This blog was originally posted at Identity Campaigning.
Here’s Ford’s new car advert, featuring unborn animals. It’s really quite powerful, because it at once reduces anxieties (by affirming our connection with the source of life, species, vital energies), and suggests the product is an affirmation of these deepest connections.
The car as object no longer arouses anxieties as contributing to climate change and the decimation of species. Buying this car, the implicit message runs, connects one to life itself, and to oneself as a life-affirming individual (here is the identity stuff).
The music is what you’d expect to hear in a child’s nursery; like music from wind-up soft toys. So what is happening affectively in this ad is also the arousal of more ‘infantile’ desires and sensations. Infants live in an undifferentiated world of objects, sensations, and so on. This ad actually powerfully evokes this world of floating embryonic creatures and foetuses, soft and mutating. The car then becomes the object (in Winnicott’s terms, ‘transitional object’, or Bollas’ ‘transformational object’) that connects us with this part of ourselves.
Hell, I want to buy one! (just kidding) Reminds me of something Rosemary Randall wrote:
“If, as I am suggesting, awareness of environmental degradation and its related social and political problems produces unbearable anxiety, then shopping brings relief. As well as being an inevitable and essential component of capital’s constant search for new markets, it functions as the actual act of denial that anything is wrong. Shopping, with its cornucopia of delights, its visual, tactile and auditory appeals to the senses, its promises of enjoyment and pleasure says symbolically – All is well. This is what you are meant to be doing. This is the way to satisfy need. There is collective comfort in the knowledge that everyone is doing the same thing. A sense of normality comes with the awareness of others engaged in similar pursuits and the overall experience provides a soothing protection from stories of war, destruction and pain.”
Connecting the purchase of a car with life force and planetary empathy is the ultimate form of splitting. This is dissociation in practice. I don’t see anything positive about this ad. But it signals something very important; that such imageries have higher cultural currency as moving people on very deep levels. It signals a shift in the cultural consciousness and the realm of semiotics.