Monday, February 11, 2013

Nothing changes.

Almost 40 years ago, well anyway, 35, I was a graduate student in English and Comparative Literature. Through my reading I developed a belief--a thesis--that was sure to get me excoriated, excommunicated and expelled just for uttering it.

I believed then, and I still do, that there is something I called "The Literature of the Oppressed." That is, whether you are an African-American in the Jim Crow South, an Irishman in British-occupied Ireland, or a Jew in the Czar's Russia, certain consistencies exist in the stories of these oppressed people. Of course, the particularities vary from ghetto to shtetl, but the basics of the story--the weak coping with the strong, have a great deal in common.

I had this thought right at the coming of age of African-American studies in the US. And my belief in the universality of the human condition was flat-out heresy.

A decade or so later I was teaching, but not English Lit at some ivy-covered campus. Instead I was presiding over a concept class at New York's School of Visual Arts.

I always started the term this way. I would take 10 or 15 award-winning ads, a couple each from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. These ads, as you can imagine, looked and felt dramatically different. We would then spend the entire class and most of the term discussing the commonalities of good communication. And how that didn't change through the decades.

Every so often among the few comments I get on Ad Aged, I get one that reminds me how "out of it" I am. How things were the way I described maybe decades ago but they're not that way now.

I suppose these comments come from the same people who spout idiocies like "that will change everything" and "blank is dead."

The basic arc of a story hasn't changed. Nor has the "value exchange" of people in love.  Nor have a trillion other things. If I were a little smarter and a little more talented, I would take "Gilgamesh," written over 4,000 years ago and write the screenplay. You won't find a more riveting story on the big screen and in the hands of a Cameron or a Lucas, Gilgamesh would surely be a blockbuster.

I get tired of people who don't understand the past.

2 comments:

The Ad Contrarian said...

The saddest part of not understanding the past is that you can't possibly understand the present.

Tore Claesson said...

People, both young and old, mistske surface and style for communication. While it's true that style and design, must be contemporary in order to carry a message effectively, all too often the focus is on style alone. Whether it's old farts complaining about the way things are put together nowadays compared to the "good old days", or whether it's the young ones complaing about old farts not getting it. The sad truth is that many experienced seniors do have a hard time adjusting to modern expressions. And when that happens everyone over 50 is deemed forever lost in the past.