By Anne Elizabeth Moore. The New Press, 262 pp, $19.95, softcover
Anne Elizabeth Moore knows the enemy, which we can describe as late capitalism, big business, corporate culture, and/or inauthenticity at all levels. What the American punkster/zine rabble-rouser is less clear about is how right-thinking folks (i.e., uncompromising artists and other high-road creators) can defeat said enemy. The gulf she defines is both wide and murky; hence the imprecision of not only her new cultural-studies primer, but its very subtitle: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity.
I wanted to like Unmarketable. I was drawn to it. Its plain-Jane cover–a white T-shirt inked with the title text–and Never Mind the Bollocks–level distrust of marketing are beguiling, especially at a time when ad-driven pap dominates our mindscape. But although Moore has assembled the makings of a trenchant magazine article on cool-hunting and how big-budget PR firms co-opt small-scale artists to infiltrate urban youth, she's not equipped to stay the course of a book.
Her argument comes down to intention, which is an undefinable battleground. Punk scenesters buzzing the latest band to their friends? Good–without support from the community, how are starving artists to carry on? Punk scenesters buzzing the latest product from a corporation (particularly one that pays them poorly in exchange)? Bad–innocent consumers might be duped. Self-evident? Yup. And that's all she wrote.
Moore details a half-dozen American campaigns–for Tylenol, Converse, and the Toyota Yaris, among others–that have leased street cred to reach the Millennials, then tries to build a larger argument about the dissolution of the authentic through Trojan-horse marketing. Yet without hard numbers or access to decision makers, she can only manage sputtering outrage against”¦well, late capitalism, big business, et cetera. She proposes that the intersection of punk and marketing "is wreaking some serious havoc on how we can imagine our individual influence over the world", yet by the end has resolved only that "some things must remain unmarketable".
This is not to disagree; companies shouldn't hide behind community alphas in selling products. Transparency is in all ways desirable. Yet no one here fails to live up to their billing as much as Moore herself.