A Quickie From Lisa Marie: Subversive Commercials

At the risk of committing heresy, commercials (especially older commercials) fascinate me.  At their best, commercials are textbook exploitation films.  They’re designed to appeal to the audience’s most primal desires and, as a result, are often more truthful reflections of the society that created them than more “mainstream” works of art.  A good commercial is a 1-minute journey into the human subconscious.  (Of course, at their worst, commercials are just commercials, usually for medicines that have a ton of nasty side effects.)

I was recently searching through YouTube for banned or risqué commercials when I came across these Calvin Klein ads from the early 1990s.

I think I vaguely remember seeing one or two of these commercials when I was six or seven.  It may have been the one with the narcissist from Brooklyn because I remember my mom changing the channel as soon as that creepy voice started in with, “You’ve got a nice body.”  I can understand why she did because, if nothing else, these commercials give it out a really creepy vibe.

Supposedly (and I should admit that my source for this info. comes from a bunch of anonymous YouTube commentators), these commercials were pulled off the air and its easy to see why.  These commercials gave mainstream America what it wanted (good-looking, barely legal eye candy) but did so in a way that emphasized just how sordid most people’s fantasies really are.  The creepy and unseen “director” serves as the perfect representative of mainstream, middle-aged America.  (Just check out his confusion over the word “mosh” and his complete loss of composure when the one model refuses to fulfill his fantasy.)  By leaving the director off-screen, the commercials force the viewer into the role of director.  In the best exploitation tradition, these commercials tell the complacent viewer, “This is what the inside of  your head  really looks like.”  At the same time, it also told the young that if they wanted to get the attention of the mainstream establishment, the best way to do so was to tease and offer up implied promises that would never be kept.  Supposedly, a lot of people considered these commercials to almost be pornographic.  Personally, I prefer to think of them as being subversive in the style of a classic film noir.

While the unseen director is the perfect surrogate for the hidden desires of mainstream America, the models themselves all seem to have wandered out of a Larry Clark film, which is perhaps one reason why I worry about what happened to them after their “interviews.”  The first model — Blue-eyed Brandon from Kentucky — is especially cute and I hope he eventually caught the first bus back to Louisville.  He doesn’t look  to be cut out for the big city and I get the feeling that the narcissist from Brooklyn could kick his ass.  I also get the feeling that the older Italian woman ended up making “love on film” with the guy who ripped his shirt in half while the mosher probably ended up impregnating the airhead who wears 30 year-old jeans.  I also get the feeling that the mosher may have been the younger brother of the girl who says, “I won’t dance for you.”  (And good for her!) 

These commercials all feel authentic, even if you’re not quite sure what’s going on.  From the grainy film stock to the shabby studio to the disturbingly intrusive voice of the “director,” these commercials can make your skin crawl.  You watch and you wonder if anyone ever saw these models again after their audition.  Its hard not to suspect that they all ended up either buried in someone’s backyard or maybe on a boat heading to Aruba. 

At the same time, these commercials oddly enough do make you want to go out and buy jeans because, while all of the models appear to be doomed, at least they all look really good.  As a result, the commercials themselves become the ultimate example of the philosophy of “Live Fast, Die Young, and Leave a Good Looking Corpse”

Fable III: Trailer E3 2010

Another game from one of Microsoft’s internal game studios, Lionhead, is the upcoming third game in Lionhead honcho Peter Molyneaux’s Fable rpg series. This rpg series has been one of the big guns in Microsoft’s exclusive 1st-party titles since the Xbox and now the Xbox 360. It is also the one game franchise which has polarized the gaming community into hardcore supporters and vehement detractors. This major extreme split is due to the fact that Molyneaux has had the tendency to overhype the greatness of each game in the franchise as game-changers for the industry. While each game has been great and fun they all fail to live up to the most extreme boasts by Molyneaux which the franchise’s detractors like to point out with relish.

I’ve been a supporter of the franchise right from the beginning and while I am disappointed that the games never really live up to the rose-colored heights Molyneaux hypes them to be, in the end the games when given a chance to stand on their own merits are some of the best action-rpgs and actually bring new things to the table. IF one was to ignore the hyperbolic rantings of the studio’s head honcho then the games really stand great on their own merits.

This third game (hopefully won’t be the final one in the series) continues the storyline from the two previous games but advances the setting several hundred years into the future. The first game was based in a medieval-type fantasy world while the second game jumped ahead to a Renaissance-type fantasy setting. This third game, if one was to base their observations from the trailer, looks to have the series jump forward to an Imperial Age-type of fantasy setting. Just think of it as 17th to 19th century alternate universe.

The game looks to continue with the series excellent use of morality-based decision making affecting the world around the player, but this time around not just whether a player decides to be hero or villain, but benevolent ruler or despotic tyrant. I like this progression in the series as it should bring new kinds of moral decisions which could affect hundreds of thousands and actually end or cause wars.

While the trailer doesn’t really show pure gameplay scenes it does look to be using the game engine to craft the trailer (something Lionhead has done in the past so no pre-rendered scenes). This is one title for 2010 that I am very excited to purchasing and playing.

Halo: Reach Trailer E3 2010

E3 2010 is just a day away from starting but that doesn’t stop all the announcements from being made by all the gaming companies. These pre-E3 press conferences are usually the highlight of the Expo for those who cannot attend. Pretty much all the biggest news in gaming are done during these press conferences while the official E3 days are left for people able to attend to try out the games announced. One of these games happens to be Bungie Studios very final Halo game for Microsoft before 343 Studios takes over. The game is Halo: Reach and it looks to be Bungie Studios best offering to date.

The game just recently completed a massive multiplayer beta where millions participated and checked out the beta build of the game’s multiplayer. From how people have reacted to the multiplayer it looks to be mostly positive with Bungie building on the past mulitplayer success of previous Halo titles. This time around Bungie has finally shown what the single-player and co-op campaign looks like. The trailer above shows the game to be squad-based with different types of Spartans outfitted with varying weapon and armor types depending on their roles.

While this squad-based gameplay is not new to the shooter genre what looks to be very new is the fact that space combat looks to be part of the gameplay. SPACE COMBAT!

The space combat scenes showed in the trailer is part of the campaign, but Bungie and Microsoft hasn’t officially said that it won’t be part of the multiplayer. Multiplayer space combat would definitely make this game a fitting send-off for one of the bright stars in the Xbox franchise’s alpha franchise.