David Schmader, one of The Stranger’s most consistently hilarious and humane writers posted this advert over on The Stranger’s Slog, saying that,
“Ten years ago, if you’d have told me that an openly gay former child star would one day be hired to hawk the butchest old-school man’s man scent in America, I would have laughed in your face, and maybe called the cops on your obviously-whacked-out-on-PCP ass.”
And to point out what’s probably obvious to my fellow nerds: the patient that Neil Patrick Harris TVMD is so dutifully examining is Anthony Stewart Head of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (and International Coffee) fame. So in a subtle way, Old Spice is marketing their (grand)dad smell on both the gays and nerds, whom are the chocolate and peanut-butter of adolescent victimization.
I mention the latter because comics are a venue where the geeks, weirdos, nerds, and otherwise bullied have often found voices and resonance. Whether you think about the context in which Jews like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in the anti-semitic 1930s, or the X-Men’s deliberate parallels to the 1960s civil rights movement (and later parallels to gay issues in addition to racial politics), and the wide array of comics as autobiography– for whatever reason, comics have been a place for many marginalized voices to flourish. That’s not to say comics haven’t also been a forum for political and moral bigotry or that the major publishers of comic books have had some noble intention (most didn’t and don’t in the present).
The reason I bring any of this up, is because as we’ve seen in the popularization of the “graphic novel,” and comics in film/television– advertisements once aimed at a much different class of people (or to inspire jealousy of that class/type) are now, more than ever, setting their sights on us– the once socially dispossessed who’ve found outlets in mediums like comics and the internet. Without getting all Adbusters on you about capitalism, the evils of niche marketing (pandering?), et cetera– I wanted to talk about this Old Spice advertisement because it brings up the sorts of tangential connections to identity, pop culture, and politics that I think about all the time. Before I start laying down the snark on one side of an issue or another, I want to start mapping those connections and the questions that they raise.
p.s. Fun F-word Factoid: In 1999 Tony Head guest starred as “Dr. Staretski” on the epicly mediocre sitcom Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place, a show which somehow managed to have four fucking seasons! And people wonder how/why the internet is replacing older media formats.