Year: (1) 2007; (2) 2008
Length: (1) 1:20; (2) 1:27
Access: (1) YouTube: "Onslaught" (Dove)
(2) YouTube: "Onslaught(er)" (Greenpeace)
Summary: The pair of clips above by Dove and Greenpeace are excellent examples of commercials which appear to transcend the narrow concern of increasing market share and actually aim to promote social justice. However, more cynical viewers will likely protest that, at least in regards to the Dove spot, the appearance of corporate social responsibility is little more than a sophisticated marketing ploy. By attempting to raise public awareness about the role visual media play in rigidly defining what counts as attractive and truly feminine, Dove is actually attempting to position itself as a responsible brand. In response, Greenpeace created a spoof of the ad, but unlike the original version, viewers are not urged to talk to their daughters before the beauty industry does; rather, they are urged to talk to Dove about Dove's use of palm oil and its role in the destruction of Indonesian forests in order to harvest this oil. The Greenpeace clip can be understood as a practice of détournement, which is a concept originally developed by a Paris-based group of radical artists known as the Letterist International. Détournement refers to the practice of "finding" an artifact, then reconfiguring or re-situating it with the goal of making it newly relevant. The reconfigured artifact typically suggests ideas, which are in opposition to the those promoted by the creator of the original artifact. Thus a commercial about a caring company which bravely invests in exposing dangerous media messages about feminine beauty standards is reworked to expose the caring company's role in the destruction of Indonesian lowland forest. This post is just one in a growing number of posts on The Sociological Cinema, which feature examples of détournement or what is sometimes called culture jamming (see here, here, and here). In the sociological classroom, the clip might work well as a way to discuss what sociologists mean by culture and cultural resistance, which often involves the transformation of meanings and meaning-making practices.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist