MAY 23, 2009 1:25AM

The Influence of Marketing over Impressionable Minds

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Michael: So it wasn’t bad news after all, was it?

Melissa: No, they’re having a family reunion sort of thing. Danny was just calling to see if we could come, even though he knew we probably couldn’t.

Michael: That’s good. At least it wasn’t something bad.

     Now we can get back to writing.

Melissa: My heart’s still racing a bit. But as far as conversations with Danny go, it was pretty good.

Michael: Did he actually let you get two words in edgewise about yourself?

Melissa: Not really. He asked how we were doing and before I could answer, he asked about my mom. So I told him about her, and then he started giving me advice about her arthritis. He described this elaborate contraption he’s bricolaged, really, to help with his back pain.

Michael: Always inventing.

     I guess as we get older, our inventions are focused more on our ailments than our enjoyments. Maybe not enjoyments, but . . . passions.

Melissa: Well, he’s still passionate about surfing and fishing, and inventing surfboards and lures and stuff. But yeah, he was making a joke about his back hurting, and his knee, and his . . .

(both laugh)

Michael: Our subject this time should be—

Melissa: Actually, we’re talking about it right now.

Michael: What?

Melissa: Remember? It was the last line of our last post. Which is what we’re discussing right now.

     You know, Danny’s ominous voicemail.

Michael: That’s not the subject of this. The subject of the last one was Danny’s ominous voicemail. This one is a completely different subject, and I think that subject should be . . . the influence of marketing over impressionable minds.

     Let’s see how little we can say about our subject this time.

Melissa: Ha!

     (pause)

     “If any of you are in advertising or marketing . . . ”

Michael: RIP Bill Hicks.

     If I grow up believing that the only way I can be truly happy is to have this thing—

Melissa: By “thing,” you mean product?

Michael: No, I emphasized “thing” when I said “thing.” What I mean is, yes, product, okay! But what I want to say is “thing.” I hate that word!

Melissa: You hate the word “product”?

Michael: Yes. When a chef uses it, it doesn’t seem so bad. But when a businessperson who has no love for the objects his company makes refers to that thing as “product” . . . You know, if you had a person who made bicycles, they wouldn’t call what they make “product.” Using “product” in the singular to mean the “plural.”

Melissa: Yeah, I hate that.

Michael: That’s what I’m talking about.

     But look, it’s great, because we’ve said so little about our subject. Why is that important? Because sometimes, the less something is said about something, the better.

     If everybody’s talking about a thing but not doing anything, the talking about it can serve as a blanket to keep your lack of activity from making you cold.

Melissa: I know we’ve already referenced this—

Michael: I know what you’re gonna say because I started thinking it, too. You’re talking about—

Melissa: Yes, wait, wait!

Michael: High Hopes!

Melissa: Exactly! Is her name Sylvia?

Michael: They run into her on the street. I think it’s when they’re walking home from visiting Lenin’s grave. But that can’t be it because I remember very clearly now that they had their helmets at the grave, so that implies they were riding their motorcycle, so it must’ve been another time, so forget that.

Melissa: I don’t remember how they run into her, but somehow—

Michael: Okay, stop. Are you talking directly to the reader, or are you talking to me? Because I already know this, so you must be talking to the reader. Our dialogue isn’t supposed to be directed at the reader, but to each other. We’re not supposed to know the reader can hear us.

Melissa: I was talking to you. And we do know.

     Besides, I thought we were trying to remember the scene where they encounter Sylvia.

Michael: It’s not the scene where they encounter her that we’re thinking of. It’s later when they’re back in their apartment—

Melissa: Right!

Michael: It was about the hypocrisy of her talking about wanting social change, yet doing nothing to actually help bring about that change in a positive way.

     No, it’s not that. . . . I remember!

     It was about the fact that she was going to meetings, but that’s all she was doing. The people at the meetings weren’t doing anything but meeting. They weren’t feeding people who were hungry, they weren’t trying to clothe people who were cold, they weren’t trying to do good for anybody.

Melissa: “I’m not much of a lad for meetings.”

Michael: That’s a rare one.

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Comments

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I'm not sure how we got from marketing to High Hopes, but I added the movie to my Netflix queue.

This post reminds me that Hitler used a book on marketing written by a Madison Avenue hotshot to sell the Nazi party and the holocaust to Germans.
Melissa: I’m so glad you’re able to rent it from Netflix! One of the reasons we had to get a region-free DVD player several years ago was so we could watch movies like “High Hopes” and Britcoms like “Black Books” (before it was released in the U.S.) and “15 Storeys High.” It’s good to know some of these gems are finally becoming accessible to the American public.

Michael: And if you like “High Hopes,” there are many other fine movies by Mike Leigh you can add to your queue, as well.

Melissa: Our favorites include “Secrets & Lies,” “Nuts in May,” “Naked,” “Life Is Sweet” . . .

Michael: And thanks for the insight into the influence of that marketing book on Nazi Germany’s propaganda campaign. As a teenager, I studied WWII history, and I’m surprised I never came across that information—especially since propaganda was one of the areas I was most interested in.

Melissa: Hawley, you must be talking about Edward Bernays? I remember learning about his machinations in the enthralling—albeit LONG—documentary, “Century of the Self.” I hadn’t recalled him playing a role in the Third Reich, but a quick googling confirmed that Goebbels was indeed influenced by Bernays.

Michael: Once again, thanks for the thought-provoking comment!