The Cool Kids

By Matthew

Idiot’s Guide to Being A Cool Kid

Everyone wants to belong.  To be looked up to.  To be admired.  To be one of the “cool kids”.  Some people say they don’t because the cool kids are elitist douchebags, but I don’t believe that.  Deep down, they want in.  Maybe it’s conditional and they want in only as their current incarnation of self, but they still want in.  The advertisement of Kenneth Cole’s new cologne “Connected”, if you believe it, would allow you to have a close knit group of very attractive looking friends that are obviously way cooler than any friends you currently have.  In other words, you too could be one of the cool kids.

The ad displays four young adults in four different scenarios.  Three young men and one young woman.  One of the young men is Caucasian with brown hair and blue eyes, one is Asian with glasses, and the last one is a light skinned man of African descent .  The young woman is blonde with blue eyes and has an “I’m sexy and know it” look.  I am really surprised there was not a Hispanic person involved in this ad campaign.  The largest and central picture displays the Caucasian man and woman holding each other as if they were a couple or in some more intimate relationship than just ordinary friends.  Not only can this fragrance assure you really cool friends but a hot girlfriend also.  The other three scenarios are cropped pictures of the group.  The first picture shows the man of African descent doing something interesting in his lap, like playing a guitar, as one of the other guys sits next to him enjoying the show.  The second picture shows the three young men walking down what looks like an alley in some city.  They look tough in a “West Side Story” sort of way.  The last picture shows the Caucasian man in a coat and tie and sunglasses riding a skateboard.  The final picture is of the product itself.  The cologne is packaged in a bottle shaped like an aluminum Klean Kanteen type of water bottle with a carabiner on it so that when you plan your next mountain climbing trip, you don’t have to find a pocket to put your new fragrance in.  You can just attach it to your pack.

This ad is was found on page 37 of the October 17, 2011 issue of “ESPN The Magazine”.  The target of this ad seems to be young adult males around the high school/college age demographic.  In John Storey’s book Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction, he lists five different definitions of ideology.  The second definition is that ideology disguises real life and creates a ‘false consciousness’ which is a distorted reality.  A reality which is used to exploit the viewers of the text by selling them a lifestyle instead of a product.  The distorted reality in the advertisement is that if you want to be current and accepted with today’s cool kids, you will have to purchase Kenneth Cole’s cologne “Connected”.  Even the name of the product insinuates that you will have a bond, or belong to something somewhere if you buy it.  In reality, the four people in the picture will probably never touch the product (you never see them actually using it,) or see each other ever again in their whole lives.  There is no connection made with “Connected” other than the manufacture with the consumer.

I think I have been aware of the way advertising manipulates our wants and desires since I was a young child.  My first memory of disillusionment was when I was about seven or eight years old and I ordered some kind of burger at McDonalds that I had seen on TV.  In the commercial, the tomatoes were fat and juicy, the lettuce was crisp, loaded with pickles, and the cheese was melting so deliciously over the savory burger.  I wanted to lick the screen.  What I recieved when I ordered it in real life looked nothing like the commercial.  The lettuce was wilted and not even the same type of lettuce, the tomatoes were thin and rubbery, there were only two or three pickles, and the cheese looked goopy and artificial.  Bubbles were burst and disappoint set in.  Ever since then I’ve been a skeptic of advertising but I don’t think I really examined everything around me in the sense of the corporate ideology until a few weeks ago.  I still don’t think I see everything, and it makes me angry that my only purpose on this planet to some people is to fulfill my duty as a good worker/consumer.  I don’t know if I want to see everything.  I’m bitter enough as it is.  Maybe my wishing for ignorance is also another symptom of popular culture.  I want to feel like I’m unique and special because current society tells us that we should be even though we are all drawn inexplicably into the herd.  I’m sure there is some evolutionary reason for that but I feel like I’m beginning to open a whole different can of worms with that train of thought so I’ll drop it for now.

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