Advertising as the opiate of the consumer?

Fig. 1: Bus shelter at McAllister and Polk, San Francisco.
Fig. 1: Bus shelter at McAllister and Polk, San Francisco.
Her face is featureless, expressionless, vacant. She looks blankly upwards and to her left at something unknown. She appears as if she has been tossed into her position like a doll. Accessories are next to her in no particular order. She is just one more object in a photograph full of objects.

The caption says to “meet Maria — and her matchless style” at some web site. Why? Will we have virtual sex with a young woman whose appearance suggests that to the extent she is at all real, she is on some kind of opiate? Does anyone really want to “match” her “style?”

This advertisement has been up for—I’m guessing—about three weeks at Polk and McAllister in San Francisco. I noticed it before, was shocked, and not at all allured. Today, I took a photograph.

But I’m wondering about a society where this advertisement should be in the least bit enticing, where young women might want to look as if they had been tossed against a wall like rag dolls, albeit with fantasy bodies. Have our senses been so dulled?

And then I remember: the Arab world is in a state of uprising. In contrast, the working and middle classes in the United States have apparently been pacified with the illusions of wealth on TV.[1] We’re happy with our Wal-Mart jobs, satisfied that our children will be even less prosperous than we are, and when—on the rare occasions we ever get angry—we lash out, we do so viciously, only at other people who have been victimized to an even greater extent by the system.[2]

And then I understand. Maria, the model in the picture, is selling to us because that’s who we have become.

  1. [1]Charles A. Reich, The Greening of America (New York: Crown, 1970).
  2. [2]Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006).

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