Thursday, August 18, 2005

Can't touch this.

I’m standing at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn green. Stopped beside me is a throbbing Range Rover, all chrome and tinted glass and gleaming menace. Despite the proximity of this fabled brand, this iconic bearer of rice and powdered milk and soldiers in blue berets to the third world’s hungry, this carriage of sporting royalty and tweedy gentry, the Kalahari doesn’t cross my mind for one second. Nor am I transported to the sodden English countryside. What I am is nervous.

This moment of urban terror reminded me of a piece I read in the paper a few weeks ago, in which it was reported that Cadillac was the brand most mentioned in songs on the Billboard Top 20 singles chart last year. It was followed by Hennessy, Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, Gucci, and Jaguar. For the most part, it was the hip hop scene that gave these brands so much free advertising, and some pundit opined – get this – that the people who live in that socio-cultural demimonde aspire to these brands so that they can proclaim their membership in the success club. In other words, the gentlemen in the Range Rover were letting me know that they, too, can prosper and enjoy the concomitant luxury.

Uh, yeah.

I’ve got news for that pundit guy. Those people driving around in Cadillac Escalades and wearing Burberry and sipping ‘yak are not here to join the success club. They’re here to trash it. The point of dragging status brands kicking and screaming into the street isn’t to celebrate them, it’s to deprive them of their meaning. There’s a class war going on out there, and the insurgents have obviously decided that the enemy’s brands are a strategic target.

It’s kind of too bad they didn’t go after the middle class’ brands instead, though. Somehow, a minivan wouldn’t have made me half as nervous. Even a throbbing one.

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