Wednesday, September 15, 2004

This is the best blog ever!!!

Thanks to the over-zealousness of the American advertising industry, words no longer mean anything. If a chewing gum can be referred to as “extreme,” you know that the vocabulary has changed.

Everything has become a superlative. And when everything is amazing – everything becomes exactly the same.

It’s carried over into the rest of the culture as well. Marketing has become such a force of cultural change that it has completely altered our perception of what things mean. “Superstar,” for instance. Can someone actually be called a superstar when 4 out of 5 people have never heard of that person? Talk about a loose definition. Some 19-year old silicon airhead makes one movie or appears on one Fox TV show and suddenly they’re a superstar.

It’s such a modern term, too. In the golden age of Hollywood, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant weren’t called “superstars.” “Stars,” yes. But super? No, that came later. Which is ironic, because Katharine Hepburn actually deserved to be called a superstar. Alyssa Milano does not.

When exactly did everything become overdone? When did words like “ultimate,” and “amazing,” become so commonplace as to be rendered meaningless? The other day at the grocery store I heard a child refer to a breakfast cereal as “supreme.” Supreme? It’s processed corn with sugar and food coloring and it’s worthy of being called “supreme?”

It used to be that modesty, both personal and commercial, was a virtue. When someone complimented you on a job well done you were expected to smile deprecatingly and make some comment about how much help you’d received from the other guys. Today people don’t wait to be complimented, they point out their own accomplishments and demand all the glory.

A while back I came across some issues of Time Magazine from the 1930’s and in looking at the advertisements I was struck at how humble they were. Products were described as “good-tasting,” and “durable,” not “the best,” and the dreaded “extreme.”

Which just goes to prove, once again, that I was born in the wrong century.

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