Monday, October 11, 2010

Squishy Culture Jam

Banksy's Simpsons intro is getting lots of attention. The video's been removed from YouTube, but here's a bootleg:

Depicting Korean slave labor grinding up kittens and chaining unicorns in service of producing the show's animation is supposed to draw attention to the plight of cheap foreign labor--an important issue I'm sure--but its effectiveness is questionable. Like fellow graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, Banksy's work, at least here, is steeped in irony and turning giant cultural forces against themselves. This is fine for taking the piss out of the powerful, but for advancing a positive argument the effect is muddled. Is he serious? one must ask. Even the master ironist Stephen Colbert breaks character when it comes time to actually make a point:

Irony can also lead to a certain infinite regress: The Simpsons mocks its own harsh labor using harsh labor practices!

It comes down to effectiveness: is this really going to make anyone sit up and say, "No more!" or will the viewer chuckle, concede that he's probably right, and then move on to the next cute animal montage on YouTube?

P.S. Clerks' Korean labor gag was funnier.


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