Friday, March 20, 2009


You'd say that cynicism is negative, wouldn't you? If you had to pick a side.

That cynicism is inevitable, and maybe it's often useful, but also that it's essentially sad, somehow. It's the side of the coin that you pay but don't receive. When someone expresses their cynicism, hearts are not uplifted. We don't feel that cynical people are better or more fortunate than others, for their cynicism. If we usually discover our cynicism in adolescence, then we usually react against it later on. And even if we stay cynical (more or less), we soon lose respect for cynicism as a general outlook, I think. After all, so it goes: what does cynicism do to improve our lives? What good is it? Isn't it somehow tawdry and grim and wrong? Dishonourable, even? Wouldn't the world be a better place, if nobody was cynical? 

And okay this is all true or whatever, but: there is one particular upside to cynicism that I've never heard anyone pay much attention to, and I reckon it's a great one. (And maybe it's not even cynicism exactly, maybe it's something else, anyhow, but I'm still going to write it.)

See, the one crucial aspect of culture that most adults are especially cynical towards, across the whole spectrum of the educated modernity? Advertising. Our thresholds for paying attention, for believing, for caring at all what an advertisement says – these thresholds are higher now than they were before. (This is one reason why advertisements from earlier decades have such kitsch value – so many old ads seem so absurd, so transparent and unconvincing. Plastics! New! Duck & Cover! Extra White! – we're cynical towards it, now.) Our higher thresholds, they're higher now because people are generally more cynical about advertising than they used to be, right? And so the advertisers are now so desperate, to grab our ever-more-cynical attention (& affection), that they've had to respond with relentless innovation. Viral marketing, immersive reality games, ads filmed like artsy short films, all of this craft and technique and effect and interest – it's all just a massive effort to trick past our endlessly-renewed cynicism.

And as a result, we have an industry of marketing and advertising that's now hugely more entertaining than it ever used to be. Funnier, more inventive – you might even want to say more intellectual, sometimes. There are ads you might even want to call art, if you were interested in calling things art, I guess. People watch the Super Bowl just for the ads: that's not just a cliche, it's true. And all of this, it's because we've been too cynical to keep paying attention to Sale and New and Value and celebrity endorsement, that same spin forever. If we've seen it before, we're cynical about it already. Give me something else.

Have you watched the youtube of the sheep yet? It's kind of neat, yeah?

It makes you think about things to do with sheep that you hadn't thought of before. New possibilities, new perspectives on an old context. Your mind has changed as a result, has literally expanded the complexity of its structure, now! That's what this advertisement has done for you, in its own small way. It really has made you a better, smarter, wiser person.
(Do you believe me?)

And so anyhow my point, I guess:

If the only cost of a new thought is a quiet reminder to maybe buy Sony afterwards, then I really don't mind the sponsorship. Cynicism can be a force to impel creativity! Isn't that remarkable? Hooray, I think.

(Wait, did I say Sony? I just watched it again, this sheep video is actually for Samsung.
Ah! & there you go, huh :)

So, yeah, sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.
--Sleepy Afternoon Thoapsl

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