Did they really try so hard to show stupid people in commercials during the sixties? Here’s a television gem that features a cast of uniformly stupid and unpleasant people doing stupid things and making really bad coffee.
Mike Wallace talks to ‘Brave New World‘ author Aldous Huxley, focusing on the danger of slipping into totalitarian government as a result of overpopulation, increasing hierarchical organization of people in corporate structures, and improper use of television and subliminal advertising. He continually refers to the similarity between the methods of advertising agencies and those of political dictators.
Wallace: …and we’ll be persuaded to vote for someone that we do not know we are being persuaded to vote for?
Huxley: Exactly, I mean this is the rather alarming feature… that you are being persuaded below the level of choice and reason.
Perhaps that explains the election of George W. Bush, a raging drunk without the slightest education – a psychopathic false cowboy with delusions of a holy mission to invade the Middle East. It was national suicide. The election of Bush was the worst thing to happen to the United States since the Civil War and it cannot be explained by logic. The world is only at the beginning of decades spent recovering from the criminality and death unleashed by Bush. I think Huxley might have said that Bush was the easily predictable outcome of uncontrolled corporatization. Every corporation likes to push dull-witted and unimportant people into middle management positions where they can function as the tiered facade standing between the board members and the Chinese slave camps.
In 1936, experimental filmmaker Len Lye made this short surreal animation to advertise the benefits of Shell oil for lubricating things. The film is a hyper-saturated stop-motion extravaganza that involves a mechanical world turning on some sort of hand crank. There’s an adventurer driving around the sands of Egypt. His car winds down and konks out leaving the man dead in the desert. The angel of oil rains drops of lubricating crude down on the Egyptian landscape bringing the parched skeleton to life as the Shell Oil robot. Fascinating. It’s got that awkward, shiny, naive beauty that could only be achieved in the 30s. Parts of this thing look like they might be influenced by Salvador Dali’s work. Something about that dead skeleton and the desert looks like it could fit right into the Surrealist master’s paintings.
Lye was from New Zealand and worked not only as an experimental filmmaker but also in newsreels and advertising. He was a kinetic sculptor, poet, painter and a writer of essays on artistic theory and philosphy. He made a 1935 short film called ‘A Colour Box’ which was the first generally exhibited film made by painting directly on the film emulsion. It’s a brilliant experimental animation posing as an advertisement for cheaper parcel post. I’m sure the great direct paint filmmaker Stan Brakhage must have been familiar with Lye’s work.
Imagine yourself sitting in a finished basement room with wood panel walls, a nice thick shag carpet, and a long low console television. In the 70s, I remember running from house to house to see everyone’s color screens because I had a black & white at home. An episode of Star Trek in full color glory was a rare form of Nirvana for me. I wasn’t really as uncool as that sounds. Don’t let it fool you. Pretty soon our current infatuation with HD will seem just as naive.
A 1932 cartoon advertisement for Oldsmobile by the Fleischer studio. Via Hidden Los Angeles.