On Phone Fetishism

This is more of an observation than a full-blown ramble (I hope), but WHAT is with the phone commercials lately?  Not the phone service ones… I mean the ones advertising the phones (usually Verizon but I’ve also noticed Alltel and anyone else selling LG models).  Is it me, or are they pretty much portrayed as fetish objects?

Now maybe I’m just being a Marxist on this one, but it seems that you could make a fetish case in all three connotations of the word:  1) the religious sense, in that it, as an object, has power (in this case, apparently, the power of sexiness and MP3 capability); 2) the sexual fetish sense (see previous, as well as considering how exactly the ads operate); 3) the commodity-fetish sense, which I admit I understand less, but I’m pretty sure Marx would be pissed at these phone ads and, by extension, capitalism.

I mean seriously – is the cell phone (leaving aside every other portable electronic device … *cough iPod cough*) the end-all of extensions of the self, of self-expression, and of desire?  Maybe this is reading too much into the ads, but seriously.  They splash chocolate and paint all over the damn things and name them after candy, and convince you (apparently effectively) that the color makes them somehow more individual.   It seems that it’s one thing to advertise the service – although with so many add-ons the line between necessity and want is dubious at best – but it’s another to turn these phones into objects of seduction.  Cuz they’re pretty much trying to seduce you into getting that phone.  I would be curious to know how common telephone ads were, say, 20 or 50 or 90 years ago – were they trying to convince people that they desired the service, or the object itself?

Of course, maybe our society is just full of such fetish-objects, and I’ve only focused on the one.  There are cars… shoes… diamonds… you can fill in the rest.

Anyway, I guess the only thing I can end with is – think about it next time you drool over the latest [phone] model!


3 comments so far

  1. ferociouskater on

    I quote:

    “They splash chocolate and paint all over the damn things and name them after candy, and convince you (apparently effectively) that the color makes them somehow more individual.”

    I argue:

    If you were to spend a lot of time with me these days, what would you say my favorite color is? All you really have to do is go to my blog here on WordPress and find out.

    So if there’s a phone out there that helps me propagate my green-ness, wouldn’t that be increasing my individuality? And then, wouldn’t that make my phone somewhat more individual than everyone else’s that’s just sort of functional? Wouldn’t MY green phone be more individual than, say, a dude who just happened to get that one cause it was the one they had?

    (Yes, I have a new Mint Chocolate phone. Yes, I love it.)

  2. ferociouskater on

    I meant to add a smiley face at the end to make it not sound so bitchy but I forgot.


  3. zozer319 on

    Well, leaving aside my mighty skepticism of the individuality thing (I ranted about this at length in an earlier post on iPods and so on), I should point out that I’m not an advocate of everyone having the same phone. There is no way that I can reasonably expect that a market (meaning e.g. cell phone companies, car companies, clothing companies, etc) would produce all of the same object… clearly variety sells and it is also more efficient to meet the varied needs of customers in terms of price, features, etc.

    The problem I have is more the method of advertising… it is pretty explicitly making you (meaning the consumer) desire and covet the phone… it seems to have gone beyond simple choice, to making them objects of desire by linking them to sensual (i.e. provoking the senses, not necessarily explicitly sexual) imagery and, in my mind, separating them from the more functional idea of a cell phone or any other phone as a tool for communication.

    And I didn’t bring this up (and maybe it’s not entirely true) but also, I have begun to suspect that cell phones are increasingly less durable/meant to last not as long… I have an old Nokia model (probably from 03-04, one of those unit phones that is more than a millimeter in depth) and I think it has a better battery/signal apparatus than a lot of people I know who have newer phones (I’ve experienced this especially while in more remote areas) and also they, the phone companies, assume that you will want to trade in your phone every two years (in fact they built this into our family cell phone plan). This also suggests to me that they want the consumer to think of a cell phone less as a utility and more as a fashion accessory or extension of the self.

    Anyway, I tend to be really skeptical of advertising ploys and often get worked up about them… so I often write them up here. I’m not against consumption per se… I’m just against mindless consumption, and want to make people think a little about the choices they make. :)

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