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The Man: He’s so much cooler than you

February 21, 2007

Boston’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force/Lite Bright Terrorism debacle had its day. It’s now been replaced by this and by yesterday’s (God help us) “late-breaking news” that Britney has gone back into rehab.

I suspect that Cartoon Network was trying to “break through the noise.” They were trying to be rebellious, suit-wearing bad boys. I mean, we live in a world where advertising is everywhere. We also live in a world where freaks have moved away from such contained spaces as Coney Island to your TV.

A TRAIN WRECK

When I was maybe six or seven, my grandfather took me in his truck somewhere far out into the Carolina countryside to see a train wreck. I remember the chrome of the Amtrak cars all twisted up. A huge crane was being used to untangle the seemingly endless mess that threaded into the distance; that sleek and shiny thing was as broken as a used-up toy.

My grandfather and I licked ice cream cones as we looked on. Then, we went home, ate, and watched TV.

If my Grandfather were still alive, I suppose that he and I would have headed up to Boston with some ice cream because everyone likes a good train wreck.

And, the incident was a perfect one too. Boston’s Mayor Moe (let’s just keep it simple and call him that) got upset over some “guerrilla marketing” set up by marketing geniuses Larry, Curly, Curly Joe (and even Iggy and the Stooges) at the Cartoon Network.

Yes, it was very funny.

Mayor looks like a puffed-up idiot, who just got hit in the face with a pie. Mayor can’t tell a toy from a bomb. Mayor is just another narcissist, who thinks bin Laden is out to get him personally. That’s why we “need” to protect petting zoos from terrorism and why Times Square is not considered a terrorist target.

Al Qaeda hates our freedom and our petting zoos.

It’s dumb-ass-ery. Narcissism. Greed. Mayor thinks Osama bin Laden is a member of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Mayor thinks bin Laden is under your bed— and, if he isn’t there, he’s in your closet. And, definitely at the petting zoo. Mayor thinks your sparkly Christmas tree is a weapon. And, he’s not too sure about that kid’s Lincoln Logs.

Mayor Moe and his stooges are, of course, buffoons. (Slap your head, — very, very hard — if you didn’t realize that. Then, take two fingers, and poke them into your own eyes.) Those Aqua Teen Hunger Force ads were obvious, slid-shod pieces of commercial arrogance. Of course, it wasn’t terrorism. But, the mayor is still angry. He slapped all of the stooges at the Cartoon Network. One had to resign his post.

Mayor Moe was afraid of a Lite Brite because he probably believes Stooge-commander George on how likely we are to be bombed again. Meanwhile, critics are saying that many of the dangers to society have been overblown.

So, I’m saying this: Go back to gazing upon Britney’s bald head and/or blonde wig. However, before you do (and I know that gazing upon Britney’s bald scalp and nether regions is like looking at one of those fortune telling 8-Balls, so I’ll be quick about it), the real question is: what was the Cartoon Network doing vandalizing a piece of public property, anyway?

I mean, it’s one thing, if Neckface tags a wall and quite another, if a company is doing it too. (And, still another, now that Neckface works for Vans shoes.)

BREAKING THROUGH THE NOISE

I suspect that Cartoon Network was trying to “break through the noise.” They were trying to be rebellious, suit-wearing bad boys. I mean, we live in a world where advertising is everywhere. We also live in a world where freaks have moved away from such contained spaces as Coney Island to your TV. Michael Jackson has retired his “World-Freak” sash and given it to Britney. Britney will hold it briefly (she’s too vacuous to hold the sash for long), only to give it to the next “All-Media Freak.”

In this world, the humble advertiser is desperate to look cool and has to Break Through. A&E is doing just that to market The Sopranos: they’ve planted various fake body parts in taxi trunks — an arm hangs out in the back of a cab, a bumper sticker tells you to watch the show.

Boo-yah.

Fooled you.

And, because we fooled you, we’re cool. We’re not like Friends or anything. God knows. We’re miles away from Golden Girls — don’t even think about that. (We sell the same crap as they do on Golden Girls, minus that one for “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” But still, our crap is definitely cooler and a lot more dangerous than a freaking wild animal safari. )

We’re just breaking through the noise.

These days, The Man is in a tee shirt, and he’s cooler than you. That tee shirt came from Valentino. Yours looks like it came from the Gap. Sorry, but that shirt isn’t fooling anyone.

A MESSAGE FROM THE MAN

He’s saying:

Hey guys, I’m The Man, but I’m also fighting “The Man.” How? By putting up this on-purpose crappy thing that—get this — throws a finger at you. Cool, huh? That means I’m fighting “The Man.” That also means you should watch my show. And, uh, buy Pepsi or whatever it is that gets advertised on my, uh, show because I’m, uh, fighting “The Man….” And, hey, here’s the finger!

And, dude, because I’m a rebel, I’m not going to put my stupid logo on a billboard— that’s too establishment. I’m going to attach it to a bridge!

As it is, my elevator at work has a flat-screen monitor that blares snippets of news along with advertising. The whole elevator car goes slack-jawed as they stare. Many bathrooms have advertising. Bank statements. NetFlix envelopes. Spam. Guys on stilts handing out fliers. (Quickly, a line from stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg — “When someone hands you a flier, it’s like they’re saying, ‘Here, you throw this away.'”) Soon, your cellphone will be crammed with ads. The list goes on and on, much like that upended Amtrak train that I looked upon as a child. One day, you’ll look back upon these days as filled with peace.

The quality of those Lite Brite crappy things they’d attached to bridges are an additional part of the marketers’ ersatz rebellion. The Cartoon Network puts on professionally amateurish shows such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force because they don’t want to seem like they’re on the uncool side of the consumer/merchant divide. They want to make the numbers, and, then, hide it from the rest of us with a rebellious attitude keyed into today’s cult of the amateur. The Cartoon Network wants to be as cool as YouTube — a site where amateurs put up their own movies. Or, maybe, they want to be like indie rock, where seemingly every band is headed by someone who can’t really sing, as a way to prove that they aren’t fancy; they are, thereby, “real.”

Most of that is fine. I love YouTube (check out this link) and indie rock (check out this band). But, Cartoon Network is a division of Time Warner. (Check out this annual report.) It’s not a shack on the highway; they aren’t amateurs. They’re rebels with healthcare. Finger-throwing dudes with 401-Ks. Soon, they may merge with NBC Universal too. If the merger happens, Time Warner will become an even bigger nest of finger-throwing types acting amateur because acting amateur is (right now, anyway) so much hipper. Acting-amateur just seems less desperate.

I should say throwing the finger at Boston drivers is a good idea, one that I fully support. I’ve done it myself. That guy who damn-near ran me down on Newbury and Exeter a few years back — you get the perma-finger.

. . . One more thing: I’m not against advertising, even though if you look to the left or to the right of this page, you will see no advertising. Did you even notice? Doubt it. Because, you’ve come to expect it on sites such as this one. (Hey, Pepsi — That’s all we drink at Guernica!We even water our plants with that stuff! Hey, Cartoon Network — Guernica loves your work! Hey, Ad Salesman—love ya! Love your suit! And, love that tee shirt! Is it Valentino or D&G? Mine? It’s, uh, O&N.)

Advertising is fine. That’s what pays the bills. But, this latest escapade? Boring. Vanilla. Corporate. Vandalism.

— Meakin Armstrong

To read other blog entries by Meakin Armstrong or others at GUERNICA click HERE

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