Friday, November 27, 2009

Big ticket consumer goods are really aliens from another galaxy come to conquer us

I am always interested when a group, of small or large size but preferably a group that had no idea they were grouped, get an idea, wrong, right or just a matter of taste all in line with no apparent source or reason.  No I do not mean Fox News or Ralph Nader or anything like that, besides grouping deliberately, they are more about a collection of opinions than any actual ideas.  I am thinking more along the lines of apparently small, usually unintended ideas that make big changes.

The Disney movie 101 Dalmations was released in 1961 but before it was a successful movie it was a successful book.  It was so successful that only about five years elapsed between the time the book was printed & the time the movie was made.  Compare this to the decades+ that elapsed between the book2movie of most Disneyfications.  I do not just mean Beauty & the Beast et al, there is also Mary Poppins, published in 1934, movie 1965.  Even A Life in the Woods was published in 1926, almost 20 years before Bambi appeared on the big screen; well over ten of which Disney had already been making full length animated films.  Something about The Great Dog Robbery was so strong that it grabbed the money-lenders-in-the temple by the throat & they could not wait for the author to die & try to slip a bastardized version of the story by a well-funded copyright review board; they had to have that movie right away.  Because it is not how much you spend, but how much you make.  & make they did.

One of the unintended upshots was the jump in dalmation purchases.  I say unintended because I am sure had Disney been aware this would happen, they would have cornered the market on dalmation puppy mills.  In the days before movie product marketing, this would have been hard to anticipate: it would be hard to find a dog less suited for families with small children than a dalmation.  Unless it was a cocker spaniel a la Lady & the Tramp.

Flash forward to 2009: the influence of 101 Dalmations is so strong that earlier this year a woman (who must be 20+ years younger than I am; our only connection is her adult-acquired step-mother is a friend of mine) was at my house picking out chickens & when she saw a crevecoeur & asked the hen's name.  When I said Perdita she said she KNEW that was what it had to be.  After all, what else would anyone call a female black & white spotted anything?  Unless it was Missus Pongo.

It is also from this vantage point that I can see quite clearly another upshot:  the death of the fur coat industry.  The last generation of must-have-a-fur-coat women were already adults in 1961 (except behind the iron curtain women, where it is often colder & there was no Disney).  Do not even start to tell me that this is an extension of animal rights activism & awareness.  If that were true there would have been no upswing in the purchase of leather coats, which have been steadily climbing for three+ decades.  Ask meat-eating, leather-wearing women why they do not want fur & they will tell you:  there is just something cruel about it.  They will actually use the word CRUEL.  PETA can take all the credit they like, I am convinced it was 101 Dalmations.

Which makes me wonder what the next big accident might be & I think I may have found it:  Transformers.  Check back in 30 years & see if indeed the new grown-ups are not fairly certain we do not need all that multi-tasking gadget crap.  Much better to keep everything to a single function so they will be more easily defeated.

& Happy Black Friday.

// The author of The Great Dog Robbery (which I am sure is a charming little volume, although I have never read it) also wrote what I think is one of the must-read books of the 20th Century:  I Capture the Castle.  I am 99.9% sure there are no dogs in it.  Read it anyway.

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