Monday, August 23, 2004

The rest of all possible worlds

I can't seem to find any mention of it on their site, but today I saw a Samsung ad during Olympic coverage on CBC Newsworld (Ew, obviously, but it's what all the televisions at the Y seem to be permanently set to at the moment). Most of it was generically our products are cool and empowering and whatnot, the very generic and generically set imagery one might expect of a tech firm sponsoring the Olympics. Except for one shot, which was of an unmistakably identifiable building - Rome's Palazzo delle Civiltà del lavoro, better known in English as the Square Colosseum. Which was, of course, built by Mussolini's Fascist regime as a showcase of brutal neoclassical order, and the supposed glory and superiority of fascism itself. I first became aware of it from Titus, a recent quasi-modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, where it's used to excellent effect as a backdrop for the incipient emperor Saturninus' quasi-fascist rally. It was unsettling to research the building itself, and realize: that was its original purpose exactly. It's no longer any such thing, of course; it's currently the Museum of Roman Civilization. But are the connotations of the place not sufficiently unpleasant? Is it really necessary to point out that it's built on a rather creepy and inhuman scale that doesn't lend itself well to inspirational cinematography? Are its origins not enough to disqualify it from such ads? In what universe would anyone think to use the similarly Fascist Neoclassical stylings of Berlin Olympic Stadium for a similarly upbeat ad for Korean-made personal gadgetry today? It's not quite the MooLatte debacle, as ad agency missteps go, but it's close.

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