Even Better than the Real Thing: Advertising, Music Videos, Postmodernism, and (Eventually) Science Fiction
The title of this essay is ambitious, listing four fields of study that could not be covered in one essay or a hundred essays. Even after completing it, I am not entirely sure which of its listed genres are the subjects of this essay and which are merely being employed as a means to understand other genres. Call the following, then, a zero draft, a tentative exploration of ideas, a possible stimulus for further thought and research. Or, beating my subject in mind, and understanding that I will be offering some extravagant claims within a limited space, call this piece not an expression of ideas, but an advertisement for ideas.
When major art forms of the twentieth century are discussed, advertising is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Nevertheless, observing page after page of glossy advertisements in our magazines, the billboards that grace our highways, the little placards attached to our shopping carts, and the innumerable commercials that clutter our radio and television programs, we must conclude that advertising is the most ubiquitous and characteristic art form of our modern civilization.
As one sign of the power and influence of advertising, there are now several national television networks primarily devoted to commercials. These include, of course, various "home shopping" networks that somehow attract viewers by presenting and promoting an endless series of items such as jewelry, collectible dolls and plates, household decorations, and small appliances. But the most popular of these advertising networks are MTV and its more sedate cousin VH1. For, we must remember, music videos are nothing more than commercials, made and financed by recording companies as a way to persuade viewers to purchase their cassettes and compact discs. Every video shown on MTV and VH1 concludes by displaying the names of the artist, the song, the album that includes the song, and the company that sells that album--all the information a perspective purchaser might require. While these networks are increasingly creating and presenting other types of programming--including news reports, interviews, documentaries,