Something Quite Atrocious

Are we all corporate shills? Every time you drop a Simpsons reference, quote a line from Borat or post a blog about Lost are we forwarding a corporate cultural agenda?
I posted this whitewashing of my favourite piece of graffiti over at Torontoist this week and it stirred a debate over corporate media.

“The problem with the art/commerce axis is that, uh, this is commerce too. It may be lighthearted whimsy, but it's lighthearted whimsy that reminds everyone who sees it of one of the Walt Disney Company's most prized corporate holdings (now available on DVD!). It's art that helps convince you to open your wallet and chip in to keep Walt's walk-in freezer running,” commented one reader.

But isn’t all art up for sale? Don’t authors want to sell books and filmmakers want their work to be seen? And if we talk about them later isn’t it an appreciation of the work, not participation in a marketing campaign? At what point does a commercial work transcend its origins and become part of pop culture?


  1. My thought is that they may well be right. Maybe every time one drops a pop culture reference, whether it's The Beatles or The Prisoner or The Family Guy, one is feeding into a corporate agenda.

    But, honestly, I don't see anything is wrong with that? Does any one think Shakespeare wrote his plays simply for art's sake? Are we to believe that Byron did not write his poems without some expectation of monetary return?

    Most writers, filmmakers, song writers, and so on want their works to be seen and appreciated. And for that to happen, they have to make some money doing it as well. And while dropping the occasional reference to The Simpsons might put money in Fox's pocket, you are right, talking about a work shows appreciation for that work. And, ultimately, I think that is more important for artists than the money. After all, I think most authors, songwriters, filmmakers, and so on, would rather be remembered than rich any day of the week.

  2. We make pop culture, not the corporate media. They can try to make something popular and part of our collective cultural experience, if it isn't going to happen, no matter how much money or media attention they put on something.

    Something becomes ours when we internalize it... when it becomes part of our own personal shorthand... if you allude to it, and someone else gets it, then it is ours.

  3. Wow, I guess I'm not very "deep" because I just thought it was cool graffiti.

  4. Couldn't agree more with you all. The argument seems to be that as long as what you create is given away or never seen by any, only then does it have value.

    And you're right, Diana, it was cool graffiti.

  5. I think the point that the graffiti artist was going for was: "Look, I'm so good I can paint the longest word ever on the freeway"

    And I doubt he knows about antidisestablishmentarianism.