Message in a Bottle

the people’s republic of miller high life—of beer and advertising the proletarian revolution, or, workers of the world, you have nothing to lose but your hangovers!

In CR #301, we explored the spate of new commercials that almost instantaneously incorporated the current economic crisis into their advertising. These commercials—for fast food, cars, and even for financial investment products (!)—seek to absorb the anxieties of the current crisis into the fantastical dreamworld of consumerism.

Perhaps the most fascinating recent advertising campaign of this type is the Miller High Life “Delivery Guy” series, which features a delivery man re-appropriating bottles of Miller High Life from elites who are out of touch with the common man. The beer is taken back from a luxury box at a sporting event, from the fancy-hats crowd at a Kentucky Derby-like race, and from the hip elites behind the velvet rope and bouncer at a nightclub.

The message of the ads, delivered by a working-class delivery guy, is a strangely sublimated version of dis-accumulation and reappropriation, of re-redistributing private property from the top to the bottom. But instead of smashing the state, or smashing the machines of capitalist alienation, here proletarian revolution is merely bottled and redistributed in a consumer fantasy of working-class cultural self-righteousness. They don’t even smash the bottles or turn them into Molotov cocktails, they just re-possess them.

As such, the advertisements speak in the realm of leisure—and of beer, which has a long history of involvement in class struggles of course (just think of all those German socialists in the nineteenth-century US). Class resentments and fantasies of class resistance surface there, contained yet also seething. The ads keep those radical feelings and ideas of class warfare bottled up. It puts them on ice. Then, it pours them out into humor and intoxication rather than actual revolution.

The Miller High Lifes have been liberated from the rich, but the true high life remains intact.

“Skybox,” Miller High Life commercial

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