Sunday, May 25, 2008

Errol Morris on Advertising

The May issue of GQ features a profile of Errol Morris, primarily to trace the arc of his career from his first documentary The Thin Blue Line to his latest, Standard Operating Procedure, which focuses on the infamous photos taken at Abu Ghraib. Along the way, however, he has a couple of things to say about advertising, which I found amusing.
[When asked whether he has any "dark hobbies—like computer games"]:
"No computer games. My darkest hobby of all is how I earn a living—I make TV commercials. That’s the darkest, darkest hobby of all."

Reading about Morris before I [interviewer Chris Heath] met him, I had seen him justify his love of commercials in two memorable and ingenious ways. The first was with his theory that while movies always try to sell us the lie that people can be heroes, commercials put forward the far more achievable and believable premise that products are heroes. The second was his notion that consumerism in general, and hence commercials in particular, divert us from our worst instincts as a race. This is how he once argued it: "I love commercials, unreservedly. The haiku of the West. And I like to think of consumerism as the most effective preventative to genocide yet devised. If someone shows up at your door and asks you to hack your neighbor to death with a machete, you’re less likely to do it if you have prior plans, say, to go and buy a DVD player."
The article also details Morris's friendship with Werner Herzog. Why am I not surprised that those two iconoclasts would strike up a friendship? And that they'd both end up annoying each other.

When German interviewer asked Morris about the message of his new film, Morris sighed and said, "I don’t know. Pick a different place to live than planet Earth?" Can't you just hear Herzog saying the same thing?

Errol Morris's Web site
, which includes many of the remarkable commercials he's made

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