"Nirvana means freedom from pain, suffering, and the external world, and that's pretty close to my definition of punk rock." Hardly the words of a staunch capitalist, are they? Last week, Doc Martens was forced to pull its add featuring rock icon and broken-hearted genius, Kurt Cobain, in an advertising campaign for their footwear. When I first saw the above image of the lead man from new wave/punk rock band, Nirvana, I though it had to be a spoof - like an Adbusters take on how wrought capitalism can be: co-opting all things with cool factor, and in its epitomized version, it even goes after the dead - worst of all, a guy who openly criticized hip culture and trendiness. But no, although ultimately ironic, this was not a joke. This is one of those examples of when irony is just sad. Kurt Cobain was original, beautiful and talented in his music; intelligent, witty and lucid in his interviews. He was critical of consumerism, the uncontrollable beast that is celebrity, and weary of a music industry that thrived on hyping and categorizing him as the saint of "grunge", and the "Seattle scene".
The logic of Saatchi and Saatchi (the publicity company behind the ads), is clear: cool kids emulate their heroes. put dead rock hero in Docs = cool kids buy Docs. Et voila! A recipe for street cred is made. How they think Kurt could have possibly been happy with being in an ad is incredulous to me, especially seeing as how he famously stated, that he'd "rather be dead than cool," and, how "Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are." But the ultimate slap in the face is creating an ad that exploits a dead man's legacy by morphing his iconic history; effectively changing what he goes down in history for by transforming what his iconic status stands for. And this publicity feat can be achieved simply by mucking with an old image of the rocker. Taking a 'copy of a copy' in this instance, actually changes what the original comes to symbolize and represent, particularly to those who are newly introduced to who Kurt is/what he stood (and stands) for, and all in order to advertise a product as "cool". Irony indeed, for Kurt, a man who once said, "I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not." And, a celebrity endorser, he was not.