Culture Rover

#109 - A Battery of Questions

Question of the day #1: Why did the Energizer battery used to be in the bunny, but then the bunny got put in the Energizer battery?

Question of the day #2: Why is the battery back in the bunny?

Of course, on the surface these are just questions of corporate branding, but reach in a bit further and the advertisement begins to give way to deeper cultural undercurrents.

Just to name a few: the role of batteries in our lives (someone needs to write a cultural history of the battery); the way that advertisements are increasingly intertextual, relying on self- and cross-references; the growing historical consciousness found in advertising, which relies on the viewer knowing earlier advertisements; the blurring of advertising and non-advertising modes of entertainment (or were they really always the same thing?); the role of cuteness and soft fur in transforming yucky, environmentally-bad, disposable, chemical cylinders into products one does not mind consuming; and the new association of batteries -- even the smallest ones -- with terrorism.

There are many dimensions to our pink, sunglasses-wearing, drum-beating, battery-powered buddy's adventures, the more I think about it.

The transmogrifications of the battery becoming the bunny becoming the battery only to become the bunny again strike me most of all as relating to the changing nature of individual access to the power grid through electronic consumer products. In the post-Internet era, the small electronic device (the Blackberry, Ipod, laptop, cell phone, digital camera, portable DVD player, etc.) has been fetishized (perhaps appropriately so?) with special magical powers. These devices give one access to a new space -- portable, attached to the mobile body, yet capable of plugging in at multiple points to larger networks and flows of information, communication, coordination, and desire.

Easy to dismiss this as cooptation -- or celebrate it as revolution -- but the phenomenon is really something more complex than either of those dichotomized poles.

Why was it so crucial for Energizer to insist that the bunny was now inside these devices -- to associate the bunny with the very electricity, the very power, that linked people to the power grid? And why, now, is Energizer suddenly eager to get the battery back in the bunny?

Was something unloosed when the bunny went underground, into the wires and casings, his unending power vanished between the positive and negative poles, his martial beat liquidated back into the ions from whence it came? Is that why the battery must be put back in the bunny?

Pandora's bunny?

The questions of advertising and consumer capitalism's relationships to some kind of liberation beyond their systems of manipulation and control keep going and going and going and....

18 September 2006

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