Eco ego

by Rob Horning

14 September 2010


More entertainment-ad blogging. On the way up the stairs from my subway stop at 49th St. is a poster for what I guess is a new TV show starring Will Arnett (Gob from Arrested Development) and Keri Russell called Running Wilde—I know, I know, with a funny pun like that as the title, it couldn’t possibly fail—or fail to be hilarious. This is the poster I am talking about:

It’s probably been up for a few weeks, but today was the first day I realized that it does not read “Ego meets ego.”

I can’t decide whether my misreading is a matter of my believing that promoting one’s interest in “eco” is really all about “ego,” or if I just see two large head shots of celebrities and automatically assume two big egos. Either way, this show will certainly contribute to the elision of the two by stereotyping eco-consciousness as a personality trait rather than a set of policy positions or political beliefs. Maybe the tagline is meant to be open to a double reading, and this show will illustrate the point at which ego and eco become inseparable.

Eco, we are supposed to assume from this poster, is a lifestyle choice, a potential character flaw marked by carrying a stainless-steel water bottle, which is just as absurd in its way as drinking champagne for no special reason. Arnett is probably putatively the butt of the show’s jokes, being an obnoxious and semi-clueless Archie Bunker type whom audiences, the producers hope, will secretly love for his refusal to cave to the PC-obsessed termagant Russell presumably plays. Then the producers get to have ii both ways—they can claim to be progressive by showing anti-greens to be louts while actually giving succor to those louts and dignifying them with all the laugh lines.

I am always surprised at how often people make a point of saying that they are not “PC,” as if anybody really supports the kind of Thought Police fascism that is meant to evoke. Usually they say it precisely when they are trying to be sensitive, when they realize that they are not going to air some lazy stereotype or are even about to argue against one. But PC remains there for them to rebel against and establish themselves to be what passes in much of America as reasonableness—that is, pretending to not really care about other people’s sensitivities. A chief thrust of right-wing ideology is invested in making green and “eco” the heirs to their earlier success with “politically correct,” turning them into bywords for phoniness and self-righteousness that “ordinary” people everywhere will strive to define themselves against.

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