Haven’t you heard? It’s John Lennon’s 70th birthday on October 9. Cue a media frenzy of celebration, cram your magazine with naff articles predicting what Lennon would think of 2010, re-release his records, re-form the Plastic Ono Band; all to keep Lennon in the public mind apparently. Lennon is the new benchmark for exploiting cultural hero status and creating a brand – he’s now a top Citroen car salesman – but what other deceased figures has the media tapped for commercial gain?
We’re all communist revolutionaries like Che!
Is any merchandise safe from Che Guevara’s face? The iconic Marxist revolutionary who fought for social and political change can now be found on absolutely everything and even his kids are embarrassed at the brand saturation. Alberto Korda’s Guerrillero Herocico (1960) was named the most famous photograph in the world, pop down to your local music shop, gift shop, anywhere selling mugs or t-shirts or key rings and you will spot the photo. Che has exploded into a brand with his image of counterculture collapsing into itself and becoming a marketing commodity for kids who should probably read about Marxism, Leninism and the Cuban Revolution before they adorn their bedroom walls, t-shirts, thongs, calendars, mugs, key rings and bags with Che. Ironic that a communist is now a symbol of capitalism; I think he would have preferred you to understand his intellectual views rather than cover your nipples with his face.
You remember Punk, that anti-establishment movement with a strong focus on quality dairy products.
Punk was anti-establishment, anarchy, individualism and free-thought, but it’s now an absolute farce. Punk has descended into its most well-known figure Johnny Rotten selling butter; the sale of merchandise like mugs, coasters and satchels painted with punk imagery; the ability to play your favourite punk songs on plastic Rock Band guitars, with the added opportunity of making a virtual Kurt Cobain rock to the Spice Girls; and Dr Martens shameful attempts to sell boots with angelic images of Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain, Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone. The music is slightly tainted when you realise that the attitude and expression of the genre was a complete con, but at least our taste buds can riot with anarchical cups of tea and socio-political creamy buttered toast.
McDonalds think they’re cool…they’re not.
There are many reasons to hate McDonalds but their terrible food is not number one. No, the winner is the dreadful MacTime adverts of the 1990s in which the ultra cool fast food chain uses several dead celebrities in their adverts. We’re not talking about just any dead celebrities though; McDonalds used Marilyn Monroe and James Dean to sell their products. So we’re meant to believe that Marilyn; a cultural figure of sexuality and beauty, and James Dean, one of the most effortlessly cool men in Hollywood history, would both agree to sell McDonalds burgers. Very unlikely, so you now have another reason to never buy McDonalds again.
You can now smell like the King of Cool…whose ashes were buried in the Pacific thirty years ago.
On September 20, 2010 many dreams were fulfilled when the official Steve McQueen Fragrance Set was released. The “mysterious and charismatic fragrance loaded with charm” is of course limited edition, rare and predictably expensive at around $250, but that’s the price you pay for smelling cool. It’s not a wholly accurate scent in that it doesn’t smell of damp human ash, instead “it begins with a refreshing burst of green and citrus notes leading the way to a powerful heart of spices, supported by a wooden base” – just how Steve used to smell! The McQueen exploitation doesn’t end there, Ford has added to the bastardisation with a series of adverts featuring McQueen driving their cars (which are a lot less cool than the classic models he is associated with). One advert proclaiming that “if you build it, he will come”, and tarnish his legacy in your cheesy television promo you mean?
Fat Elvis overload
The legacy of Elvis Presley highlights all that is wrong about the American Dream. Hordes of tacky merchandise, Gracelands now resembling a Disney style theme park, and the big one: impersonators. Elvis’ talent and contribution to music are unmatched and will likely never be seen again, so why do people insist on offering impersonations of the greatest rock and roller of all-time? Respecting and adoring the man is fair enough, but to actually dress-up as Elvis and then attempt to perform his songs, strut his dance moves and entertain in the same way is not clever. He was called The King for a reason, he cannot be imitated so please don’t try. Oh and if you’re planning an Elvis wedding, just shoot yourself now.