We here at The Jade Sphinx are often … well …, shocked by what we see plastered on bus and train walls, and in our bookstalls. Movie and television show ads are often much too grotesque to actually see the light of day, and I am unsure why we as a people need to be bombarded by ugliness.
Mind, this is not Mrs. Grundy speaking. My objections are not moral; morals are out of the scope of our ongoing discussion. We deal in aesthetics, and as aesthetes we must rebel against revolting images.
Take the ad above, which I photographed on the side of a bus traveling across Central Park South. It is for a film or television show called The Strain – but the strain is entirely on any innocent confronted with this repellent and gruesome image. I ask with candor – are the people responsible for this ad criminally insane? Reprehensively irresponsible? Morally bankrupt? Knaves and fools?
Then, upon closer examination, we see that the ‘brains’ behind The Strain is “auteur” Guillermo Del Toro, who has made an entire career of ugly and unsettling images. At least he has the charm of consistency.
Then, we are greeted by the new cover for the Penguin Modern Classics edition of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Isn’t this something you want to buy for your child?
The cover has already created something of a furor, with many customers (and potential customers) wondering why a great children’s classic has been tarted up as a cheap publicity stunt. Penguin has already been doing damage control, pointing out that this is the "adult" edition, and have released a statement on their blog: the Modern Classics cover looks at the children at the centre of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl's writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life.
We here at The Jade Sphinx have been in public relations long enough to detect the heady, sweet odor of bullshit when we smell it. I’ve read Charlie both as a child and an adult, and I’m not sure that “dark” is the adjective I would use. But “dark” has become a marketing buzzword, bandied about usually when marketers want adults to buy children’s material without feeling any guilt. It is this ridiculous argument that has resulted in various frauds, illiterates and numbskulls wanting to call everything from The Wizard of Oz to Superman “dark.” I am waiting for the “dark” version of Beatle Baily….
Do we really need to see these things? To marketers really have to pander to our basest selves? And isn’t it time that we ask, don’t we deserve better?