2/10/11

Swanson Chicken Carnival - Peter Max jumps the shark.

Sometimes an interesting thing happens. Sometimes, a fad is made of the interesting thing, putting the interesting thing on borrowed time. Then, advertising gets it's hands on the fad, and the once interesting thing is ruined and can officially be said to have "run it's course". Case in point: Peter Max.
We've mentioned Peter Max before, so a complete history lesson isn't in order here. Just think of him as the guy whose art style became synonymous with late-era Beatles music (you know - when the Beatles became good). After the whole Yellow Submarine thing in '68, popular culture was all crazy with the Max look.

This ad appeared in 1969, so the world had been going coo coo for coco puffs about Peter max for only a year when mass marketing arrived at the party and officially put the last nail in the coffin of Peter Max's coolness.

"Hi everybody! I'm advertising! I only just heard about this whole Beatles party, but boy it sure is great! Anybody see Yellow Submarine? What a trip, huh? Is anyone going to finish this beer? Anybody wanna buy some chicken?"

Once we begin to see chicken ads looking like The Beatles' famous movie, the party is over. Shut off the music and carry the empties out to the garage. Time to go home. Thanks advertising, for stinking up the joint, like always. Who invited you, anyway?

It seems to me that one year is an awfully short time to measure the lifespan of a subculture event, but here's the proof. As of 1969, Peter Max's style was played out. Sad, really.

Does anybody not know the origin of the term "jumping the shark"? Here it is: It's a phrase used to describe the point at which a fad has worn itself out. It refers to an episode of Happy Days in which The Fonz, for some reason or other, jumps his motorcycle over a small swimming pool with a shark in it. That episode is generally regarded as the point at which the Happy Days writers ran out of ideas and just gave up, choosing to do a two-episode semi-drama aping the Evel Knievel fad, which was big in the seventies. So now, when something interesting or exciting becomes overexposed and tired, it is said to have "jumped the shark". At that point, it's time to move on to something else, until advertising uses it to sell toilet cleaner, that is.


5 comments:

Craig said...

Speaking of Peter Max jumping the shark, you have to read this awesome article:

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/07/peter-marx-excerpt-201007

Basically, the guy who invented late 1960s psychedelic art has turned into an ATM machine, whose sole remaining talent is to have lackies apply a few brush strokes to photographs of famous people.

T. Boone Pickens was having none of it.

Phil Are Go! said...

Uuugh! What a cock. Turns out Peter Max tops the advertising industry in whoring out his own work, the whore. Well, this sort of makes my little rant look a little foolish. Great find, Craig!

I stand by what I said about advertising, though, dag nabbit.

Craig said...

Oh, I agree. At that time, Peter Max was the shit. I remember every ad that ever appeared in a comic book between 1968 and 1974 looked just like that.

Sue said...

I have to correct you on the "Jump the Shark" Happy Days episode. Fonzi was water skiing (in his leather jacket) and ski jumped over a shark.

Phil Are Go! said...

Oh, that's right! That's even worse. Fonzy on water skis? What a shitty plot.

But the inaccuracy of my recollection is an unbearable humiliation. As Apu said, this is truly the day of my spiritual de-pantsing.

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