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Our Last 50 Referrers

« Art School Confidential | Main | Bah and Humbug »

December 21, 2007

Hot, Commercial, Public

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Get your sizzling and controversial ad campaigns here.

Are you as much of a fan as I am of the current American Apparel ads? They often strike me as startling and brilliant. Ad people, stylists, and clothing designers, eh? -- forever finding new ways to shock us, scandalize us, and make us feel titillated. How do they manage it?

The American Apparel ads strike me as amazingly evocative of being 14 and finding everything that's happening to your body (and to your friends' bodies) momentous and hot -- about messing around with undies, belts, a mirror, and a digital camera while Mom and Dad are out of the home. And, hey: What would it be like to be a model? Or maybe the star of your very own porn movie? These are questions that must be on a lot of teenage minds these days.

What do I think (and how do I feel) about the fact that this kind of material is widespread, that children aren't protected against it, and that its subject matter routinely plays with illicit behavior? Pleased you asked, but I'll save my no doubt uninteresting answers for another day.

Generally speaking, though, I feel about these ads the same way I feel about online porn: Since it isn't as if tut-tutting is going to make this material go away, why get hung up on the moral angle? No one has to find any of these developments interesting, let alone attractive, of course. Tuning out is always an option. But at the same time, what could be the harm in taking note of what's going on in the world? These days, when I go to the movies, it's usually not to see a specific movie; it's to see what movies these days are like. Curiosity can be a strong motivator.

Nothing wrong with arguing over morality, of course -- it just isn't a conversation I'm often eager to take part in. Besides, practically speaking, it would take a lot to persuade me that a few minutes spent surfing through the American Apparel website contributes -- or contributes much, anyway -- to the moral rot of the world.

Semi-related: I wrote about "Havoc," a misbehaving- overprivileged- teens movie by Barbara Kopple here, and about a movie by Larry ("Teenage Lust," "Kids") Clark here. I wondered how and why thongs had become such a big part of contempo culture here. If you want to eyeball examples of the work of one of the photographers who established the contemporary wood-paneled-basement, glaring-flash, almost-but-not-quite kiddie-porn style, do a Google Image search on "Terry Richardson." Small suggestion: Turn "SafeSearch" to "Off."



posted by Michael at December 21, 2007


Veronica nice.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on December 21, 2007 3:33 PM

The funkiness of the ethnic girls is very appealing. And, the butt fetish of black girls is very well represented. What is it about black people and butts (with the focus squarely on the anus)? It's great to see that somebody is recognizing the searing sexual beauty of Asian women. One of the really interesting aspects of the ads is that they deal squarely with one of the deepest realities of porn lust... everybody wants a different kind of meat.

I'm sure glad that I took up Flash a decade ago. Flash now runs the entire world. I think it will keep me in work until I sign up for Social Security.

The moral angle of pseudo-porn doesn't bother me. It's time to add (in relation to your other posts) that, in my experience, women also love porn and funky sex play. Certain aspects may be distateful, but when it comes to sexuality one person's hot turn-on is another person's disgusting perversion. That's always true.

Men and women tend to attack porn from different angles. Especially when they are young, men are extremely determined to "convince" women to do things that women are only too willing to do. Women, in general, are not too excited about public exposure and degradation... things that really seem to excite young men. Attention men! You'll do better if you respect women's desire not to have to pay a public price for sexual play. Take a woman's desire for discretion seriously and things will work out a lot better.

And, if you aren't still going to love her after you've indulged your base and perverse appetities, then don't go there.

Just some advice from a dirty old man.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on December 21, 2007 3:42 PM

Yes, those ads are brilliant. I guess what advertising, and the modern mass media in general, do is figure out what's in your id (I don't usually talk Freudian, but the word is useful here) and project it back at you. Together, mind plus media, are a giant echoing feedback loop. This probably is something really new in human history, and yes it is disturbing. I'm not suggesting we get hysterical, but it is disturbing all the same.

Posted by: Lester Hunt on December 21, 2007 5:08 PM

Charlton -- Veronica could go places. I don't know that they'd be very wholesome places, but still ...

ST -- I often wish I knew Flash. It seems like so much becomes available to He Who Knows Flash. It's funny the way Flash and booty have emerged as important at the same time in cultural history, isn't it? What could the connection be?

Lester -- I wonder if it all represents the beginnings of an end-of-Rome style downfall. It certainly reminds me of David Cronenberg's movies -- disturbing yet arousing, and arousing partly because disturbing, and which way is the world going anyway, and isn't it all creepy, and lordy why do I crave more of it, etc etc. On the other hand, did a little decadence ever hurt anyone? I have no way of judging. Meanwhile, the media keep playing me and my responses as though they're Horowitz and I'm a piano keyboard ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 21, 2007 5:15 PM

2 Blowhards; come for the art and culture talk, stay for the intellectual banter on barely dressed hot women in lavicious poses.

This post quite literally made my day.
It makes me wish I was just a wee bit younger than my late 20s, just so I could fully enjoy this element of our youth culture instead of feeling like a slightly befuddled dirty old man with female peers who are shocked, just shocked, by all this. Us tail-end Gen Xers can't seem to dump some of the PC programming we recieved that the Yers have blithefully tossed to the wind.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on December 21, 2007 5:23 PM

I don't think these ads have a bad impact on kids -- only someone who was already an incorrigible slut would think, "Wow, I want to end up with my completely shaved pussy splayed across a billboard!"

If anything, ads tend to reflect the zeitgeist more than shape it, and even then only part of it (these ads don't reflect socially conservative areas, for example).

I'll refrain from making comments on particular models from the A.A. website, else I'd be here all night.

Spike -- just hang out with younger girls. Solves the problem of your female peers being too fussy, if that's as you say, and also puts you into closer contact with the ones you're lusting after. Plus they're at the stage of life where feminine charm and adorableness is at its peak -- it's a shame to only experience that when you're their age, since you're not used to it at all, and at any rate you can't think straight at that age.

But as you age, the giggly freshness of younger girls becomes more familiar and comforting, and you drift toward them the way you reach for a cherished sweater once the weather turns bitter.

Posted by: agnostic on December 22, 2007 3:19 AM

Wow. When I was 12 I jacked off to the underwear section of the Sears catalogue. This stuff would have made my head melt.

Posted by: robert on December 22, 2007 5:14 AM

Blah. The American Apparel advertisements are like watching Nip/Tuck ... sort-of vulgar, but they never actually Show Anything.

Posted by: Peter on December 22, 2007 9:45 AM

While you've got that SafeSearch dialed to the "off" position, do a Google image search on "Lauren Phoenix". She's one of the girls listed in that catalog. I think this girl is a little more experienced than most...

Posted by: Bob Grier on December 22, 2007 10:02 AM

I think it's part of the American Apparel strategy to pick their models from a mix of real kid, AA employees, and porn stars.

Lauren Phoenix talks to Luke Ford.

Posted by: MIchael Blowhard on December 22, 2007 10:08 AM


Problem is, with 95% of those girls, once they open their mouths for any period of time, you can't wait for them to close their yaps. It's even sadder for the ones who do have some sort of intelligence, who seem to try to stifle it in order to fit in, with forced banter about their rather dull lives and even duller friends. While I've dated a few hot young gals who seem to enjoy discussing literature and art, with most of the others, you just wish the kissing would never stop, so they can't start talking again.

Plus there's a bit of a generation divide between me and them. One of my pet peeves is when people stop in the middle of a conversation to answer a cell phone or check a text message or keep on that blasted device half the night. One thing most young gals don't understand is my casual smoking. Sometimes I feel like going into a deep explanation as to why my occaisional cigar is much less damaging than their twice weekly marijuana doob. Yers may have ditched the sex guilt, but they bought the PC tobacco stance hook line and sinker.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on December 22, 2007 2:59 PM

"Wow, I want to end up with my completely shaved pussy splayed across a billboard!"

Bleccch. Nothing is better than a glorious natural pelt.

Posted by: Peter on December 22, 2007 3:51 PM

"I wonder if it all represents the beginnings of an end-of-Rome style downfall."

Rome did not fall because they were decadent. It fell because it was defeated militarily. See James McCormick's typically brilliant review essays here and here.

Posted by: Lexington Green on December 22, 2007 4:11 PM

And then I says and then she says and then I says and the..............

Posted by: ricpic on December 22, 2007 4:16 PM

Exactly, Rick.
Hey, guys, you're sitting here, chewing same old same old "girls this days yada yada" - while here real war going on. With flameblowers and automatics spreading fire indiscriminately.

Posted by: Tat on December 22, 2007 5:43 PM

A lady had her grandkids over, a girl and boy 10 and 11. The grandma has cable with HBO's east coast feed. She came in to find the kids watching (8 pacific time) a bunch of women inserting dildos with a bit of tiling to make it "acceptable." She was a wee bit disturbed.

Is it no big deal? We know as guys, we like the all-you-can-eat sex buffet. But as men, do we have some obligation to rein it in --dare I say it -- for the children?

Posted by: sN on December 22, 2007 9:34 PM

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