At an office party the other day, someone was filling up drinks for everyone and asking each person what he/she wanted. We had two kinds of Sprite, regular and "Aruba Jam Remix" flavor. I wanted to try the "Aruba Jam" just because it was new and what the hey. (It's okay, but not as good as the Berry Clear Remix or whatver it's called.) The next guy behind me also wanted to try this, so when he asked for his drink, he said "Sprite Remix" and I was just like "whoa, that's wrong!" This seemed like a weird overreaction to me, so I thought about it some.
I've always thought the idea of calling these new fruit-flavored Sprites "Remixes" was one of the great examples of the Coca-Cola Company trying too hard to be street and to sell sugar water to urban kids and people who drive Scions. In fact, Coke is so up their own ass with the street marketing and wannabe hip ad campaigns for its soda brands, I almost forgot that these Sprites were called "Remixes" and just resigned myself to the fact that no matter what I say or do, the knobs at Coke will keep on pushing this down kids throats until "Remix" isn't cool anymore. If they thought they could get away with Bling Coke, I'm sure they would. But I guess to me, in my head, I always think of these new Sprites as eith "Tropical This" or "Berry That," taking "Remix" out of the equation to preserve my own sanity. When I heard someone actually utter the words "Sprite Remix," I was horrified.
And this is where the problem really kicks off: it's the commercialization of culture that turns something once interesting or unique into a commodity and a sales pitch. It's what happens when you have DJs selling candy because Twix bars supposedly "Mix two great flavors." It's what results from Coke paying illegal ad placement companies to plaster up Coke viral banners and ads all over the urban landscape. It's the cool hunters, the young ad execs hired and promoted because they have their finger on the youth market, the graphitti artists selling their work for jeans and shoe ads, street artists exhibiting at museums, sponsored by Sprite and Scion... you get a vibrant and expressive culture (in this case, hip hop) distilled into a brand. Call it the Hip Hop Lifestyle Brand, and suddenly, it's just Martha Stewart for young people with baggy pants. And when the street fights back, the new kids don't buy the hype anymore, and people are tired of their rebellion, their expression, and their own, self-defined identity being used by corporate hacks, the hacks go and repackage their youth product lines to incoporate that new angst. "We're with you man, we hate the suits as much as you!" Eventually, kids get too old to care, start worrying about car and house payments and jobs and laundry and lawn care and suddenly, the fight's been taken out of everyone by reducing the tools for fighting to bubble gum wrappers and soda cans.
A Sprite Remix doesn't lead to a global meltdown of all subversive culture, but sometimes, it feels like it might. There's a new McDonald's commercial on TV where a fast food drone tries to convince his skeptical friend that McDonalds ISN'T an evil, conniving black ops agency trying to brainwash people into eating Chicken Strips. His spooked buddy even calls an old lady who likes the chicken "a plant," which is an internet anti-corporate, anti-viral marketing rallying cry if ever there was one. And we've been assimilated once again. Keep fighting the good fight.