15 June 2011

Lifestyle advertising

I stumbled across this clever little trifle today. It's a takeoff on Ice Cube's “It Was A Good Day,” depicting a good day as a young tech startup employee in San Francisco. I recommend you watch it. It's cute.

It filled me with disgust.

The romanticized vision it offers of this character's life ... or, I should say pointedly, lifestyle ... is part of the waters I swim in. I meet folks all the time who want to believe in this romantic image, want to live it, want to think they are living it now.

I myself am living something like it. And I believe in the embodied life, the urban life of simple pleasures and bonhomie and all that. I believe in it fervently, like I believe in democracy and feminism and good design. I believe that making The Good Life happen is a technological, personal, social, political, even spiritual victory in a struggle with a world that too often conspires against it. No small thing.

I know I'm overthinking this, but I felt that the video makes that profound little victory somehow small, just the sum of its pleasures. Less than the sum of its pleasures, with the implication that small pleasures are not only important, but the only thing. And the video is actually — in a weird recursive loop of self-reference — a San Francisco startup advertising their product. It's lifestyle advertising, selling both the product as a marker of the lifestyle, and the lifestyle itself as an object of desire. And the video represents the victory of the transformation of the rakish San Francisco of my youth — the transformation that began with the first dot-com wave in ’99 — away from countercultural and toward being merely hip. And the video deracinates the Ice Cube song “It Was A Good Day” that has more than a bit of political context.

I'm not too serious to enjoy trifling celebrations of The Good Life. I actually think the product advertised is quite a good one, made by a good company. I don't wish for some kind of unchanging San Francisco, trapped in amber. I'm in favour of playful, artful remixing of culture. I'm not radically opposed to any of these things I'm complaining about.

But still. It's smug. It irked me.

Sorry. I'm being a cranky middle-aged man today. Haters gotta hate. I guess I'm a hater.


Al said...

If I had a quarter for ever 22 year old wanker I've met in the last few years that thinks this video is his life...

aynne said...

I can't really hate on it because at once upon a time, _I_ was a smug 20 something fresh out of university, know-it-all-hotshot-tech/design-wonderkind, Kozmo- ordering, cell phone wielding, Aeron chair sittin', vaguely crunchy granola yuppie a-hole. As with everything, this too shall pass... The "lifestyle" aggrandization, the uniqueness of SF Tech culture, the smug recent grads, and yes, even the "middle aged" feeling of resentment...

Self hating "knowledge worker" and former Foursquare mayor of a very trendy SF coffeehouse.

Jonathan Korman said...

Aynne, I firmly believe in having respect for one's younger self. That includes recognizing that young people always romanticize and mythologize their own life circumstances; to a degree, that's a healthy thing.

But the industry powers itself by selling young people the deceptions of that romance, and that leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.