Charles Baudelairer‘s character of the flaneur has been celebrated and vastly discussed as the archetype of Modern Media Man: he grazes the sights and sounds of the new urbanity, a casual consumer of the senses. He is somewhat disengaged, his focus meanders and samples. As a “Bourgeois dilettante,” he’s a no where man. While the flaneur has come to symbolize the rise of media in the 19th century, I also see him reasserting himself in today’s ads, mostly in the guise of the 20-something tech economy knowledge worker. Usually he drives a (new) car, letting his electronics extend his senses for him while he consumes the landscape like any other media experience. So rather than a pedestrian wandering the city, the new flaneur is guided by GPS and a smart phone that makes his appointments (he may even have an outsourced personal assistant in India handling ticket reservations and other mundane activities for him). So rather than roam the sensations, his technological devices browse for him.
The Verizon VCast ad featuring Led Zeppelin (screen grab above, link below) brings the flaneur back to the street, but this time he wanders a hybrid reality of magical dimensions. The music is not only a soundtrack but describes every scene change he encounters. Meanwhile Led Zep memorabilia and clues are planted through out his sojourn connecting the physicality with his media space, giving “Physical Graffiti” a literal existence. He no longer meanders the city but a videogame. The outside is in, the inside is out.
I have to admit that this character makes me really mad. He’s young, good looking, self-assured, disengaged, clueless and apparently rich enough to live in Manhattan. He doesn’t really give a crap about Led Zeppelin because if he did he’d be banging his head to John Bonham‘s beats. He’s so self-absosorbed he’s probably thinking about how his $60 American Apparel T-shirt will get him laid. Led Zep belongs to the throngs of insecure, sexually dysfunctional, pimple-faced youth. This is spin the bottle make-out music, not Bourgeois dilettante, phone status, ring-tone accessory bullshit. Sheesh. This cheap commercialization is far too casual for me to bear.