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Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Ah, the 70s...where seeing hidden and sinister meanings everywhere could get you a book deal. How else to make sense of Wilson Key and his Media Sexploitation. In it, he details the many ways that advertisers and artists are secretly manipulating your mind in order to hypnotize you into doing things contrary to your self-interest. I mean, just look at the kind of filth they tried to get away with in ads!
Why, Jesus is making faces at that ladies crotch! That makes me want to, I don't know, join the Episcopalian church, or something. I guess... Well, you sort of see where Key's theory starts to fall apart. He insists that the imagery and hidden meanings are there, but his claims are so patently ridiculous, if there really were all this blatant subliminal imagery in everything, no one would ever buy anything, because we'd all be too busy laughing at the desperation of advertisers.
I mean, Key seems to seriously believe that crackers are baked in such a way as to cause the word "sex" to be embossed on each one.
And, it's not just advertising, oh no. Did you know that all men's nudie magazines are part of a secret homosexual plot to effeminize American men?
This is the image he's talking about:
Oh, how could we have been so blind as to not realize that pin-up models are all actually guys in drag!
Even comic strips are loaded with vile Freudian meanings:
A particularly eye-opening chapter explores how American pop music was all about sex and death, until the Beatles came along, and then every song ever played on the radio was about drugs.
Or, you know, it's a distinctive sounding name that doesn't mess with the song's rhyme or rhythm. And I'm not playfully exaggerating Key's hypothesis there. That is his argument, in a nutshell.
For a fan of cultural studies and critical theory books, a work like this is fascinating on multiple levels. On one hand, it's an object lesson on the dangers of reading too deeply into works. And there actually is, buried deep within the book, some good analytical writing. The chapter on symbolism and cinematic technique in the film version of The Exorcist is really very good and insightful, if not undermined by Key's insistence that director William Friedkin only used montage shots, dubbed over sounds, deaths head motifs and the complicated cultural symbolism of the rose to brainwash audiences into pedophiles. But the book is also an invaluable glimpse into what the "talking heads" class of commentators and writers were preoccupied with back in the day. I've got more than a passing notion that the current mania for "liberals are evil traitors" books will look as embarrassingly quaint and stupid thirty years from now as this book does today.
But, seriously, stuff like this says more about Key than any advertising executive: