Homer Simpson and the 7-Eleven endorsement debacle

Nighthawks In ten days, on July 27, a dozen 7-Eleven stores will turn into Kwik-E Marts.  The remaining 6400 stores will carry Homer dolls, Krustyo’s cereal, Buzz Cola, Squishees, and pink-frosted Sprinklicious donuts. The Simpsons are coming to visit. 

For me, the joke stops here.  I used a 7-Eleven when living in Boston. It was a shrine to processed food, bad service, aesthetics without mercy, design without shame.  The overlit vacancy of the place gave everything a vaguely radioactive quality. 

Some "light at night" is wonderful.  (Remember how you used to feel about when you were coming home with your parents as lights came on.  Safety.  Comfort.  Joy.) But light at night can also be terrible in its vacuity.  Surely, one couldn’t help wondering late at night in Boston, 7-Eleven is the place that souls come to die.  (One of the interesting thing about Hopper’s famous painting of an all-night diner [above] is that we can’t tell which light applies.) 

7-Eleven was the only game in town, so we put up with it.  But it felt like a place that had managed to capture all that was wrong with the American approach to food, brands and retail.  And when you think about it, this can’t have been easy.  I mean, how do you get something this wrong this often? Somebody had to work at it.  Practice the art.  Perfect the formula.  There, it’s ruined.  Hi-5, everyone, hi-5!   

Yes, it’s very Homer, when you think about it.  Only he could have screwed a corner store up this completely.  But what happens when he comes to visit on July 27th? 

Maybe Homer will fit right in at 7-Eleven.  But if there is a place that can take the joyful stupidity out of Mr. Simpson, it’s this. Because, you see, bone-headed stupidity trumps joyful stupidity every time. 

Maybe Marge and the kids and the spirit of The Simpsons will flourish here.  But if there’s a place that can puncture irreverence and irony, it’s a 7-Eleven.  You see, places that are aggressively irony-free have a way of prevailing over every other form of human wit and creativity.

That’s the 7-Eleven promise to you. 

What I mean is this.  7-Eleven is such a disastrous brand and retail proposition that there’s no way it can save itself with a Simpsons endorsement.  Now, if meanings are going to move here, they can only go the other way: from 7-Eleven to The Simpsons. 

And how sad is that?  One of the most effective enemies of numb skull capitalism will have been damaged by one of the great accomplishments of numb skull capitalism.  D’oh!

References

Schiller, Gail.  2007.  Discrmininating?  D’oh!  Only 4 ‘Simpsons’ tie-in partners.  The Hollywood Reporter East.  July 6, 2007, pp. 1-2, p. 2.

7 thoughts on “Homer Simpson and the 7-Eleven endorsement debacle”

  1. Grant,

    I had the exact same feeling about 7-Eleven in a very similar experience in Boston. My assistant booked the wrong hotel in Boston and I was in a bad part of town. 7-Eleven was my only safe haven for a three block walk around (I was surprised even in a city like Boston I could find a holed out downtown having mastered my gutted doiwntown travel behaviour in Cincinatti when i worked for P&G it had similar feel).

    Long story short, I agree that 7-Eleven is a vacuous wasteland, a touchstone fo US urban culture and something I’m sure the Parisians and to a lesser extent the Brits , would turn their backs on.

    Strangely though, I love the fact that no matter what the time, no matter what the place, there are important signs of life in 7-Eleven – the inner city community centre. Whoever works the graveyard shift in one of these neon retail temples should not only get hazard pay, health benefits (i.e. food that is not made available to customers) but also a key to the city for keeping a pulse of life on at night.

  2. this is even better than reverse product placement…it’s reverse place placement.

    i personally love the idea. “the sev” (as i’ve heard it called) always seemed like it had to be fictional. so why not temporarily make it so? it’s a place that has wieners rotating on skewers in a heated glass case for god’s sake…how real could that be? the one in my neighbourhood is next door to a triple X video store and a pawn shop…great set dec work.

  3. Some “light at night” is wonderful

    There’s a particular shade of orange that I’m especially fond of, because any London taxi that is for hire has a sign on its roof that lights up in that shade and therefore means “soon I’ll be safe and warm and on my way home”. I often wonder whether it’s a coincidence that the same shade of orange is passably reminiscent of a campfire. Possibly the guys at Manganese Bronze (the company that makes London’s black cabs) thought it through. Possibly they just got lucky.

  4. Grant,

    Nit pick, do you have your date wrong? There’s a 7-11 in Seattle that’s been a Kwik-E Mart for several weeks now. It was prior to the July 4 holiday in the states.

    I’ve had the unfortunate experience of going to see it. It’s depressing [7-eleven in general, I mean] and not very well done in the eyes of a non-fan like me. However, the place was packed with fans excitedly coming to check it out.

  5. You might want to check out my friend Manish’s blog Ultrabrown (ultrabrown.com) – he’s been talking about how disturbing it is to see the Apu caricature promoted and made mandatory (employees obliged to say “Thank you come again”), etc.

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