It is a commonplace around C3 at MIT that most people under 35 are pretty good at detecting the grammars that produce media and marketing. They see through the TV show, the movie, the advertisement to the strategic and creative strategies from which it springs. (But of course this is not only an MIT understanding. It is shared by millions of people under 35.)
Yesterday, I was looking at the Crest ad for that spinning toothbrush thingy. It featured a woman brushing with gusto. It was corny and stupid in the grinning, idiotic way that so much 1950s advertising was grinning and idiotic. This is precisely the sort of thing that got repudiated as we entered a more sophisticated era in the 1960s and beyond. And it is precisely the thing that has been let back into marketing practice by the new sophistication of those under 35. In a still more sophisticated era there is no point trying to be hipper and less obvious. Everyone gets what’s going on here, so we might as well be utterly obvious. Indeed, it is more authentic for us so to be.
We have in a sense gone full circle: from corn to subtlety back to corn again, riding that great tilt-a-whirl that is contemporary culture.
But I think things are a little different in the world of politics. Here, the real sophistication of the under-35 voter means that you really have to watch it, and when you don’t, this voter will make you pay.
Hence the article today in The Onion. This captures precisely the sensibility of the under-35 vote quite precisely. (With the proviso that The Onion is necessarily a little more observant and unforgiving.) In this wonderful piece, The Onion nails the Obama camp for its artifice in image building. Look, it says with glee, we see what you’re doing. And it’s precisely because you appear to think we cannot see the artifice here that we must point it out and make you pay. Play us if you must, but don’t play us for fools.
The entire piece is worth reading (see the link below), but if I may let me quote my favorite passage.
Obama has reportedly been working tirelessly with his top political strategists to perfect his looking-off-into-the-future pose, which many believe is vital to the success of the Illinois senator’s campaign.
When performed correctly, the pose involves Obama standing upright with his back arched and his chest thrust out, his shoulders positioned 1.3 feet apart and opened slightly at a 14-degree angle, and his eyes transfixed on a predetermined point between 500 and 600 yards away. Advisers say this creates the illusion that Obama is looking forward to a bright future, while the downturned corners of his lips indicate that he acknowledges the problems of the present.
Oh, sublime. So much of politics is an exercise is posturing (figurative and here literal) that it is hard to image what politics can look like once the new voter is factored in. In the meantime, we leave it to the likes of The Onion, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart to point out to the would-be emperors that we can see right through that clothing they don’t have on.
Anonymous. 2008. Obama Practices Looking-Off-into-Future Pose. The Onion. Issue 44-22. May 28th, 2008. here.