starship
Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey, majestically dock into its
recharger on a bathroom sink
--
choreographed to a Strauss
waltz
.

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Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw a man, traveling through a magically real yet alien
landscape (Earth visible on the horizon), have a "vision of the
future," not, we are told, of "space travel" or "time machines,"
but of the financial welfare of his family (through the assistance
of Equitable Insurance). Upon his arrival home, he then
witnesses his garage door open
--
like the entrance to the
mother ship in
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
--
to disclose a
blaze of white light out of which emerges a figure we take to be
an alien but which turns out in fact to be his daughter, excitedly
pronouncing, "Daddy!"

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

--
I saw woofers and
tweeters of a Delco
-
GM Sound System
become a formation of
flying saucers
beckoning us to "Ride
into the Sound Set.”

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw a youth, dressed in Levi's jeans, launched toward
distant skies while a voice explains that in the famous jeans
"the mind knows no limits.”

--
I saw an ad for a Chevrolet pickup truck instruct us not to
"leave Earth without it" and insist that a new model has
"brakes so good they're almost extraterrestrial.”

--
I saw two female astronauts extol the benefits of a new roll
-
on deodorant called "Real": "We have seen the future and it
is Real.”

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

--
I saw "Almost Home"
chocolate
-
chip cookies
float in space in order to
optimally display their
"almost out of this
world" taste.

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw a man in a cumbersome space suit EVA into the
cockpit of a new Toyota compact and then
--
so impressed is
he with the car
--
leap in ecstasy out of the frame, beyond the
limits of gravity, never to come down. ("Oh what a feeling!")

--
I saw the new Hyundai Sonata, introduced to us as a "space
vehicle," soar off into the cosmos at the commercial's close.

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

--
I saw an image of a patch
of lawn, complete with a
house, shade trees, and
two family dogs, floating
in outer space, evidently
removed from the Earth
by cutting along a still
visible dotted line
surrounding the property,
advertising the Invisible
Fence "dog containment
system."

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw a solicitation for new members of the National Space
Society illustrate its motives and goals through two paintings:
The Ultimate Sandbox (by Michael Whelan) showing a little girl
in a "Miss Piggy" space suit building a sand castle on the moon;
and Leonardo's Finale (by David Brian), in which the great
Renaissance man, sitting in his study surrounded by drawings
and plans for future discovery, holds a prototype model of the
space shuttle in his hands.

--
I saw three former Apollo astronauts ("
Schirra
, Apollo 7,"
"Bean, Apollo 12," "Gordon, Apollo 12"), looking for all the
world like has
-
been athletes, testify
--
in extreme, unflattering
close
-
ups
--
that Actifed relieved their
snuffy

noses in spaces.

--
I saw an Always Ultra
-
Thin Panty Liner become an
unidentified flying object.

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

--
I saw a small, evidently sick
young girl lying in bed, a
thermometer in her mouth,
securely wrapped in sheets
with a sky and cloud pattern
(which, because they fill the
frame of the advertisement,
make her appear to be
floating), reassuringly touch a
space helmet
--
all beneath a
headline that reads: "When
your little space traveler has a
fever . . ."

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

--
I saw both
Motorcraft

spark plugs and oil filters blast off, as if from launching
pad, from the hoods of Ford automobiles toward distant skies.

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw the Chevrolet
Astro

minivan circle in orbit about
the Earth and yet (we are promised) still remain small
enough to "fit right in your garage!”

--
I saw
--
in yet another image plagiarized from Close
Encounters of the Third Kind (promoting McDonald's
"Spaceship Happy Meals")
--
children look up at the sky
with true cosmic yearning (fantasizing, no doubt, about
"flying their spaceships away from a crepuscular Earth").

--
I saw a poster in a McDonald's restaurant (advertising a
"Space Age Calendar") instruct parents to "help your child
into outer space.”

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw the traditional Jewish child's toy top, the
dreidel
, no
longer satisfactory, undergo a Space Age sea change into an
"Outer Space
Dreidel
" (made in Taiwan)
--
a battery
-
powered
model that not only lights up but "makes outer space sounds!”

--
I saw, prior to the feature presentation, a short subject,
sponsored by theater owners and intended to discourage
littering, depict an interstellar cloud of snack bar
-
debris
--
popcorn,
Raisinettes
, straws, nachos, Milk Duds
--
out of which
an exemplary soft
-
drink cup/rocket speeds toward the brightly
lit landing dock of a trash receptacle/space station.

--
I saw a cartoon Albert Einstein plug the "genius" of Betamax
while ensconced in an armchair in a living room floating in the
cosmos.

Brought to You B(u)y

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

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--
I saw a Canon
Typestar

typewriter blast into orbit ("A
new
Typestar

lifts off"), its
"lift
-
off" correction key in turn
lifting off from it, like a
communications satellite out
of the cargo bay of the space
shuttle.

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

--
I saw the "baby of today" in
the "diaper of the future"
(actually old
-
fashioned 100
percent cotton!) orbit about
the Earth in the arms of a
New Age father whose legs
--
evidently his means of cosmic
propulsion
--
dissolve into
beams of light.

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

--
I saw Concept Custom Length
electric guitar strings ("The Final
Frontier" in guitar strings)
advertised by an image of a
spaceman strolling the lunar
landscape, an American flag planted
in the moon to his left, the Earth
visible in the background; and I saw
Kahler

guitar strings, in comparable
"far
-
out" imagery, become in effect
the orbital path of a space vehicle
made of tuning pegs.

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

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--
I saw the
Nady

Systems Lightning
Guitar and Thunder Bass
--
instruments with "the right stuff"
--
billed as the first electronic guitars
of the Space Age and advertised in
copy divided into sections entitled
"Countdown," "Liftoff," "All
Systems Go," "Ground Control,"
and "Link Up" and in the usual
"product in orbit" imagery; and I
saw the
Carvin

V220 guitar blast
off from Earth in an ad whose
headline proclaims the instrument
to be "One Step Beyond."

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw an ad for a Kenwood stereo
satellite receiver announce the
company's proud claim that "after
conquering Earth, we headed into
space." (An image from the
Japanese science fiction film
The
Mysterians

[1959]
appears at the
top.) "We've been a force in home
and car audio on this planet for
over 25 years. But now we're
aiming even higher." "Get on
board now," we are warned in a
class Space Age threat. "Or get left
behind.”

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Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw a space colonist, showered by the spores of a huge,
menacing flower on an alien planet, plagued by allergies ("No
matter where you go, there's going to be pollen"), at least until
he uses Contac.

--
I saw us encouraged to give to the college of our choice
through an image of a young boy in a
Day the Earth Stood Still

space suit and his dog standing beside a space capsule /
doghouse accompanied by the following text:

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Space Boosters

Brought to You B(u)y

Today he's off exploring the back
yard. Tomorrow, he may be off
exploring new galaxies.


But before kids of today can conquer
the frontiers of
outerspace
, they'll
have to conquer the complexities of
mathematics, physics and chemistry.
That's where you come in. For only
with your help can they be assured of
the first
-
rate college education they'll
need. . . .

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

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So please invest in the future. Give
generously to the college of your
choice.


You'll be helping launch America to a
successful
future."Help

him get
America's future off the ground," the
public service
advertisment's

headline pleads.

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw a woman, once "in the dark about blinds,"
open her
Levelors

--
blinds "enlightened by Space Age
technology"
--
to watch, as if from the Archimedean
point, an Earthrise.

--
I saw a woman in Sheer Energy slippers blast off
from the Earth's surface
--
finally able, with their
support, to overcome the harsh demands gravity has
placed on her feet and distance herself from its
draining effect on her energy.

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Survey of Popular Culture

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--
I saw a new breakfast
cereal from Ralston
-
Purina
called
Freakies
--
marketed
as "multigrain . . . crunchy
honey
-
tasting spaceships
with marshmallow"
--
offer
"out of this world fun with
earthly nutrition.”

Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
I saw the legendary Barbie herself enter into space.
"Barbie's on the Moon," proclaimed the cover of an
issue of Barbie magazine, and there she was, in her
"Astronaut Barbie" manifestation. (Later, in the
"Barbie Drama" section, I learned that being the first
woman on the moon was all a dream, though a spacy
date with Ken at the "Lunar Lounge" made it all come
true!)

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Space Boosters

--
I saw in a Space Age toy store a new line of dolls called
the
Shimmerons
, a species of alien Barbie clones. "Lacy
-
Spacy
--
Out of this World . . . Space Cadets" with spindly
bodies and sparkling wardrobes, they have come to
Earth
--
according to their back
-
of
-
the package
mythology
--
because our planet offers not only the
cosmos' best shopping but also the most awesome
parties! ("What on Earth are they doing here? Well the
Shimmerons

wanted to discover why the Planet Earth is
number one for teenage fun, and show you how fun is
done on the Planet
Shimmeron
." "Here on Earth, the
Shimmerons

are discovering skateboards, hot dogs,
rock music, and shopping malls!")

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Space Boosters

--
I saw us encouraged to
"Expect the World of ABC
News," for, as their
advertisement
--
showing the
Earth from space, coupled
with a cosmic telephoto lens
and an extraterrestrial Peter
Jennings
--
made clear, the
network evidently covers the
planet from the Archimedean
point.

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Survey of Popular Culture

Space Boosters

--
And I saw that
entrepeneurial

plans are afoot (I cite but three examples) (1)
to bury people in space (several companies have marketed such schemes,
one of which involves a three
-
hundred
-
pound spacecraft containing no
fewer than fifteen thousand "cremains" launched into polar orbit ["Ashes of
the Stars"]); (2) to offer extraterrestrial vacations (Davies; "Orbital Jaunts"
32
-
33); and (3) to develop robotic "space pets" (
Liversidge
).

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Space Boosters

Space has, no doubt, been sold to us along with our meat and potatoes for
some time now. As early as the 1960s, space ads
--
like those represented
here
--
exhibited most of the
ascensionistic

cliche

's we find in later ones. Nor
is the cosmic exaggeration of such advertising really new. It can be
understood as an extension of what Daniel
Boorstin

describes as "Booster
Talk: The Language of Anticipation," a way of speaking about things in which
"what may be is contemplated as though it were in actual existence"
(
Boorstin

is quoting an early nineteenth
-
century British observer of
American ways). Booster Talk is not misrepresentation
--
or at least it does not
seem that way to Americans
--
but rather a kind of clairvoyance, "not
exaggerating but only anticipating
--
describing things which had not yet 'gone
through the formality of taking place'" (Americans 296
-
98). But why, in the
decade of the space shuttle, did the pace and intensity of the pitch increase
so prominently?


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Space Boosters

Interestingly enough, in 1965 the Italian journalist
Oriana

Fallaci

found
the possibility that space might be marketable beyond belief. In If the
Sun Dies 135
-
37), she contemplated the possibility that the astronauts
might be commercialized but is told by a NASA spokesman that the idea
is ludicrous: "Can you imagine a billboard in Times Square with a
photograph of [Gordon] Cooper [one of the original Apollo 7 astronauts]
smoking a certain brand of cigarette? The cigarette of space! Up in space
Gordon Cooper smokes only . . . Inconceivable! None of them. . . ." This
was, of course, years before an astronaut became head of a major
airline, and famed test
-
pilot (and hero of Tom Wolfe's
The Right Stuff
)
Chuck Yeager lent his image in support of his favorite spark plugs.

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Even as she wrote,
Fallaci

herself was already helping to
advertise space. She confesses, "When I returned to Milan I
stuck up in my study a huge map of the moon that had been
sent to me by the advertising office of
Nestle's

Powdered Milk.
On the Mare
Copernicum

was printed: Feed Your Babies on
Nestle's

Powdered Milk, but it looked beautiful to me." Only
two years later Kubrick's
2001: A Space Odyssey
demonstrated
conclusively, with its open display of brand names in
extraterrestrial settings, that "space was finally going to be
conquered by Coca
-
Cola and AT & T."2 And by 1970, when
Norman Mailer published
Of a Fire on the Moon
, it had already
become apparent that "a new kind of commercial was being
evolved. NASA was vending space" (45).

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But only in the 1980s did the vending become blatant: a prominent
feature of our cultural landscape. (As Andre'
Marchand's

Advertising
the American Dream
shows, advertising "paved the way" for all that we
think of as modern; now it paves the way for the postmodernism of the
extraterrestrial.) "The master fantasy of the Reagan era," which informs
the "little utopias" of the Space Age advertising chronicled here, may
now be, as Todd
Gitlin

suggests, "the fantasy of thrusting, self
-
sufficient
man, cutting loose, free of gravity, free of attachments" ("We Build
Excitement" 143).


Implicit in most advertising, according to John Berger, is the following
hidden transaction: "The spectator
-
buyer is meant to envy the person
he will become if he buys the product. He is meant to imagine himself
transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy
which will then justify his loving himself." Thus, Berger concludes, the
"publicity image" of an
advertisment

"steals love of oneself as one is,
and offers it back for the price of the product" (134).

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Space Boosters

Is it too much to say that the Space Age advertisements
catalogued here
--
which sell, in a package deal, not just mascara,
or a Betamax, or Big Macs, but a
hyperreal

longing for space
-
steal
--
or seek to steal, not just our love of ourselves, but our
very earthliness? But it does not, as in the normal marketing
dialectic, then offer it back. In a "bait and switch" duplicity, it
would rob us of it permanently.


And we seem so ready and willing to have it stolen. As
Boorstin

observed (in
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo
-
Events in America
) at
the very beginning of the Space Age, Americans are ruled by a
powerful will
-
to
-
illusion.

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Space Boosters

When we pick up our newspaper at breakfast, we expect
--
we even demand
--
that it bring us momentous events since
the night before. We turn on our car radio as we drive to
work and expect "news" to have occurred since the morning
paper went to press. Returning in the evening, we expect
our house not only to shelter us, to keep us warm in the
winter and cool in the summer, but to relax us, to dignify us,
to encompass us with soft music and interesting hobbies, to
be a playground, a theater, and a bar. We expect our two
week vacation to be romantic, exotic, cheap, and effortless.
We expect a faraway atmosphere if we go to a nearby place;
and we expect everything to be relaxing, sanitary, and
Americanized if we go to a faraway place. We expect new
heroes every month, a new literary masterpiece every
week, a rare sensation every night. . . .

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Space Boosters

We expect everything and anything. We expect the
contradictory and the impossible. We expect compact cars
which are spacious; luxurious cars which are economical. . . .
We expect to eat and stay thin, to be constantly on the
move and ever more neighborly . . . to revere God and to be
God.


Never have people been more the masters of their
environment. Yet never has a people been more deceived
and disappointed. For never has a people expected so much
more than the world could possibly offer. (3
-
4; my
emphasis)

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Space Boosters

When
Boorstin

wrote these words in the early 1960s, he thought he was
speaking figuratively.


In 1983, I went to see E.T.: The Extraterrestrial in a movie theater in
Huntsville, Alabama (a city which, because it is home to NASA's Marshall
Space Flight Center, takes pride in its nickname: "The Rocket City"). At this,
my second viewing of Steven Spielberg's touching story of the triumph of
the values of the heart, I watched with interest a preliminary commercial
for Atari (screened before the film, I surmised, because producers and
distributors had convinced the game company the demographics of a
typical E.T. audience indicated openness to such a sales pitch). In the ad
--
which exhibited special effects not unlike
Tron's
--
a young man sits, back to
the camera, dreaming up ideas for video games, and the games he invents
miraculously materialize around him, filling the screen. As his dreams
become wilder and wilder, as he imagines "Asteroids" and "Space
Invaders," he finds himself floating
--
as does the audience
--
in interstellar
space.

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Space Boosters

The image is a common one now, of course; I'd seen it all before. But it struck
me that day in that context that it presented an ironic counterpoint to the
evocative tale of homesickness I was about to watch. Here, during a single
Space Age afternoon's entertainment, I was being asked to imagine myself as
unearthly, and then to feel the pathos of a poor alien creature trapped far
from home. I suspect that, against its own better wisdom,
E.T.
has promoted in
many of its viewers not that supreme value which E.T. himself cannot live
without
--
the need for a place, for a home
--
but rather extraterrestrial urges.
The desire to become precisely that which tortures E.T., robbing him
eventually of his very life (at least momentarily), extinguishing his heart
-
light,
the longing to become homeless and displaced ourselves, is so prominent
now, so much an everyday search image, that it would not surprise me if many
viewers of the film
--
if they could trade places with Elliott
--
might reply
affirmatively to E.T.'s petition at the movie's close to "Come."

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