I just found the online American car culture archive. What a great resource. I recently started to view myself as a collector, as I now own all issues of National Geographic Magazine! They exist in a combination of print and disc, which is more a sign of the times than a shortcoming of my collecting prowess. I am able to submerge myself in National Geographic Magazine, to flip pages, view maps, to zoom into images in a way I cannot do with the original print versions.
How wonderful is it that someone else, who is passionate about an idea, followed it through to the utmost to craft an online archive of American Car Culture! I found them through so many internet twists and turns,, one step removed from their youtube page here. I look forward to virtually dusting off the pixels and uncovering neat finds that I can incorporate into my short films with the car ads from National Geographic Magazine.
I thought I’d share these two things side by side. In the 60’s the , the Ford Thunrderbird print ads have a peeping tom quality to them. Take this January 1962 ad for example. Thunderbird ads from this time often portray a man and woman either driving away from the us the viewer, or parked in a secluded woody area such as the one pictured here. Indeed, it is a lovely car, I do fancy the contours and lines. If we let our eyes move past the man and car, both blend so well with the foliage so it is clear that the advertisers intend us to focus on the brightest element, the scarlet woman. Scarlet is of course culturally significant in puritanical America. This coloring also tell us that the man and the car are one, that he drove the scarlet woman to this field.This coloring also tell us that the man and the car are one, that he drove the scarlet woman to this field, and her coloring tells us what she is capable, willing and ready to do.
This ad appears in National Geographic Magazine and in 1963 was read my thousands of adolescent and older, middle-class, Caucasian males. The behavioral codes are quite clear be they subtle. The subtext of the ad copy follows suit. The man, leaning on the tree is only slightly convincing the scarlet woman of something, something she is conveyed as having already decided because of the car. She is under his spell, a magic that is only possible because of “the silent enormous stride of Thunderbird power”. Apparently his senses are heightened, and the sun seems “more ardent”. The OED defines ardent as “glowing with passion, animated by keen desire; intensely eager…”. I doubt the sun is so very excited to see either of them or the car. So the lady, the scarlet woman is ready for action, ready to let the driver enter (just like the T-Bird steering wheel). Talk about good reason to visit your Ford dealer.
Here we have a one-minute 1963 Thunderbird TV Commercial where the lounging lady chooses a Thunderbird over traveling by Jet, Train, Boat etc. We never see the driver, or the landscape. True the film quality is fuzzy, this happens because the quality of reproduction fades with commercials form this time period, but we never see the landscape fully. They arrive at a mystery mansion. We as the viewer may think that they would exit the car, but apparently, the young woman is so blissed out in the T-Bird, with her head thrown back, neck exposed, eyes partially closed as she shakes her head no, we are left to imagine, just what exactly is happening in the car.
I juxtaposed these two ads from the same time period to note the differences, if any in the message given the media. The print ad referred to nature as the getaway place for the magic to happen whereas the motion picture used the motion to convey this possibility. Without fully analyzing the myth of the nature here, I wanted to share a slice of advertising history, and give a sample of the elements I am beginning to weave together. Later entries will refer to theory about place or non-places as it were.