Hipster Runoff’s signature tweet-like ramblings struck a note of wistful introspection in an April 13 post in which Carles waxes elegaic about his waning adolescent libido:
Yall. I remember the days when I would totally ‘get a hard on’ when I saw a girl wearing Am Appy. Whether it was a pair of leggings, a ‘deep ass’ v-neck, a pair of briefs on a lezbo core broad, or even just a bright coloured t-shirt, I always thought a girl who was wearing Am Appy was just as hot as one of the Am Appy models.
We suppose we’re meant to feel a shudder of the transgressive when our eyes light upon a multi-ethnic Lolita, whose druggy yet somehow knowing look encourages just such a response.
Such textile-induced ardor retreats before the onset of a more subdued, more considered sexuality: “Feel like I’m growing up and valuing different things about a woman,” Carles writes. But, lest his reader think him slouching toward a Dockers-and-Rogaine sort of existence, Carles reminds her that his senescent priapism has left his sartorially quirky side unscathed. He asks his reader:
Have yall ever made a new wardrobe out of nontraditional items, like ‘wearing duct tape 2 prom’ or something zany like that? Have yall ever made a body-suit from the skin of fat women?
Yet such whimsy doesn’t obscure the fact that Carles recognizes that he is at a crossroads. With Ecclesiastes-like resignation, he imagines what life after years of unsummoned boners holds for him:
Not sure if I’m even gonna wear Am Appy n e more. Might just start wearing the Am Appy bag. Need to brand myself better with Helvetty + something that showcases my body.
(One is certainly relieved to learn that Carles’s decline, though libidinal and perhaps spiritual, is not physical.)
Obviously feeling the poignancy of his musings, Carles concludes with some original verse reminiscent of Eliot’s “Gerontion.”
All I want 2 do
is live in 1 of the cities on the Am Appy bag
Start a family
Be the person I want 2 be
and grow old without feeling old
Getting more meaningful with each passing day
Kinda sad. Not even sure what I think it ‘hot’ any more.
Might just start looking at ‘a ton of porn’
because it’s good 2 know that some girls ‘just want 2 get pounded’
and only consider themselves’ to be ‘lil fuck holes’
What do u look 4 in a woman?
some1 who looks like Jessica Alba?
Though we at Generation Bubble feel Carles’s pain, we do not share his attitude. Indeed, nothing in the common run of things breeds more ambivalence in us than those peek-a-boo ads for American Apparel we come across time and again in various magazines.
Admittedly, we fall way outside the campaign’s intended demographic. But it seems almost silly to presume that the marketers have seen to it that only certain pairs of eyes light upon its ads. To mix a metaphor, a naïve way of considering the rhetorical situation is whether the ad positions one as an addressee or as simply an eavesdropper in its imagistic come-on.
This, however, seems insufficient in the case of the American Apparel ad campaign — as in most every case — which anticipates salaciousness in its very content. Suspended in the image is a leer simply awaiting a face to move behind it, as it were. We suppose we’re meant to feel a shudder of the transgressive when our eyes light upon a multi-ethnic Lolita, whose druggy yet somehow knowing look encourages just such a response.
Provoking such palpitating creepiness stands as an exceeding odd way of selling non-sweatshop togs, especially since such a manufacturing practice has become the emblem of politically correct consumerism. Its almost as if the powers behind American Apparel feel they must somehow offset their lofty rectitude with immoral mischief.
We live at a time when “hip” has become a blanket designation for anything cartoonishly excessive.
It may in this case be lucrative to be square — to take the high road by not off-shoring its operation in order to hire hapless third-worlders at starvation wages — but it is certainly not hip. And we live at a time when “hip” has become a blanket designation for anything cartoonishly excessive. Lacking the ironic subtlety and grace traditionally associated with things “hip,” American Apparel’s ad campaign, which in both content and form takes its cues from mis en scènes of amateur pornography, represents a debased and thoroughly domesticated avant-garde that is “hip” only to certain stultified minds which can discern, at best, only a single layer of meaning. American Apparel’s pictures of louche adolescents are definitely not instances of NSK-like ironic over-identification. The latter represents a masterful form of immanent political critique, while the former critique nothing, because only a fool would believe that anything inside commercial culture can critique anything.
No, the folks at American Apparel have chosen to confine their politics to the unsexy abstraction of fair labor practices, which is unfortunate, because it suggests that a company’s laudable ethics will never in their own right be enough of an inducement to purchase its products. It must instead dive headlong into the wallow of pornographic suggestiveness. American Apparel may indeed be righteous, but it wants to remind us that it can be hip as well.
This is a long way of saying that ads of playful pedophilia, which are never so edgy as their creators wish them to be, highlight quite clearly the cross-circuited morality of our contemporary moment. To a culture such as ours, with its willy-nilly march of impressions before truncated attention spans, the exploitation of coolies for the manufacture of cheap goods and the exploitation of adolescent girls to sell them simply do not occupy the same moral category.