Acerbic Humor in Pride And Prejudice

I've only read one Jane Austen novel, the infamous Pride And Prejudice, which I likely never would have read unless it had been forced on me in my senior year AP English Literature class (let that be all the lesson one might need about the often-trash opinions of teenage boys on "girl stuff").

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Silliness In Star Wars

Alright, people, it's time to invite the ire of the internet (although considering my readership never really rises above five or so I should be fine) and write about Star Wars, which has become the internet's most divisive topic after the release of The Last Jedi, the franchise's most recent installment of its current main trilogy.

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The Goofy Ending Of Moby-Dick

One of the most interesting exercises I ever did in college was performed on an unremarkable day in an otherwise unremarkable English class, when our professor challenged us to figure out what the actual first line of Moby-Dick is. I'm not kidding; read the full text of the novel and you'll be struck by the idea that you could choose at least three different points of entry into it, each of which slightly change how we approach the book.

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Slapstick in Romeo And Juliet

Shakespeare is an interesting author, because his works have all been very specifically grouped into genres that are almost unique unto themselves. There are Shakespearean comedies, tragedies, and histories, all of which have their own flavor that separates them more from the works of any other playwright than from each other, and sometimes they overlap in interesting ways: tragedies that contain humor, comedies that have heartbreaking moments, and histories with elements of each.

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Not-So-Cold Shoulder

The side of the highway is not where one expects anything meaningful to occur. It’s a place that exists entirely out of necessity, a place designed to only be relevant when something goes wrong. It’s a place of accidents, of malfunctions, of all the different little ways that unhappy coincidences can ruin days, months, lives.

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Coming In To Land

Taking a flight home is far from the most exciting thing most people will do in their lifetimes. Most of us have done it before, time after time, so often that it’s become something utterly routine. We look out our windows, watching home grow larger and larger in the window, and feel a profound sense of… all too often, nothing, really.

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Horsing Around

It’s hard to notice anything as you’re heading to work. Not only is it early enough that sleep is still difficult to shake off, you’re trying to prepare yourself for the busy day ahead. Your mind is whirling with a thousand different thoughts and plans, and with its dulling from sleep this is akin to something a lawnmower trying to trim sidewalk.

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A Backwards Glance

I’m not sure what made me look backward as I was crossing the street that day to get to work. I don’t even remember the day, honestly, just that I was in a hurry and had a long day ahead of me. But I do remember looking back, and what I saw has stayed etched in my mind so perfectly that it might as well be framed on my wall.

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Introducing The Next Series!

Trust me, everyone, I’m surprised too. Two blog posts delivered as promised two weeks? Am I alright? Is this the return of consistency? Well, now that the bottleneck of an intensive post about Beauty and The Beast is out of the way, I’d like to think so. But for anyone who kept count, it’s clear that that last post made eight, meaning that it’s time to move on from Close Reading Everything to a new series.

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The Beast Within: Analyzing Gaston and LeFou's Relationship in Beauty and The Beast

It's finally time. Once again, I must apologize for not finishing this in any kind of timely manner, but the past few weekends have been a bit hectic with some personal issues sprinkled in to delay the writing of this. But we’ve gotten some time this weekend, so here we go: Beauty And The Beast.

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The Full Room: Breaking Down The New Avengers Trailer

HOLY. SHIT. IT'S OUT. WE JUST GOT A NEW INFINITY WAR TRAILER AND IT LOOKS AMAZING AND I CAN'T HANDLE IT AND I WANT TO WATCH IT NOW!

Now that I've had my obligatory freak-out, I want to talk about what makes this trailer, attached below, so good and so much better than the Justice League trailer I examined a bit over a month ago. Specifically, I want to show how this trailer offers us two succinct, powerful, and believable emotional cores.

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An Empty Room: Breaking Down The Justice League and Civil War Trailers

As I'm sure just about all my readers are aware, the big box-office movie landscape is dominated by super-hero movies now, which in turn dominated by two competing entertainment companies: Marvel and DC. Marvel, of course, has been releasing success after success for pretty much the past ten yeas, while DC has been something of an underwhelming presence in theaters.

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Detour! My Favorite Ads from SuperBowl Sunday

Hi everyone! As everyone reading this is aware, last night was Super Bowl Sunday, otherwise known as advertising's biggest night. In the past few years the night's become something of a contest between the largest agencies, to one-up each other with creative, clever, and powerful ads from a bevy of multi-million dollar clients. With that said, as someone who works in advertising and watched the big game all the way through, I thought I'd gather up my five favorite ads of the night for you all here. Enjoy! Next week, we're back to our last two installments of Close-Reading Everything.

5. It's A Tide Ad

Sometimes originality is overrated. Kicked off by the video above, the central premise, that the sheer quantity of clean clothes in advertising means they're all secretly Tide ads, is genuinely interesting and clever. The campaign wasn't done with just a single video, however. In a display of exceedingly clever media buying, Tide placed short TV spots all throughout the night, replicating some of the most memorable ads from past Super Bowls but adding their own twist. It's a smart, fun, memorable campaign, and deserves to be recognized as such.

4. Celebrations To Come: The NFL

Another display of clever media buying, the NFL had some good fun. Throughout the game, viewers had been teased with short ads showing Eli Manning asking various members of his team if they were all prepared for an upcoming event we could only guess at. Then, late in the third quarter, the spot above played, paying off all the hype with a playfully hilarious, way over-the-top touchdown celebration as a salute to one of the more enjoyable aspects of football.

3. The Anti-Manifesto: Jeep

"Show, don't tell." That's the most fundamental piece of writing advice that exists, and for good reason. Bland exposition, narration, or expounding is always inferior to vivid description or figurative language. Jeep decided to embrace that with their Super Bowl spot, in which the capabilities of their newest stand as their manifesto. A strikingly simple video made even more striking when compared to the pontificating of certain other brands, this jeep ad is a refreshing change of pace, a powerful statement of brand identity, and genuinely interesting piece of film.

2. Doritos Blaze vs. Mountain Dew Ice

Sometimes, having a damn good time is the order of the day, and this advertisement is pretty much the very best version of that possible. From the hilarity of watching Peter Dinklage and Morgran Freeman lip sync a rap battle to the incredible way they each commit to their piece to the fun cameos in each, this spot seems like it must have been just as much fun to make as it is to watch and displays the high point of advertising as entertainment.

1. Good Odds: Toyota

It really doesn't get much better than this. A clever premise with a strong emotional core that gets executed to perfection, this ad manages to inspire and move in equal measure. This is everything a good TV spot can be when it wants to have an impact, an emotionally powerful, genuinely interesting, and potentially meaningful work of film that's just as wonderful to watch as it is memorable after it is watched. May everyone else in the industry follow their lead.  (Also, it's worth mentioning that Toyota was absolutely on fire last night, and their "One Team" ad was also excellent.)

Let me know any of your favorites in the comments below!

With excitement and optimism,

Alex

How Many Assholes We Got On This Ship? Close-Reading Advertising Scandals

Awkward advertising. At best, it refers to an ad either written or placed unfortunately, creating unintentional hilarity and circulating on Tumblr for a week or so before vanishing, never to be seen from again, like this well-intentioned Turkish Airlines banner that ended up with an entirely unintended message when actually realized in the real world:

LOL BP.jpg

At worst, though, it's something far more damaging and horrifying. Most recently, this was on display when H&M decided it was a good idea to dress a young black boy in a hoodie bearing this incredibly-racist-seeming message:

Monkey BP.JPG

Most famously, however, advertising agencies failed this past year with the following Pepsi ad, that managed to be both profoundly insulting to anyone protesting genuine injustice and an incredibly demeaning message about the goals and methods of, and resistance faced by such protests: 

It would be easy to tear this video apart as a complete artistic failure to accurately or powerfully represent what it wants to represent, between the trivializing of protests, the white savior complex it embodies, and the pathetic attempts to connect to a young demographic, but that's been done better elsewhere. Instead, I want to talk about who exactly is to blame for these incredible failures of advertising on every level.

It would be tempting to argue that these faux-pas in advertising are the fault of those who came up with them, the product of one bad egg or tone-deaf creative, and indeed the companies and agencies who produce them often act as if they were. Often in moments like this, when scandals of insensitivity or offense are brought to light, it's individuals who are fired, examples made of what becomes of them, their termination used as stand-in for a large-scale solution. This is a common trend in just about every field, in which those deeply embedded in the system excise a single part of it rather than examining problems with the broader system itself. The presented story is that this was the mistake of an individual whose removal will return the system to the happy, proper order that characterizes its normal state. 

My own personal, experience, however, points to a problem far larger and more systemic. As a copywriter working in advertising myself, I can confirm that these videos, images, or campaigns NEVER leap fully-formed from the mind of whoever comes up with them into the world that receives them. I work on relatively small clients: a couple Broadway Musicals, an auto show, nothing colossally powerful in terms of reach. Nevertheless, the ideas that I come up and copy I write are subjected to round upon round of scrutiny. They're reviewed by my direct superior, the client services team, any designers that work on bringing my ideas to life and the client themselves. Many of these people see the idea more than once at multiple points in its creation, and any of whom could at any time make changes or push the idea in a different direction if they're uncomfortable with it. This has happened before, from things as large as an entire concept and as small as a quibble over diction. For a company like Pepsi, the chain of approval is undoubtedly far longer, and should without a shadow of a doubt be just as rigorous. That such disappointing and downright disturbing advertising, in the case of Pepsi and H&M, reached the public eye, is a sign that something is deeply wrong with the processes that birthed them. Either the teams coming up with these advertising campaigns have no one on them able to recognize how these pieces of work are deeply problematic, or those people raising those concerns aren't listened to. Both of these possibilities are downright terrifying, because they represent incredibly pervasive works of art being produced by artists either unable or unwilling to actually empathize with respect, or understand the people most often consuming it. In other words: people come up with shitty ideas all the time. The real danger arises when they aren't told it's a shitty idea. 

Instead of ending with some kind of meta-analysis to back up my point (practically my entire professional career performs this analysis), I want to make a plea about just how much this matters. You see, advertising, while an often regarded as something of a compromised or second-class form of expression or storytelling, is an incredibly powerful one. Most ads are watched by more people than most movies, and even the unremarkable ones can become a fixture in our shared experience. Don't believe me? Ask the person nearest to you who Flo or the Colonel Sanders are, or what McDonald's or Burger King's tagline is, or which athletic footwear company dominates the public perception. Advertising is ubiquitous, a truly powerful force in our world that occupies as much space in our shared experience as any show or movie or book. Ads have an incredible power to shape culture, and thus an incredible responsibility to do it well, to make sure that they foster a culture worth having. When advertising offends or demeans or degrades, the effects aren't minor, the victims aren't imaginary. Just as the first gay couple or interracial couple in a commercial can be truly empowering for their real-life counterparts, Insensitive or uncaring advertising can do very real damage to the younger viewers who find themselves molded by it. If the teams producing advertising for an increasingly diverse country and world aren't diverse themselves or able to empathize with a diverse world, then they need to change. For their own sake, and ours.