Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I'm telling myself I'm wrong in the comments too.
I haven't seen the TV show MAD MEN for the sole reason that I'm pretty sure it would make me want to kill myself. I've heard people talk about it though. And I've seen animated .gifs of the characters in livejournal avatars. With this knowledge, I can pretend to know why it's so popular; the most beloved form of entertainment right now is marketing.
I'm not saying people like it because it's actually about marketing. I think viewers realize MAD MEN isn't so much a show about ad executives as it is a show about selling a retro style of 'cool', nice clothes and the idea that cable makes classier entertainment than network television. That's why people like it, not because they want those things advertised to them, but because the show makes very obvious what it's trying to sell. All media is 'secretly' trying to sell you something, and by putting it not so much under the surface as just further away on the surface, MAD MEN is making viewers feel like they figured it out. It's real subliminal advertising is that it's making you feel smarter for watching it.
That's what's cool now, I think, having knowledge about marketing, figuring out why and how things are being sold to you. And it's been cool for a while. Most blogs or forums about movies are more likely to talk about how GI JOE was marketed than the actual (terrible) film. I think this, rather than decreasing attention spans, are why trailers are seemingly more popular than the films they're advertising. People into BATMAN don't so much talk about what he's up to, or how he's drawn than how he's being sold to the comic readers or how he could be sold to not comic readers. I realize this isn't new as it's been going on since the 60s, or since I've been on the Internet at least, but I think it's popularity has entered the mainstream, and there was a slight change in the discussion about it and how it's treated a couple of years ago.
I was raised by HE MAN. A show created to sell me action figures. I had no problem with this. I was also an impressionable 12 year old when grunge music happened. Remember 1991? Kurt Cobain said Rolling Stone was a corporate magazine, the music industry was fake, patriarchal society is just trying to sell us pre packaged fear and rebellion. He might as well of said 'Fuck He-Man.' But He-Man was my father, and no matter how much adolescent rage I'm going to throw at him, somewhere there is love.
College music and the college attitude became cool. Gen X, like their hippy parents before them, started to slightly rebel against marketing culture. Then, also like their parents before them, they got jobs, and had to start marketing themselves and their companies. And companies started having to advertise to them. There was a certain guilt embedded into Gen X advertising that carried over into companies and people advertising on the web. A friendly, sort of, 'this is an ad, we're sorry for trying to pull one over on you, but please buy our shit.' People used to apologize for having to register or have ads on their blogs. They felt sorry, or at least, knew you knew you were being marketed to and didn't want you to object. They also wanted you to feel like you were part of a group of people reclaiming the marketing machine. He-Man still wants you to buy his toys, but he's sorry he tried to trick you.
And, of course, it being Gen X, there was heavy use of irony. Indie music blogs started talking about, or singing the merits of Billy Joel or Britney Spears. Ads were all 'wink, wink, buy.' But it was cool, because they were kind of kidding. But they also kind of weren't. And now they totally aren't.
People a few years younger than me were raised by Pokemon. A show created to sell video games. They were impressionable 12 year olds when rappers and boy bands were the most popular music acts. Both rappers and pop groups have no qualms about advertising. You know what record label a rapper is on, or when his new album is coming out because he says it in his songs. These kids also grew up on not only ironic advertising, but web advertising, like Google, and Amazon, that is more personalized, but also much more obvious. They know everything is an ad, and I don't think they don't give a shit.
A lot of blogs have ads, and most blogs are almost attempting to sell the blogger as a product. A lot of people have Twitter accounts selling themselves (sometimes, it seems, for no reason). Most vlogs I see on Youtube essentially beg for comments, or star ratings. Corporate run websites or magazines, like Vice or Paste or Flickr, don't really hide the fact that they're owned by a corporation. They don't care, and don't expect you to.
You can listen to Billy Joel or Britney Spears or Madonna unironically.
The difference between the sons and daughters of He-Man and She-Ra and the children of Pokemon (besides one group's likelihood to be sexually attracted to furry cartoon monsters) is that marketing is no longer hidden, or at least not hidden in the same way.
Marketing has just become something else you do, like painting, or coding, or making music. And people love to criticize it like they used to criticize painting, or coding, or music. And that criticism is one of the most popular forms of entertainment right now.
I can't believe I'm still typing, so I'm going to avoid the whole Republican VS Democrat, Apple VS PC, Xbox VS PS3, thing. Or that Kurt Cobain is a video game now (I like him more as a video game). Also I'm grossly generalizing, yo, and not saying one thing is better than the other.
I have all this stuff in mind when I'm trying to make a website for my artwork. I've had a domain for about 5 years now and I've been slowly updating it and changing things around the entire time. I want a site that's all 'hey look at my drawings, if you want', but I sort of need a site that also says 'and give me some of your money.' I don't want to come across like He-Man or Pokemon. Which is probably why I don't get jobs. Then I had a break-through the other night and came up with this:
Also, if anyone wants to pay me to attempt to write the longest set up for a joke ever, I'm your man.
Here's a song:
The Cancellation of Quasar
Here's the first 3 pages of the comic I'm working on right now, PAWS. I'm going to put it on my site to read in chunks. I've been waiting for a good stopping place for part 1. At first I was going to stop at page 5, but now I'm thinking 10. If this line of thought continues, Part 1 may encompass the entire thing.