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Sexy Propaganda

P.S. If you go to the Youtube site to watch the video, watch it in HD; you won’t regret it!

See also: the babe theory of political movements . I never thought this theory was to be taken seriously, but it explains a lot. (Of course, female beauty is easily manipulated by commercial interests. I’m sure Exxon Mobile could hire supermodels that are 10x more gorgeous than the ones in this ad to reassure us about the sexy power of fossil fuels).

Joe Brewer has a brilliant commentary:

Each layer of clothing fits within the supermodel frame, meaning that the style of garments represent the glamor and extravagance of the fashion industry.  As the models remove each article of clothing, they are promoting the idea that all these layers are not only unnecessary, but they are bad for us.

This puts the fashion industry in a precarious position.  If all those layers of extravagance (metaphorically implied as causing the heating problem) are harmful AND unnecessary, we can and should return to simpler forms of pleasure (like sexual interaction with those who appeal to us and, by extension, other kinds of simple pleasures) that do not contribute to the disruption of global climate.

This  ad is effective because males as a demographic are more opposed to climate change bills than females. On the other hand,  if it tries to be too sexy it triggers a defensive reaction; whoa, aren’t we being manipulated?

I’m trying to imagine what a counterad would be like. I’ve seen one parody with the message, “are you going to agree with some goal merely because I’ve hinted at disrobing once a certain number has been reached?” The good thing is that the industry can’t really make a smart counterad– the coal ads tend to be bland and idyllic and focused on a vague feeling instead of a decisive goal (See a satirical video example here).

Metaphorically it works too (although it certainly treads over a line–that’s a REALLY long ad!) So you feel more heat if you retreat to a lower number which means less heat-trapping gases? It’s a contradiction.  It is taking the “less is more” meme and glamorizing it. While it probably won’t persuade  a denialist,  at least it introduces the idea that it is possible to reduce the world’s ppm level (which is still a far-fetched idea even to many in the climate change reform community). Also, I think the goal of the ad is even more limited: to raise awareness of the PPM number and the need to keep it from increasing.

The problem, based on my limited scientific understanding, is that reducing ppm’s would require a massive sea change; it’s not something like going on a diet and weighing yourself and seeing the gradual improvements.  A 350 ppm target would require lots of planning and reengineering  (and I say this as a climate change activist).  Most climate change scientists would be satisfied just to prevent future increases in the carbon level. The problem with the ad is that it makes a very-hard-task seem relatively easy.  Is it helpful for  the climate change movement if reducing the PPMs is portrayed as “easy?”

I think one commenter’s mention of the earth/woman metaphor is right on. Men are the ones with  tools and industry and rationality; women are the ones who are supposed to be  pretty and in touch with their emotional side.  In this ad, the woman are the ones taking action; they are also striving (not the men).  Men are serious; they have to work hard; they have to get their hands dirty. Women are focused on aesthetics and keeping things clean. The question becomes, which version of reality do you prefer: the aesthetic or the rational one?

I expect this ad to be parodied a lot; will that make people forget the point of the original ad?

Just to be clear: I endorse the goals of the 350 movement, if only to provide a margin of safety against pernicious consequences.And I generally approve of radical messages to make a point.   (read this update). I just have to wonder if the sexy method is going to bring the wrong kind of attention.

Nov 6 Update. I probably should have include some science link about whether the 350 ppm goal is desirable.

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