Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Snob Appeal versus Slob Appeal

Mad Magazine was at its funniest when it rebelled outrageously against the mind-numbing culture of conformity that made the Fifties such a ghastly decade for anyone with the slightest spark of creativity.  This was also the decade when consumerism began to take over our whole system of national values, as if buying everything in sight was our primary weapon against Communism.  There are even those who believe that the collapse of the Soviet Union began while Mikhail Gorbachev was visiting the United States on the day that Ronald Reagan showed him a shopping mall.

One of the great weapons of consumerism during the Fifties was “snob appeal.”  This was predicated on the idea that, whatever your adjusted gross income was, you could look like you belonged in a more elevated social stratum.  Mad retaliated with a hysterically funny piece on “slob appeal.”  Nothing justifies satire more than its emergence in the “real world.”  This morning BBC News released a story to remind us that snob appeal is still with us and will go to great lengths to battle that slob appeal that began as a figment of Mad writers’ imaginations.

The paragon of snob appeal in question is Abercrombie and Fitch.  (Could one ask for a better representative?)  The “opposition” is represented by Jersey Shore, particularly in the form of the character Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino.  Apparently Sorrentino has a taste for Abercrombie and Fitch threads;  and, as a result, the company has issued a statement to the effect that it has offered him “a substantial payment” to wear another brand.  Here is an excerpt from that statement:

We are deeply concerned that Mr Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image.

We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.

Bette Midler used to have a line referring to those who cannot take a joke (which I cannot reproduce in the interests of good taste).  Presumably, that comment never registered with Abercrombie and Fitch, perhaps because their investor materials describes their brand as “the essence of privilege and casual luxury.”  Tell that to the folks who look for their label when going through the racks at Goodwill.

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