by Yule Heibel on May 15, 2003

Have I mentioned that some advertisements make me want to lash out and punch the walls? It’s typically the imagery that has this effect on me, not the words, which I’m much more likely to forgive or ignore. Must be the non-literate in me: “can be influenced by pictures.” For example, I could never figure out why a nice boy from the Bronx based the advertised image of his clothes on folks who look like they’ve stepped out of the personal photo album of the Fuehrer’s closest (and blondest) friends at Berchtesgaden. Why were Ralph Lauren’s models, until fairly recently, always tall and blonde? He seems to have begun including some women of colour in his ads lately, but just a few years ago Lauren’s ad campaigns painted a picture of America that looked like it was shot by Leni Riefenstahl in her Nueremberg rally phase. At some point he started getting a more “British-y” look, but the underlying Aryan theme always prevailed. Gave me hives. Did he feel that this is the America he needs to conquer, or did he feel that this is the America he needs to be? Whose America is this? Now a different ad campaign has me doing backflips, again featuring tall blondes. I’m 178 cm, almost 5ft.10 for those of you in Togo & America, so this isn’t the rant of a petite person; I just don’t understand why ideals are so terrifyingly banal — and tall, and blonde, to boot — in the merchandising of goods. Kasper, a clothing maker, has a series of five images that go under the heading of A Career in Living. I’m not sure yet which one I hate the most. It could be the one of the girl-woman who is loading a tricycle into the back of a station wagon. She is positioned outside an upscale home — note the wide solid wood entrance door, the wall-mounted lantern, the wrought-iron balcony railing displaying cascading plants, the expensive paving stones underfoot. Notice her feet. To my mind, Kasper’s clothing is hideous enough, but the shoes should be shredded and put into a landfill. If this is a career in living, will she still be able to walk normally after she retires? I’m also annoyed by the discrepancy of her extreme youth and the pomposity of the home: when I look at that picture, I think “au pair,” not “mistress of the house,” in which case her shoes bug me even more. How can she be running after that kid on the trike? In this ad campaign, it’s the words (“a career in living”) that annoy me, too. As in: now you don’t have to feel pressured to look professional and presentable only at your job, you can have that same no-excuses lifestyle at home. Your living is a career, your career is work, and work makes you free…., if you buy the right stuff? Yeah, cheers, thanks a lot.

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