As so many of my blogging friends are involved in online giveaways or work as brand enthusiasts, is it becoming difficult to make jokes about these companies. I have friends with “business” connections to vibrator manufacturers to Butterball Turkey to Kmart to Hebrew National Hot Dogs. If I make a joke about one of these products, I might actually be hurting a friend’s livelihood, or at least a free trip to Disneyland. I try to be respectful, although in my opinion, the personal and promotional go together as well as olive oil and cheez whiz.
On Twitter, there are these weekly conversations, called Girl’s Night Out, which are sponsored by a company. A few weeks ago, it was a night of chatting sponsored by Crayola. Every tweet had the hashtag #crayola, so my Twitter timeline was filled with #crayola hastags, even if the discussion at the moment was about something unrelated, like the latest episode of Project Runway. I found this incongruity funny, but when I made a joke about my own childhood experience using Crayola Crayons, no one seemed amused. Why? Because I actually talked about Crayola Crayons, not the point of the event, which was to promote some new for-school products by the company!
I understand the interest in working with corporate America, and not biting the hand that feeds you, but there is something wrong in the world when we become more respectful of a crayon company, at least in terms of humor, than the average person on the street.
I noticed this attitude in many of the BlogHer recaps, particularly those written by corporate or PR bloggers. The villains were always the trailer trash moms, who threw babies against the wall in a rush to get at the swag, and never the classy marketing-savvy ones who fit a certain demographic, and were better connected to the bigger companies. There was a great deal of humor made at the expense of these mothers, who would do anything to grab another freebie, as if they were shopping on the day before Christmas.
I was surprised how few people joked about the other side of the coin — the corporate circus, the companies all over the place, those who created the swag, sponsored the parties, built the huge statues of Ragu bottles in the dining room, or had the Michelin man tumbling around the lobby like a scene out of Ghostbusters. I found that extremely funny. But at the end, no one talked about the corporations, or the marketers, or the PR firms. The laughing stock were the clueless “mommybloggers,” average women on a weekend away from the kids, who got caught up in the chaos, and now had to be reigned in under Integrity.
I was reminded of this experience at BlogHer when I read some of your Tweets about the immensely popular viral site, The People of Walmart.
Now, granted, Walmart is a “hated” institution, a symbol of America gone wrong. Whether Walmart deserves this label is debatable. There is evidence that, everyone’s favorite big-box store, Target, is not much better of a corporation, but just seems more sophisticated because they carry Michael Graves tea kettles.
What is interesting about this site, is that it isn’t about Walmart at all, or their corporate policies. That would be too political, and would raise some uncomfortable questions that would affect all of us. No, the site makes fun of the patrons — usually small town residents who have nowhere else to shop. And not just ANY small town residents, but those crazy enough to walk into the store dressed terribly, or wearing Captain America outfits. Basically, this site is making fun of poor, uneducated, and mentally unbalanced America in small town America with no other resources but to go to Walmart!
This is a much different take on “freaks” than the photos of one of my favorite photographers, Diane Arbus, who presented her subjects in with a loving, humanistic manner.
“Hilarious” “Funny” “I love it!” That’s what some of you had to say about The People of Walmart.
Rule number one of Blogging with Integrity: I treat others respectfully, attacking ideas and not people.
Of course, it is OK to make fun of those at Walmart because most of them don’t have computers or blog or Tweet, so they will never know that we are laughing at their photos taken WITHOUT their permission and plastered online for our amusement.
Just as long as we don’t make fun of Kashi Go Lean Crunch! because a friend of a friend is doing a giveaway.