Culture contest (test your skill!)

barbering school video Ok, here’s your assignment.

Have a look at the YouTube video here.

And decide.

Is it:

A. satire (shameless and savage)?

B. genuine (and a great example of “don’t try this at home” folk advertising)

Report back. Marshall the evidence.  Bang out an answer.  Limit is 200 words.  Smartest, funniest answer gets a copy of Chief Culture Officer and my undying admiration. 

Learning to detect real ads from faux ones?   A life skill, surely.


No searching around on line.  There is an answer there.  Dooh! 


Thanks for Leora Kornfeld for finding the video.

36 thoughts on “Culture contest (test your skill!)

  1. katie

    B. genuine

    two wanna-be film makers post their stuff online, clinging to the wild hope that it will “go viral” enough that they’ll be paid buckets of money for their efforts.

  2. Scott Ellington

    We, the 2-bit cosmet/barberologing students of Salt Lake Community College are unlicensed practitioners of legitimate, biting, tongue-in-cheek parody of cockeyed local television commericals that aren’t brought to you by Rhett&LinKommercial from the Mecca of Moromon Culture, because a worse choice of words is unthinkably funnier, and nobody who gave their BEST (for a free commercial or a $2-3 haircut) ever regretted it.

  3. Bryan

    (Because I’m in the midst of studying for my law school finals, I’m writing this in the style of a test answer.)

    The issue is whether the Salt Lake Community College Barber and Cosmetology School commercial is a parody of genuine.

    Here, the pro-parody plaintiff will seek to apply South Park v. Joseph Smith and argue that, b/c it attacks Mormons (whose only function in popular culture is to be mocked for their lack of hip and cool), the commercial is a parody. They will also note the clip-art graphics and deliberately irritating jingle as prima facie evidence.

    However, the pro-genuine defendant will seek to apply Napoleon Dynamite v. Box Office Mojo and argue that, by means of cultural jujitsu, the outré can turn their weaknesses into strengths. Furthermore, the defendant will point to the commercial’s final shot as dispositive. The parodist will usually tip his hand by including an ironic voice over, 555 phone number, or other “funny” text to alert the viewer that the establishment does not exist. The lack of such signals and use of what appears to be real directions and phone number constitute an affirmative defense to the plaintiff’s charge.

    A court will likely find that the commercial is genuine and not a parody.

  4. oliviacw

    Well, it’s not a “genuine tv commercial” because it’s the wrong length for a traditional media buy. 1:37 is more than 3 times as long as a typical television 30 second spot, but too short for an informercial. It is almost certain that it has never been aired in a commercial venue.

    However, there are other aspects of “genuine-ness” that we could consider. Is this about a real business? Almost definitely. The physical locations portrayed appear realistic for the claimed situation. The people also have that slightly-rehearsed speaking manner of untrained actors, yet they are comfortable in their environment.

    Is this intended to be a genuine ad aimed at attracting business? No. The style, cheezy jingle, and special effects are satirical – not of the business, but of a particular style of advertising. A really bad ad for a small business operation might have some of these attributes, but probably not all. The ad is deliberately long in order to present the widest possible set of stereotypical elements (which also include things like slo-mo hair fluffing, hair tossing, and big-toothed grins).

  5. Alex


    While my hopes were initially raised at the prospect of a salon openly offering the “bowl” and “teddy boy” style haircuts, I stand firmly on the side of satire. My evidence stems from two observations:

    – The “special offer” displayed at approximately 1:12 in the video. The offer – the Pre-Mission Special – is not actually a discount at all. Had they perhaps thrown in a copy of Big Hair, or at least offered for someone to read from the book while the haircut is being conducted, I might have thought otherwise.

    – The group shot at the end includes no one over the age of around 13. Where are the instructors? Where are the other members of the Barbering and Cosmetology School? Presumably it isn’t an entirely student run affair.

    I must admit, I was almost swayed to the side of genuine based on the sheer folly displayed by some actresses with their own choice of hair style and colors. My experience is that salon staff are often the quirkiest when it comes to personal hair choices.

    But alas I vote satire, and wait once again for The Pompadour to return to prominence so I can once again walk outdoors without ridicule.

    — Pompadour Forever

  6. ken

    My 11 year old son said it was “obviously” not a real commercial but a couple of guys trying to get attention.
    He is more media literate than most adults. I have to go with his vote.

  7. Domen

    Having watched/researched thousands (literally I’m afraid) of YT videos in the last months, the only thing I can say is…

    What’s the difference between a and b again? Words like genuine and satire don’t work too well on YT. It’s like dwelling on the wetness of rain.
    How about hyper-genuine or mock-satire?

  8. Nelson


    Gotta be a fake. “unlicensed”, Mormon missionary customers, girls way too pretty (although the braces were a nice touch), $2 won’t pay for much – even in SLC. On the other hand, the setting looked pretty good.

  9. Marcus

    My guess is that it’s made by some high-school students in a video club. Almost all the people featured are of the same age-group, too many of them have intentionally bad haircuts/hairdos, the haircut images are an obvious joke.

    For the answer “genuine” you’d have to ask what it’s really advertising. The “salon” or the makers? or something else?

  10. Nick

    Clearly this is the work of a subversive working to undermine the chaste virtues of the Mormon community.

    The ad promises cheap contact with a group of virgins (“unlicensed”, Utah), who ‘need the practice’ to continue down an ungodly path to barbering, bad makeup, and SHIFTLESS FORNICATION!!

    Come in for a sloppy quick one before your trip to Samoa, young Edgar! God won’t care. After all, it was only two dollars!

    It masks this agenda with a layer of ‘hip irony’ to placate the adult vetters who wish to appeal to younger demographics. Everyone knows that mullets are funny. But you know what isn’t funny? SATAN BITING OFF YOUR SACK!!! Say hello to Claudius, reprobate scum!

  11. Joe Wasserman

    This advertisement is, in fact, a work of genius that displays a profound understanding of semiotic principles. It epitomizes ‘genuo-irony’, i.e. the semantico-referential content of the ad is sincere while the presentation indexes a position in an –onomic typology that is unsincer. The quality of a haircut from a community college is a priori under suspicion, but the self-reflexive irony of this ad constantly points up the weaknesses inherent to haircuts from these students, a strategy that lessens the impact of these weaknesses by pre-empting any argument that marshals the quality of SLCCBCS’s product against them. The most perfect moment of the ad comes around 1:20, when mismatched clipart haircuts and melodramatic cosmetology students assault the viewer from an intertwingled background of magenta and black, a background that suggests the dialectic of cost and quality that not only confronts Mormons needing haircuts, but which is the ultimate dichotomy driving our post-distinction (in the Bourdieuvian sense) field of hairdos. Besides, it’s only two dollars.

  12. ville t

    i’m not a 100% sure about this but in the mormon community, the beard is for the grandpa, the community elder. so, young studs aren’t allowed to grow one before they “move up” in the food chain. so, i’d say it’s an uninformed satire in this sense.

    ps. the video is missing the flattop!! 🙂

  13. Rick Liebling

    As others have stated, labels such as ‘fake,’ ‘genuine,’ ‘authentic’ and ‘satire’ are almost meaningless. Subaru and Bud Light make commercials in the style of fake informercials. Weezer sells branded Snuggies and the death of Billy Mays sends a nation into mourning.

    So, what is it? It is content; to be interpreted, remixed, mashed up and recombinated myriad times and ways.

  14. Lamar Mundane

    It’s both satire and the real thing. They’re poking fun at Mormons on missions but genuinely trying to recruit customers and new students with a wink and nod. People knock cosmetology all the time but people who cut hair are happy and have fun doing it. This commercial shows just that.

  15. Henri Weijo

    While you suckers are out here debating whether this is real or not, I for one will be taking full advantage of this spectacular offer called the Pre-mission Special. Two haircuts for 4$? How can you pass that up! Now I know what you’re going to say: “a single haircut is only 2$ anyway.” But you’re forgetting the Pre-mission Special has an extended warranty of 4 years! So you embark on your missionary journey knowing that your bowl-cut won’t break down just as you’re about to close another recruit for the Mormon church. Thanks Barbering and Cosmotology school*!

    *an unlicensed salon

  16. Martin Bishop

    (Hoping that sufficient time has passed since your post was published that this response, not quite in the spirit of the contest, is OK)

    Since I had already seen a couple of other Rhett&Link commercials (for those who’ve not seen the Cullman ad, you should definitely take a look), my first reaction was “Oh, that looks like another R&L commercial).

    What’s interesting is not that I happened to be right but just that’s what I immediately thought. I think these ads are both satirical and genuine. I wonder if they increase sales?

    Link to Cullman ad:

  17. ScottMack

    The correct answer may be “c” – this is a genuine satire put together by SLCC to create a buzz and interest.

    There are over 100 colleges in Utah with SLCC being one of the largest, and showing an edgy and humourous side can’t hurt enrollments.

    Mormons, in general are a mis-understood group, but in fact are funny, irreverent, and very intelligent (a little like Canadians) – Mitt Romney being the obvious exception. The humor here is non-offensive, smart, and funny.

    Finally, the ad here looks and feels legit. I have worked in SLC and can attest that these girls could easily be seen walking the Temple grounds on Sunday. Also, I am pretty sure I saw these two missionaries going door to door in Watertown MA last year.

  18. Simon Steinhardt

    Given the choices, there’s no doubt that it’s genuine, though it’s far more intentionally folksy than don’t-try-this-at-home folksy. There’s plenty of evidence once the “more info” curtain has been pulled back, including the admission that the creators have done this before, plan to do this again, claim to love doing it and – most importantly – offer behind-the-scenes footage as proof of origin. Tags like “worst,” “ever” and “bad” could be construed as, well, bad, at least for the client in this case, but the reality is that these are all qualities that paradoxically make local ads great. They don’t take themselves or their products/services too seriously so there’s not much room for satire – as opposed to, say, the Slap-Chop guy. For weird businesses that offer weird things like $2 haircuts, there’s plenty of room to be both charming and genuine, just by being themselves. I think Rhett and Link are just looking to evoke that weirdness to its fullest extent.

  19. DanT

    FAKE, but without some cultural knowledge, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Cultural evidence of fakery in this case falls into two categories:

    (1) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints frowns upon facial hair, yet a person portayed as a member has a beard (0:32).
    (2) They also don’t call themselves Mormons (video title).

    (3) Beauty salon trainees don’t pick up or carry their “heads” (fake heads used mostly for practice styling) by the hair. (0:47)
    (4) Students not wearing a smock (official uniform) and with smock unbuttoned would not be considered professional, so would not appear in promotional materials. (no smock 0:46 and unbuttoned 0:39)
    (5) Student not wearing a smock would not be allowed to cut hair. (1:13)

    The clincher:
    Cosmetology schools must be licensed salons and student work must be done under supervision of licensed cosmetologists. (1:29)

  20. Patrick Pearce

    If you are…. a starvingly hip student with high speed net access (on campus) tuned in with all your pores to counter-cultural oddities in all their forms (of which we imagine Salt Lake City has many) to relieve the tedium of the term-end grind, this low-budg commercial goes down as easy a seasonal shot of Liquid Cocaine (151 rum, Goldschlager cinnamon schnapps and Jagermeister).

    Even if they mess up your hair bad – not too likely with these instructors hovering – you can always tell your friends you got sucked in by their wacky viral.

  21. Hobart

    I was always taught to consider the audience. It’s hard to imagine that someone who stumbles across this…object…while living in, say, the Bronx, will be moved to grab the next jet for that haircut deal. But suppose you live close to the Salt Lake City. Then this becomes something unexpected–something that might capture your attention and move you drop by the school and see what’s going on. So I say that it is a real commercial designed, however self-conciously, to appeal to a local, young (and possibly terminally bored) audience.

  22. Batcraft

    This would have been satire years ago, an easy sending-up of yokels by producers with a clear advantage in terms of media literacy. But we’ve all developed more literacy in the nuances of popular media and satire in the past 10 years.

    Middle Americans now explore their identities through media as much as urbanites do. These media can be as tame as the Blue Collar Comedy Tour or as transgressive as “Dancing Outlaw,” but they share a willingness to identify and negotiate a middle American identity that acknowledges associations of dullness, parochialism, and dysfunction; owns them; and, disrupts them. In its own way, the tone here has allegiances with political queerness: a willingness to dig into stereotypes in order to claim and control them.

    This is satire in that it pokes fun at its subject. It is genuine in that its subject is in on the joke. It is also genuine in that its sponsors (Rhett and Link) maintain a Middle Americanism themselves and project a humor that is kinder and more complicit than that of the urban documentarian. This video represents a culture where the mechanics of satire have been mastered by more publics than we usually assume.

  23. Tim

    I say that these are outtakes from a genuine commercial–crew and director fooling around with real cosmetologists during the shooting–that have been repurposed for something satirical.

  24. Morgan Gerard

    Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, 1980’s anthropology rears its great white head to bite citizen legs off and, in an aside scene, bury one of them, Jean Baudrillard. I’m no Roy Scheider, so I don’t want to get too embroiled in sheriffing the topic of authenticity, but aren’t all TV ads to some (if not all) extent fake? Plus, most of these girls are just too hot for hairdressing school.

  25. Rick Lindemann

    Both. It certainly appears to be a genuine junior college setting. Obviously, it’s also intentionally on the satirical side though. My guess is that is was a Salt Lake Community College Communication Major’s senior group project in like Phase 4 of 6 or so. As the others stated, it appears to be an uncut for TV length.

  26. Kevin Romo-leon

    Mr. McCracken:

    Amen to a couple of guys who have taken a stand against the brutally lame “local commercials” that we’ve learned to accept – and who have taken the initiative to go from consumer to producer!

    Yeah, they had fun with the cheesiness of the whole production. But what’s important, is that these guys understand pop culture. There’s something about ‘satire’ that our culture finds extremely entertaining. And I can justify this argument with two words – Family Guy.

    Also, this production is totally intended for a local male audience. A culture that isn’t ‘fashionable’ – but rather a slow culture that appreciates the simple things life has to offer – ‘pretty’ girls and good humor. In this case, it doesn’t get any more ‘genuine’ than “the two dollar haircut.”

    So my answer…does it matter? The bottom line – bad local commercials, consumers turned producers, an understanding of culture, +184,000 impressions. Not bad!

  27. Tom H. C. Anderson

    Loved it. It’s also an example of why smaller more relaxed companies are doing a much better job leveraging social media much better than larger companies where this would never get through corp comm. or legal.

    Of course it helps that they are local and not making fun of an outside group.

  28. Stacers

    Charming commercial promoting the guys that made it. Has nothing to do with mormons, slcc, or local commercials (except that the comic content is a gentle send-up of the three meant to be entertaining enough to drive interest to they guys who made it).

  29. Roo

    And here I’ve been looking toward NYC, CHI, LA, or SF for great advertising, when it’s now perfectly clear that the Mecca is located somewhere in center of the country. You know…In one of those square-shaped states.

    Gosh! My hopes are that this is satire and that there are still clients out there that wouldn’t let this fly. You’d be surprised! Scary thing is that it might be considered “real” advertising because it could be “disruptive.” It’s also why my first reaction to watching Napoleon Dynamite was to slap my TV set a few times.

    What’s fascinating is that you could pose such a question, and folks may actually have to ponder it?

    Some Satire Giveaways: it’s too long, haircut guarantee, carrying mannequin heads by the hair–Nice touch, btw… And my personal favorite, a line I thought was the USP… (Rosser Reeves forgive me!) “I won’t mess up, and even if I do, it’s only $2.” I could hear the wheels turning…”Uh…2 BUCKS? OR… Uhhh…How I look for uhhh… the next 4 to 6 weeks? Uhhh, OKAY, Ralphie-boy… You got me! 2 bucks it is!!!”

    Nice try. Hell, a re-edit might do the trick.

  30. peter spear

    what a beautiful challenge this is.

    I came across this spot this evening and thought it may apply to the test (don’t let the URL dissuade or disgust you. or, maybe do.)

    primarily, it seems to me, they highlight those moments when the value provided by the cultural resonance (usually dissonant?) far outweighs (mocks?) the assumed value the market and us, as participants, are meant to invest.

    so doing, it seems, they are able to do what all great advertising does – inspire affection for a proposition – all while mocking both the notion of affection and the expectation that they might actually be in business, transacting, pitching, etc.

    I suppose the question then is, what changes when you realize that they are, in fact, actual profit-seeking devices? and is this kind of deconstruction available only to the mundane?

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