Thursday, April 12, 2007

Metamorphosis

Ever notice . . . ? From a Christopher Hitchens essay in Slate:

A room-service menu, for example, now almost always offers "your choice" of oatmeal versus cornflakes or fruit juice as opposed to vegetable juice. Well, who else's choice could it be? Except perhaps that of the people who decide that this is the range of what the menu will feature. Fox TV famously and fatuously claims, "We report. You decide." Decide on what? On what Fox reports? Online polls promise to register what "you" think about the pressing issues of the moment, whereas what's being presented is an operation whereby someone says, "Let's give them the idea that they are a part of the decision-making process."

The next time you see an ad, the odds are increasingly high that it will put "you" in the driver's seat. "Ask your doctor if Prozac/Lipitor/Cialis is right for you" -- almost as if these medications could be custom made for each individual consumer. A lawyer or real-estate agent will promise you to address "your" concerns. Probably the most famous propaganda effort of the 20th century, a recruiting poster with Lord Kitchener pointing directly outward and stating, "Your Country Needs YOU," was only rushed onto the billboards when it suddenly became plain that the country concerned needed several hundred thousand recruits in a big hurry and couldn't afford to be too choosy about who it was signing up.
Christopher Hitchens seems to be turning into Andy Rooney.


The You Decade (Slate)

comments: 8

Elaine Fine said...

If Hitchens keeps smoking the metamorphosis will become complete.

Stefan said...

Maybe, but I hear that the metamorphosis is hard to keep lit.

(Sorry, Elaine, but I first misread your comment, and then I couldn't resist.)

Elaine Fine said...

Oops. I should have put a comma in there. I swear I was not smoking any metamorphosis when writing that last comment.

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine and Stefan, why do I suddenly smell patchouli?

Ben said...

I think "I" and other first person terms are becoming equally prevalent in advertisements and product names: iPod, iMac, "i'm lovin' it," myspace, etc.

I think it would be interesting to compare Youtube and Myspace and see if the use of "you" or "my" creates any different feelings or reactions.

Michael Leddy said...

Ben, those names and slogans seem to me like variations on a theme, some in second-person and some in first-person. "Have it your way!" "I'm lovin' it!"

Anonymous said...

The military's recruitement tactics have become egocentric,
from "Your Country Needs You" to "Be all you can be."

"An Army of one."

All mention of the "country" is gone.

Anonymous said...

If I wsee a sign that says my country needs me for the army, I know enough about my age and fitness to know they do not mean ME. Singling out "you" is much more dirdct and catching as an ad than Our country needs lots of people to serve.