• Steven Heller

Eating Dog Food, Thinking It's Steak

One of the first times parody advertisements were used in film was in Elia Kazan’s Face in the Crowd, starring Andy Griffith (of Mayberry RFD fame) as Lonesome Rhodes, a TV spokesman for Vitajex, a phony snake-oil dietary supplement made from aspirin, caffeine, and sugar. Through bravado and ego, he convinces the sponsor to change the dull white tablets to yellow—”the color of sunshine!”—and immediately dumbs down the message to infiltrate his mass audience. Rhodes’s huckstering exploits the gullibility of the American public through the power of his  “voice of the people” persona.

Advertising has changed since 1957 when Face was released. But audiences are still susceptible to manipulated misinformation from news/entertainment organizations. “Truth in media” is a nice sentiment but ultimately a hollow term. Or as Lonesome said, “I can make ’em eat dog food and they’ll think its steak.”

(Are there too many tote bags in the world today? See Saturday’s DH here.)