Monday, October 12, 2009

My Favorite Whitman...as interpreted by Levis

So I am watching SNL this week while surfing the net and updating social networking sites and my ears perk up when I hear a voice reciting one of my favorite Walt Whitman poems, "O Pioneers!"  I am somewhat flabbergasted when I realize that this poem is being used to hock Levi jeans in their "Go Forth" commercial campaign.  Though the commercials are visually brilliant, shot by director Michael Gondry, I am supremely conflicted, believing in my heart of hearts that Whitman most assuredly would not be down with such shennanigans of selling jeans with his poetry.  As I milled it over, however, I began to think that Whitman might actually enjoy being associated with something so ingrained in Americana as the blue jean.  I will let you be the judge...check out the link and let me know if you think it is simply exploitation of fine poetry to sell jeans or an homage to a great American poet who captured the spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical landscape of this country in its pre and post civil war era.



Here's the other one from this series that uses Whitman's "America" as it's soundtrack...which is good but not one of my most favorite of his poems.

4 comments:

Jason said...

It has become evident to me that I do not know the first thing about poetry.

I guess for people like me, at least Levis forces me to hear poetry, even if I would never know the author.

mikerite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mikerite said...

I'm going to have to cogitate a bit more about that...but I think it might be homage...in a strange, but perhaps explainable way

- love the mystery - said...

I actually think Whitman would have agreed with the spirit of these commercials.

He was himself a king at marketing. For instance when he first published leaves of grass he had a portrait done of himself wearing tattered looking clothes and looking unkempt and grizzled, although he did not in fact need to dress or look that way in life. He described himself as a vagabond, "one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them." But he wasn't a vagabond. He was not one of the roughs. He worked hard, but did so not living off the land or wandering the earth, but working in lawyers offices, and at printing presses and as a journalist.

But for him the truth wasn't about the fact, but about the spirit. He was marketing the spirit of his poetry, and invented a version of himself to do it. A kind of ad-campaign if you will. I think he would approve of levis marketing that same "spirit" with their "Go Forth" levis campaign. Even if they are selling jeans, rather than book.