“Commodification” and Adventure Time

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Definitely later than I meant to blog – oops. Then again, now I can talk about our class discussion (argument?) on Adorno. Really glad a reading that confused me so much sparked such an interesting discussion! Moments like these remind me why I’m an English major – my peers’ power to help me understand things is a beautiful thing. In fact, it kind of invites a question about media: if I read something and come away with a particular interpretation, but my opinion is changed by my peers, who read the same article but drew different conclusions, are there then multiple forms of media (initial article and other people)? How might our individual interpretations factor into a general interpretation of concepts?

To unpack one sentence from Adorno: “What parades as progress in the culture industry, as the incessantly new which it offers up, remains the disguise for an eternal sameness…” (17) I realize this is a long sentence (this isn’t even the whole thing!) and I won’t be able to do it justice in a blog post-length summary. I find the word ‘parades’ particularly interesting – it implies a performative element to culture, as if every action is meant to elicit a particular response from viewers. This makes me wonder about the filtration that happens as a result of translation – in fact, in first year, I wrote a paper about the English translation of Rousseau and the words chosen by the translator – and whether Adorno’s initial point is making it through the many stages from inception to this version in our anthology.

Castells: “The Information Age does not have to be the age of stepped-up inequality, polarization and social exclusion. But for the moment it is.” (157) This is a strong gesture to the Internet ‘age’ (though if we’re working with the concept of timeless time, this ‘age’ doesn’t exist), particularly the ‘polarization and social exclusion’ part. Do social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram really bring us closer together, or do they push us apart? I know people who have ‘Internet friends’ – people they’ve never met, but consider ‘friends’ because they Tweet back and forth. Is this a real relationship, built on the foundation of shared interests? Or is it a mockery of true connections built face-to-face, the old fashioned way?

Wernick: “…virtually everyone is involved in the self-promotionalism which overlays such practices in the micro-sphere of everyday life.” (770) This brought back really strong memories for me; anyone who has applied for a scholarship surely remembers the ease with which this ‘self-promotionalism’ must flow from your fingertips. ‘Tooting your own horn’ is something young professionals must learn to do early, or face the dire consequences. In this day and age, we need to be able to essentially advertise ourselves so that others will buy into what we’re ‘selling’ – this commodifies human beings as a whole and also (perhaps?) as individuals. Shudder.

On Adventure Time – although the ‘Princess Monster Wife’ was a conglomeration of parts, rather than an individual, she somehow had a personality and a spirit (which then flew into the sky). Cartoons love to do this thing where they throw in something really symbolic and meaningful and just let it slide, like when Spongebob addressed feminism (you go, Sandy Cheeks!), or when every children’s TV show ever had that episode about an elite club that excludes one member (Clifford, Rugrats, Franklin, Arthur, Berenstain Bears, Dragon Tales, etc.). Kids are quick learners, but I swear I didn’t pick up on that one until I was 10 or 11 and had seen it replayed on every show! Hmm. I will continue to think about this one 🙂