American Dream Election 2

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The American Dream on the Couch andthe Obama EffectThe bulk of this work was commissioned by an agency who asked to explore thecultural dynamics of the American Dream for a major US client. Although wecannot present the commercially viable concepts that we developed from thisanalysis, we are pleased to share with you some of the analytical framework thatwe used in order to make sense of the American Dream.Find out more about more our work in the US, UK and the rest of the world atwww.semiotics.co.ukAll images herein remain the copyright of theirrespective owners.

Text of American Dream Election 2

  • The American Dream on the Couch

    11/05/2008

    www.semiotics.co.uk

    Tel: +44 (0)208 693 1413

    172 Court LaneLondon SE21 7ED UK

  • The American Dream on the Couch andthe Obama EffectThe bulk of this work was commissioned by an agency who asked to explore thecultural dynamics of the American Dream for a major US client. Although wecannot present the commercially viable concepts that we developed from thisanalysis, we are pleased to share with you some of the analytical framework thatwe used in order to make sense of the American Dream.

    Find out more about more our work in the US, UK and the rest of the world atwww.semiotics.co.uk

    All images herein remain the copyright of theirrespective owners, and are used for the purpose ofillustration only.

  • Were talking

    about a dream.

    Lets put it

    on the couch

  • An apparently randomassemblage of symbols andimagery that have a bizarre,often contradictory logic oftheir own.

    Dreams exist to process andheal paradoxes that mightdisturb us.

    Thats why the term wascoined in 1931 when the USlooked on the brink ofeconomic collapse

    What is a dream?

  • About Dreams

    Dreams negotiate desire desire cannot befulfilled it is always in process

    Dreams make certain symbols, objects orappeal have a heightened symbolic importancethat makes sense in the context of a dreamwhen delved into more deeply

    Dreams colour our reality indeed, someargue that our fantasy visions of ourselvesand lives are more real than the what we callreal life

  • Psychology of the American Dream

    Narcissistic fantasy America as Gods own country:

    all men are created equal, that they are endowedby their creator with certain unalienable rights, thatamong these are life, liberty and the pursuit ofhappiness.

    True equality was for Commies: the American Dream isabout status a progressive pursuit where you deservethe best, because you are the best

    So this Collective Patriotism-Special Individuality feedsinto each other in a powerful ideological dialectic

  • You cant buy the American dream, you can only imagine it

    Echo of desire ultimately irresolvable, because desire feeds on itselfand creates new desire, never to be finally resolved

    So there is no past tense in the American Dream: whether you pursueit or are living it: but, like desire itself, it is never truly resolved

    The Real American Dream?

  • The Impossible Dream -- The American Paradox

  • So no two people have the same dreams. Butthe American Dream concept serves as abucket that has potential to be the meta-narrative of everyone in Americas hopes,fears and desires.

    Distilled into one core component: Reflectionof desire

    Objectified in contemporary culture, almostremoved from landscape, must berediscovered in values, because actual dreamdoesnt exist outside the imagination

    American Dreams

  • Origins of the American Dream: Freedom, Choice, Status, Heroism

    Late 19th Century/20th Century immigration fromEurope/Central America still embodies the sense of a promise ofreligious and liberal freedom, and the promise of materialimprovement.

    Deep roots in the origins of America itself

    Protestant dissenters from Europe coming to US for religiousfreedom (religious progressiveness escaping church/stateconservatism of England)

    Commercial colonialists seeking out their fortunes in the NewWorld (TV show SURVIVOR where contests colonize forfortune)

    Heroic Status of pioneers risking everything of for the sake ofprogress, new land, new opportunities, new status

  • So American Dream has always had a spiritualidea of progress, but a material one too. A built-intension in the American Dream.

    Martin Luther King I have a dreamspeechracial equality and brotherly love iscentral promise of the American Dream

    But American Dream has transitioned thispossibility and potential into an object = ideacontext

    Extreme Home Makeover makes the objects thetrue heroes -- the Whirlpool washer and dryersalvage the family (as well as the heroic get thejob done American Puritan spirit of thecommunity)

    Origins of the American Dream: Ideals to Objects

  • Origins of the American Dream: Progress,Optimism, Achievement, Self-Reliance

    Rags to riches myth : strike out on your own,raise yourself by your bootstraps

    Be all you can be : Martha Stewart is a symboland agent of the American Dream transitioningfrom her lower-class immigrant roots, she pedalsthe power to remake your self

    You control your future -- your future awaits,your destiny you are your own agent

    It amalgamates the ancient Puritan ideas ofpre-destination with a liberating sense of freeagency

  • Elbow greaseRags to richesBlue collarThe underdogGo-getterThe good lifeMake a better life for yourselfAnything is possibleNose to the grindstoneHard workWorking-class values

    Self-improvementPull yourself up with your ownbootstrapsUpwardly mobileHard-earned moneyGrace under pressureThe backbone of this countryHard-scrabbleProtestant work ethicIf you dont succeed, try, tryagainLand of opportunity

    Possibility through hard work

  • Evolution of the American Dream

    Benchmarks: JFK, Watergate, 70s Recession, 80s Reagan end of Cold War and 90sself-help, 9/11, recent economic recession

    Swing from the 1960s dream where ideal is killed (narcissist wounded) withassassination of JFK and then again with 9/11 (right after all of our self-help/self-empowerment)

    A turn toward consumption in search of meaning

    Current economic recession has been so damaging to our identity (collective and self) --its not about losing money , its about losing possibility of self

    Yet the American Dream, because it echoes the impossibility of fulfillment of desire,is strongest when it seems almost impossible to achieve

  • Evolution of the American Dream

    The American Dream lives and dies in perpetual cycle on a macrocollective level, but is available to individuals at any time in historythrough their own self-reliance.

    Sometimes collective conditions make it feel easier than at othertimes or expectations are lowered (i.e. aspiration in 1965 to own acolour TV set: now its an aspiration for a plasma TV, with all thegear, plus a sense of quality, experience, stability, self-worth etc)

    Essential move from American Dream as materially based self-advancement (1960s progress) to advancement of the idea of Selfand immediate family (but material is still an important part of this)

    But the idea of a Heroic Status of the Individual is still prominenthere, in whatever lifestyle you choose you want to perform thatlifestyle just a little better than everyone else

  • Pop-Culture Dreams

    Reality television in a large part reflects the wounded and thejustified narcissist --- necessity to be chosen

    Individual/collective identity is not completely at odds you canbe self-reliant and part of a greater community of values. Showslike Oprah focus on the individual narrative in a collective context-- seeking affirmation from the collective to justify self.

    Puritan values pervade in a postmodern context -- a good/badmorality underlies Hollywood celebrity gossip magazines. Wechampion the self-reliant, but condemn the fallen individual whowont reach out for help.

    The American Dream still maintains its rooted narrative as amyth of identity transformation, but is no longer defined bystringent tenants of conformity (unlike 1958)

  • Advertising the American Dream:

    The American Dream is strongly rooted inobject culture, but it seems to be strugglingto find new holistic meaning

  • Brands based around Legacy/Nostalgia find stability and play into anenduring, but fixed narrative of the American Dream:

    Chevrolet heritage evokes a legend that progresses into the future.The driver is the custodian of this legend. Thus with great power,comes great responsibility.

  • Legacy/Nostalgia Narrative

    Bank of America constructs another form of legend through Americanpatriotism/heroism. Leveraging the tenants of superhero, logo assuperhero symbol, to evoke security and protection.

  • Legacy/Nostalgia Narrative

    Similarly John Hancock, positions itself through legacy as a hero -- the lightin times of uncertainty.

  • Brands evoke the American Dream as fantasy : if you dream it

    Im going to Disneyland -- fantasy made into reality. Ad focuses onpossibility and optimism, naive hope or escapism fantasy

    Desire is more important than consummation anticipation betterthan realization

  • American Dream as fantasy

    Tommy Hilfiger links sexualdesire and dreams, evokingpossibility and fantasy.

  • Brands evoke the American Dream as Progress/Pioneer/Ingenuity

    Wrangler finds the American cowboy iconography and the myth ofmoving westward, vast open spaces.

  • American Dream as Progress/Pioneer/Ingenuity

    Polo redefines the new American hero as a bourgeois explorer,where exploration is about looking, not doing.

  • American Dream as Progress/Pioneer/Ingenuity

    Whereas Remax, finds progress in the exploration and pioneering ofvirtual connection.

  • American Dream as Progress/Pioneer/Ingenuity

    Honda is another brand that defines progress through ingenuity.Speaks of mobility and freedom. And through mobility the impossibleis almost achievable. This is the real magic of the American Dream.

  • Brands evoke symbols of status through choice

    Circuit City presents the American Dream in a completely objectifiedmanner, where its all abo