Losing My Wings

Bowie Economics Part 2

The second major tenet of Bowie economics is the use of an image to productively conflate advertising, entertainment, and information. This extends advertising's the reach of advertising and communication to how one lives one's life, instead of delivery products. Advertisements are no longer intended to inform about the use of the product; rather advertisements now present a new existential possibilities. Desire is harnessed in new directions, as what it means to "be alive" is marketed ad(s) nauseam. This trend has been noted by authors from different parts of the political spectrum.

The business policy analyst and historian Thomas Frank, has written how during the 1960s, business co-opted the youth revolution by forging a new type of "hip consumerism". "Hip capitalism", writes Frank, "wasn't something on the fringes of enterprise, an occasional hippie entrepreneur selling posters or drug paraphernalia. . . . What happened in the sixties is that hip became central to the way American capitalism understood itself and explained itself to its public." 26. According to Frank, the rise of a consumer counterculture in the 1960s came from a revolt against main stream culture launched by youth and business.

This concern with advertising and communications is central to The Man Who Fell to Earth. Not only is the alien alerted to the presence of Earth through television broadcasts, the alien's plans for the domination of Earth begins by marketing new forms of recording technologies, including a new type of camera, with self developing film, and a new type of music playback that stores an incredible amount of music in a single orb. He does this by creating a new inter-global (as opposed to international) corporation entitled, World Enterprises Corporation. These products feed a fire for the rise of immediate and constant media gratification. For instance, in the following clip from The Man Who Fell to Earth presented below, David Bowie’s character seems mindlessly immersed in drinking and watching multiple television screens at the same time. This leads to the alien's loss of  mission as he eventually abandons his goal of saving his world in favor of the easy pleasures of a consumer lifestyle.

Other cultural commentators also see the rise of communications and the use of hip consumerism extending even further than the surface of a television screen. In their reevaluation of international consumerism and the politics of life entitled, Empire, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, suggests that this stage of consumerism implicates consumers in a field of political power where to but is to become fully alive: “the communications industries integrate the imaginary and the symbolic within the biopolitical fabric, not merely putting them at the service of power but actually integrating them into its very functioning.” 25.

This too is seen in the clip above, but requires a bit of exegesis to fully uncover. Flashing across these screens are striking images presented during the late 1960s and early 1970s, including a notorious Pepsi advertisement from the “The Come Alive! Pepsi Generation” adds. This particular ad is notorious as it incorporates lens flairs and the “trails” that one sees during an LSD trip as young white folks play football on the beach. Pepsi would increasingly feature psychedelic imagery and sounds coupled with the appeal to vitality (Come Alive!) and youth (The Pepsi Generation) in adds for Pepsi and 7Up through the late 1960s and 1970s. Vitality and life are now implicated in new political and economic domains.

See how special effects and media were used to visualize biological change in the 1990s: Morphing in the 1990s
Understand the long relationship between biology and popular culture: Popular Culture and Extraordinary Bodies

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