Intercutting thousands of contemporary and classic television commercials with insights by Stuart Ewen, Jean Kilbourne, Sut JhalIy and others, this film scrutinizes late 20th century ... See full summary »

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Intercutting thousands of contemporary and classic television commercials with insights by Stuart Ewen, Jean Kilbourne, Sut JhalIy and others, this film scrutinizes late 20th century American society and its prime inhabitant, Consumer Man. You will never look at an ad the same way again after viewing what critics are calling "the first comprehensive documentary on the cultural impact of advertising in America". Written by Harold Boihem <parallaxp@earthlink.net>

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6 May 1997 (USA)  »

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You're not immune! Discover how cacophonies of ads affect us.
4 August 2000 | by See all my reviews

The Ad and the Ego examines how advertising once appealed to the rational mind, but now targets the subconscious. This high energy documentary quickly explains that before the 20th century, advertising almost invariably explained why you should want a product in logical terms (such as to cure your bunions or make tasks like washing clothes easier). Next, it launches into the bulk of its mission: examining what has happened since the advent of psychology lead to ads that appealed to less tangible and more base desires -- desires for a perfect life, a perfect body, fun times, happiness, and a sense of well being.

Rather than a typical talking head affair, there is a nonstop flurry of activity and noise which is interjected by disassemblies of how the media pervades the American experience and what is lost because of it. The film bombards the viewer with hundreds of quick-cut segments of advertising that are set to the music of the notorious band, negativland. If you are fond of negativland, this is a MUST SEE. Obviously, the band was picked for the soundtrack because they, too, concern themselves with the content of our media, and its tendency to push for a culture of unchallenged, bland consumerism.

But where the band tends towards humor, the movie is about the researchers' investigation. The combination of traditional research and negativlands' over-the-top style makes for a very engaging exploration of how American behaviors are subconsciously guided by corporate concerns. Some people may find the movie's style too hectic and/or scattered, but the post-MTV generations will certainly be equipped to watch this enjoyable critique.


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