Mangcho takes you on a journey through consumerism, advertising, and the religious battle for your mind. Part 1 of a series.
Prolegomena: Increase the Power of the Unit 40 Times
You have arrived at the supermarket. It’s a sunny day in San Diego, 1994, and as you cross the parking lot to the front entrance, you walk by a well-dressed young man, standing alone. He clearly comes from a rich family, and he’s clearly loitering. As you pass him by, he announces to you, unprovoked and in hollow, robotic monotone, “It’s so amazing. I can play arcade games in my own room.”
After this encounter, you notice a young couple loitering by the shopping carts. The boy has his arm slung over the girl’s shoulder. Neither of them exhibit any chemistry or even interest in each other. The young man stares off into the general direction you’re standing in, and when you’re in earshot, he casually remarks, “Everything’s so much cooler with 32X. It’s like, art, man.”
A flight attendant suddenly appears in the parking lot, her disembodied voice psychically relaying the technical specifications of the Sega 32X. At the end of what seems like years, she glares at you and frowns. “So get with it!” Her psychic voice implores you, broadcast directly into your mind, subjecting you to a corporate molestation too ugly to be real. But it is real. The Sega 32X, with its thousands of extra colors and expanded memory, and its hundreds of new games, including Star Wars Arcade and Knuckles Chaotix, is a real thing. Get up off the pavement, chump. Get with it, gramps.
The events above may not have happened in reality, but they were the basis of a 32X infomercial, hastily assembled by a marketing firm and actors from global casting. The result was a confused mess of Apocalypse Now references and wide-angle shots of young people cornering the viewer. There is a predatory quality to the filmmaking. Actors exit buildings, walking aggressively toward the camera, spouting off all the Hot Computer Graphics and other tawdry expressions from the notes Sega provided. A teenager wearing a designer sweater fit for a Burbank rendezvous poses against graffiti, making a series of strange lunging poses while stating his love for the 32X, with all the energy and zest of a Dockers photo shoot. The claim, that the Sega 32X add-on offered substantial value for its price tag of $160, could not be borne out by itself. It did not offer substantial improvements over the base system, the Genesis, on which it relied. Persuading the public it did, therefore, meant using deceit at every opportunity. The threat of being considered less of a cool dude, less popular, less liked, became the tool of choice. Roughly two minutes into the infomercial, we realize we are no longer being simply sold to. You will be less appreciated if you do not purchase. This is the language of an abuser. We are being dehumanized. Victimized. Bullied.
Your mom doesn’t love you. But we do.
What is the demand the 32X ads were trying to satisfy? The US television campaign consisted of jarring fast cuts, cobbled together with zero sense of place or context. Fonts speckled with visual noise and decay. Vague, dark, mechanical environments—it is a David Fincher video. A pushy black man (drug dealer), challenging you to own it. A gaunt, bespectacled white man (kingpin) giving fragments of a speech about power. 10 seconds worth of gameplay footage, looking somewhere between a 486 and a slow Pentium. A jumble of abrasive textures and noises.
Ad campaigns are not run because advertisers want to create Positive Change in the Consumer Marketplace, or because copywriters are necessarily trying to poison minds. They are run based on previous models of success that targeted certain groups for messaging. Imagine if Coca-cola ran an ad featuring a visibly trans black youth. They won’t do this unless there’s money to be made, whether by convincing trans black youth Coca-cola values them, or convincing people outside the demo (the infinitely larger market) of this claim. Because soft drinks enjoy better distribution and a larger market in urban areas, and because the visibility and affirmation of trans are much higher in them, it makes sense to appeal to a liberal, bourgeois, academic mindset, one that consistently votes Democrat and begs for release from the tyranny of the U.S. constitution. But more importantly, the ad springs from values already present in a culture, not in spite of them. The goals of a corporation, therefore, do not exist in a vacuum. They are responses to current or previous trends. Likewise, the people behind the 32X campaign were more akin to workers in a meat plant, unaware the slurry pouring into the trough in front of them is of human origin. So long as the meat sells, the meat is produced. Perhaps one of them will find a human ear, floating in the slurry. Will they tell someone, or strain it out into a bin and keep stirring?
If ads are not created in a vacuum, and are a response to a demand, we have to think about what that demand is and who put it there. The 32X ads responded to an “opening” in the heart, a longing for something the target audience isn’t getting, in this case, children who lack physical hobbies, for whatever reason. Consider the number of disabled or disinterested children who medicate with video games, over some inadequacy, real or imagined. Autism. Poor depth perception. A smaller build. A lack of any control over their life, and having the constant fear of failure drilled into them by parents. But the belief that they are failing, or have failed in some way, gets revealed to them by peers and the education system. Dilute love, see your children as inconveniences, and they turn to whatever distracts them from the prison walls of their mind.
You already know you’re a loser. We have what you need to stop losing.
The totems that once anchored a culture have been assaulted, raped, and stripped of their relation to the uncircumcised. No veneration, for veneration celebrates the graven image and the body. Judaic iconoclasm, normalized by The Goyim under the mistake that veneration and idolatry are indistinguishable. In their place are new totems, the video toys and cloud structures, liquefying identity and grinding the human will into a fine, obsequious powder. We will unearth these totems once again–what they were, what they meant, and why they were so desecrated.
Mangcho is a regular columnist for TDP and merely a mouse in the corner, listening to the rain. He prepares for articles by drinking mineral water and watching Sega commercials with the sound off.