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There is something deeply disturbing – if wildly entertaining – about the 2010 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short Film, Logorama, by Francois Alaux and Herve de Crece (the whole thing is available in a number of places [legally, I hope], including over at TwitchFilm, an excellent source for news of film projects from outside of the United States mainstream).  The official site for the film can be found here.

An image from Logorama

The film is a short, sweet little action adventure that takes place in a fictional(?) Los Angeles where everything, the people included, are corporate logos.  There are a number of ways to look at this slice of visual genius; we can view this as nothing more than a laugh, but there is more to the film’s central conceit than this; there is something chillingly plausible about this world, which looks more than a little like some parts of the United States today. In a world where so many people are willing to shell out extra money to buy a T-shirt with a corporate logo on it, and a world where kids on the other side of the world dress and act as if they were in an American hip-hop video (all the time talking about how they are ‘keeping it real,’ of course), this degree of commodification seems just around the corner, even as the financial edifice that such a commodification has helped to build crumbles around us.  This leads to a question that may seem to be defeatist, but which is worth taking seriously: is this  ever more dominant aspect of the world entirely immune to criticism?

‘At the level of consumption, this new spirit is that of so-called “cultural capitalism”: we primarily buy commodities neither on account of their utility nor as status symbols; we buy them to get the experience provided by them, we consume them in order to render our lives pleasurable and meaningful … This is how capitalism, at the level of consumption, integrated the legacy of ’68, the critique of alienated consumption: authentic experience matters’.[1]

That the companies whose logos are put to use here have not blocked the release of the film is surprising, or perhaps  merely an indication of how comfortable they all are with the current state of things, and how frustratingly little such small acts of protest really are.  I am reminded here of Starbucks’ cooperation in allowing their products to feature in the early scenes of David Fincher’s visionary Fight Club, as scathing a critique of contemporary consumer culture as Hollywood has produced in the decade since its first release.

‘The pressure “to do something” here is like the superstitious compulsion to make some gesture when we are observing a process over which we have no real influence.  Are not our acts often such gestures?  The old saying “Don’t just talk, do something!” is one of the most stupid things one can say, even measured by the low standards of common sense’.[2]

Logorama is strong, subversive stuff, or at least it should be.  That it may be prevented by the structure and the ubiquity of that which it critiques from being received as anything other than its glossy surface and its pitch-perfect homage to Pulp Fiction is  a deeply troubling thought.

[1] Slavoj Žižek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (London: Verso, 2009): 52-54.

[2] Žižek, Tragedy, 11.