Why I love and hate Adbusters!
I love Adbusters! I hate Adbusters! I love Adbusters! I hate Adbusters! Turning the pages of the glossy Vancouver quarterly, I’m like an obsessed teenager pulling petals out of a flower. I love Adbusters! I hate Adbusters! I love how they take the sly, slick, seductive genius of Madison Avenue and turn it back upon itself. I love the perfectly captured style and lettering of the Camel cigarettes ad showing a balding Joe Chemo in a hospital bed with an IV. I love how you have to look for a moment or two at the subtle soft-focus black and white image of the naked back of the kneeling woman in the Calvin Klein Obsession ad before you realize she’s leaning over a toilet bowl puking. I love Adbusters! These “subvertisements” make me sooooooo fucking happy. Just seeing them, there in print, in this high-end glossy magazine, with their perfect touch and seamless production values, makes me feel as though I’ve personally kicked corporate America in the nuts. Like I’ve bitten off the head of some slimy conscienceless 300G’s-a-year ad exec. I taste his blood in my mouth and I love Adbusters! But I turn another page, pull another petal, and I hate Adbusters! I hate how Kalle Lasn thinks he is God’s gift to youth rebellion. How these anti-ads feel like a joyless puritanical crusade against smoking, drinking and fucking. (Which I like to do. Well, not the smoking part, but the other two, often at the same time.) It’s all so monotonously one-note. The answer is always the same: Free yourself from the brand! Be your authentic un-branded self! What authentic un-branded self? Oh, but the staff at Adbusters has one in mind, because you see: Everybody else is caught in the lock-step media trance. Everybody else has been seduced into a hypnotic web of branded moments. But the staff at Adbusters—who eat and sleep and shit just like the rest of us, and watch TV and go to the fucking supermarket and buy branded products just like the rest of us, and admire the sleek lines of motorcycles and sports cars as they drive by just like the rest of us—somehow they’ve got a key to some mystical epiphany of freedom, a gateway to some pure, pre-capitalist state of authenticity and original grace where we don’t consume, but just live. Helloooooo?! Could you people get your ostrich heads out from up inside your butts, and come back from the land of 1968? Utopia is over. There is no longer a true consciousness and a false consciousness. All of us, from the ultra-rad Adbusters reader to that devil incarnate—the average American SUV-driving leisurewear-wearing consumer—realize that the media is trying to seduce us. And—hellloooo?—we go ahead and (selectively) let it do this to us anyway. Why? Because it’s fucking erotic and we’re erotic and they’re so good at it, and because we’re mature and savvy enough to be consumers without betraying ourselves, thank you very much All of us—whether we read Adbusters, write for Adbusters or have never heard of the damn rag—are caught, and constructed and compromised in the same media swirl of bytes and brands and manufactured moments. And it’s only from within this image soup that we can try to figure out who we are and what to do about it Everyday life is irredeemably mediated, including whatever attempt we make at authenticity. That’s why they fucking invented post-modernism. In fact—and I’m wonderfully reminded of this as I turn another page—that’s why they invented culture jamming. I love Adbusters!