Monday, January 23, 2012
Hidden Persuaders Expose Themselves
One of the most popular and memorable movie stills in AP's photo archive is a publicity shot of Marilyn Monroe's skirt caught in an updraft from a sidewalk subway vent. It was used to flog the film "The Seven Year Itch." Unforgettable, and I'm sure it helped to fill the theaters.
I have been looking at advertising images all my life just like everybody else, and I understand very well that they speak to us in a vernacular to which we're so conditioned we aren't even aware of our own suspended disbelief. But the one above broke through a lifetime of high gloss hypnosis.
My God, just look at it. As if you could avoid it, if you're me. It's on display overlooking the 8th Avenue subway stop at 33rd Street which I still occasionally use to go to my former office. And it's more than a dozen stories tall!
Media persuasion depends almost entirely on imagery that invites us to imagine and admire ourselves in guises and poses that in our right minds we'd never dream of adopting in real life and that would end our marriages and friendships if our nearest and dearest ever did. Bizarre, theatrical, and above all dishonest.
Somehow such invitations have long since come to seem normal most of the time. But looking at this colossus of lubricious pulchitrude reminds me that the economy surfs along daily on cynical appeals to what strangers imagine are my dreams, needs, fears and longings. They're often not far from the mark.
It's creepy when you're forced to consider it. As I was when I saw this ad for cheap bras.
And as Joe DiMaggio was forced to consider it when he came on that flyskirt photo shoot, Marilyn surrounded by a crowd of leering wolf whistlers, and told his wife to knock it off or else. We all know how that worked out for him.