Arthur Conan Doyle

Culture Warrior

Last week, we explored the concept of shoving products into movies, but there’s an equal and opposite marketing method where movies are shoved into product commercials – especially if the character is an iconic one. There’s a distinction to be made here about the difference between celebrities endorsing colognes and fictional characters doing it, although the line can definitely be blurred. Movie star endorsements are as old as the medium, whether it’s Buster Keaton slugging out the chalk for Simon Pure Beer, Charles Bronson going overboard with his self-sprinkling of Mandom, Arnold Schwarzenegger scream-laughing for a Japanese energy drink, or Abraham Lincoln selling us churros. And that doesn’t include all the normal, run-of-the-mill advertising where an actress loves a brand of make-up or a wrestler loves beef jerky. A human being selling out is one thing, but there’s something especially heinous about a character being used to market a product because it’s an element of art forced into a square hole of commercialism. Oftentimes its done without the creator’s consent (or consent is contractually taken away from the starting block). In most cases, the original actor doesn’t even have to be involved (for better or worse), especially if there’s a costume involved. In its rawest form, it’s the uglification of something we love. This list is light-years away from being complete, but it hopefully shows a well-rounded view of different types of movie characters in commercials throughout a few different time periods.


Culture Warrior

For whatever reason, Sherlock Holmes has seen something of an unexpected cultural resurgence recently. Of course, one could argue that the pipe-smoking gumshoe is ubiquitously present in some form or another as his image resonates well beyond the pages in which Arthur Conan Doyle originally encapsulated and explored his identity decade in and decade out; it seems merely a matter, instead, of how present he is in mainstream forms of popular culture at any given moment. That Sherlock Holmes is an object of the public domain only provides greater opportunities for his likeness to arise in myriad ways across media. But what’s unique about the recent incarnations of Holmes is the great variety of forms he takes within a variety of representational modes: the various Holmses we’ve seen recently are not only very different, but distinct in a way that function in conversation, and even in conflict, with each other. The only certainty that arises out of this variety of Holmes characters is that there is no one certain, dominant interpretation of the character, but rather many that audiences can choose from. That several incarnations of Holmes have arisen in popular media almost simultaneously does not point to a broad need in our culture relating to some intrinsic notion of who Holmes is “supposed to be.” Instead these examples are, to varying degrees, different niche versions of the character, each interpretation responding to some specific need.

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published: 12.19.2014
published: 12.18.2014
published: 12.17.2014

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