Tuesday, December 11, 2012

John Atcheson on Marlboro Man Myths (Plus Papal Preferences in Cigarettes)

John Atcheson thinks it would be dangerous for America to return to the mythology of Marlboro Man and his rugged individualism and hostility to gubmint.  Three of the Marlboro Men, after all, died of lung cancer.  And the Republicans peddle such retrograde mythology and the hard and fast gender roles it comprises primarily to distract us from their determination to help the ├╝ber-rich pick more money from the pockets of the rest of us.

Interestingly enough, John B. Buescher recently reported that the pope himself is, or was, a Marlboro man.  As in, Benedict either still smokes or once smoked by preference the American Marlboro brand of cigarettes.  (My thanks to Fred Clark at Slacktivist for posting a link to Buescher's article.)

Mr. Boehner, by the way, smokes Camels.  But I'm not sure his choice of a brand different from the brand favored by the pope indicates he's any less invested in a looking-back view of the world . . . . 

Both brands, after all, were among the ones issued free by cigarette companies to American soldiers during World War II, assuring that many G.I.'s returned home addicted to nicotine--and creating a startling and somewhat unsavory backdrop to the whirling world of cocktails and cigarettes glamorized by the "Mad Men" series.  I say "startling and unsavory" because the world that "Mad Men" glamorizes depended for its success so completely on the rapacity of the advertising industry and its willingness to hook consumers on products not good for them in the least.  

And on its ability to sell us myths about ourselves and the fascinating creatures we might become in an instant, if we chose this product or that brand--so that one need only light up a Marlboro to become a swaggering, trail-riding cowboy full of macho swagger and derring-do.  In the same magic way that we have imagined that we could return morning to America by nifty "trickle-down" economic tricks that enrich all of us by putting money into the the already overstuffed pockets of the very rich . . . 

a mythology peddled to us by a president who, perhaps not coincidentally, once peddled Chesterfields with messages that they provided the merriest Christmas any smoker might have.

Perhaps, all things considered, it's time to leave childish things behind and stop trying to revive the old mythologies as we cope with the complex challenges of a postmodern world.  So it seems to me.

Mythology and retrograde thinking don't seem to have gotten us where we need to go, if we want to sustain life on this planet with its fragile and endangered ecosystem, and to make a humane world for all the planet's citizens.

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