From Madhavi to Mad Men

Lea Shaver

Associate ProfessorLea Shaver taught at Yale Law School and Hofstra Law School before joining the IU McKinney School of Law faculty in 2012. She holds a J.D. From Yale Law School and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. Professor Shaver was a summer clerk to Hon. David F. Hamilton and a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa, where she supported litigation advancing the constitutional rights to housing, education, and water. Her research focuses on intellectual property, innovation, access, and human rights.

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1 Response

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    Apropos of Mad Men: I’m not sure the people represented by the protagonists of that show deserve deserve the entire blame you assign to them. Ad executives didn’t “fund the creation of one-way cultural media” – their clients did. Many ads were quite clever and creative in their own right, and were re-worked into the rest of the culture through parody, for example.

    Some examples from the ’60s: Alka-Seltzer’s “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” which became a widely used tag-line/punchline in many contexts; the R.O. Blechman animations, also for Alka-Seltzer; the Levy’s Rye Bread “You Don’t Have To Be Jewish …” campaign and its promotion of racial diversity; the elegant and funny VW Beetle campaign; and even the melodramatic Anacin commercials (e.g., “Don’t you think it needs a little salt?”/”Mother, PLEASE — I’d rather do it myself!!”) that were great objects of hilarity in my childhood home, though not intended as such. See also MAD Magazine of that era. BTW, I enjoyed those ads without ever buying any of those products (other than pocket tins of Anacin during a couple of years in the 1970s, because its ingredients were more suitable than those of other comparably portable analgesics). Are ads necessarily more one-way than, say, the Gesamtkunstwerk promoted by Richard Wagner, with its (creatively) totalitarian ambitions?

    And as for “view[ing] [one’s] fellow Americans not as citizens to be democratically engaged or individuals creating their own lives, but as minds to be manipulated,” isn’t that true today of much of the US political class? One could also implicate Benthamite utilitarianism and neoclassical economics, which from the 19th Century to today has prioritized “wants” and “preferences” over “needs” as the most salient item of economic study. Ditto for productivist macroeconomics (Keynesianism, the New Synthesis, etc.), whose academicians make headlines whenever some one of them grumbles that Americans/Japanese/Chinese/Europeans aren’t consuming enough. Actually, there are plenty of ads that are much more fun to consume than Paul Krugman columns, and no less thought-provoking.