Walt Whitman Looks Impressive In Jeans

I am not a very well read English major. I am a beginner, just starting to dip my big toe into the deep expansive and intimidating pond of literature, and am embarrassingly ignorant to the great multitude of incredible poetry that is sitting somewhere dusty and ready to blow my mind. I came into this class with hardly a sliver of knowledge regarding Mr. Walt Whitman, just the very basic facts (which are of course, that he wrote poetry, and that he had facial hair) . It shames me to admit to all of my fellow peers, well versed or not, that the source credited for my bright eye’d and exuberant introduction to this beautiful bearded man is none other then a over priced pair of jeans that gap at my rear and make my thighs look bloated.

Most of you should be familiar with the advertisement I am alluding to, a collection of five second clips of young adults acting youthful and free and playing with fire while a segment of Whitman’s Pioneers! O Pioneers! is recited in the background by a very booming and impressive voice. I had to say, I was moved by it. It was masterfully done, the collaboration of the images and the text set for a pretty powerful minute or so, which was then instantly diluted by the ending flash of the Levi signature. It is a terrible feeling to suddenly feel vast quantities of enthusiasm and appreciation for your youth and what it entails and to for a brief moment to become aware of the potential of it, only to discover just as quickly that you are merely just a victim of some crafty advertising.

But what would Walt have to say about the words of his self viewed American Bible being sprinkled on top of some stupid marketing slogan? I find it ironic that a clothing company would choose to embrace Whitman’s poems, despite the reoccurring theme of nakedness that seems to thread through a number of his works. However I also feel he would embrace the concept of being associated with something as essential as the clothed protection of everything below the waist. Perhaps he would be both amused and offended at the advertisement, being no stranger to concieving and then accepting two opposing thoughts.

What do you think?

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6 Responses to Walt Whitman Looks Impressive In Jeans

  1. Olivia James says:

    I don’t think Walt would mind one bit. In Starting From Paumanok, he says (repeatedly) how he wants his writing to progress with the times, to provide universal messages that can apply to multiple generations (“And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to all days”). He insightfully observes how quickly and constantly society evolves, and I think the Levi’s commercial (regardless of commercialism ideals) reveals an America that still finds Walt Whitman to be an inspiring as well as relevant writer.

  2. Anton Vander Zee says:

    On YouTube, another Levis ad uses Walt’s actual voiceover (early wax cylinder recording). There’s also a hilarious / disturbing parody video that uses a Charles Bukowski poem (a Whitmanian heir, for sure). Check it out!

  3. Charles Carmody says:

    The amount of time, money, effort put in by companies to try and sell their product is unimaginable these days. Marketers will use every ploy necessary to trick people into buying their crap. I agree with you Katherine; this ad is beautiful and very well done, and then they slap the giant Levi’s logo on you at the end and I almost feel exploited, and yet I feel like if I just went out and bought a pair of Levis I might find myself liberated from the capitalist society in which we live be able to go out and run free through fields of daisies or aimlessly crawl around a waterfall. I think Whitman would be rolling in his grave if he knew that his poetry was being used to sell jeans; however, if Whitman were alive today, I bet he would wear Levis.

  4. Jared S. says:

    Meh. It’s hard for me to think Whitman would see this ad as some kind of bastardization of his work. How can one undermine the power of great poetry, of truth?

    I think it’s more interesting looked at as a struggle between the “high” and “low” arts. If we see the ad as successful (and it seems many of us do, myself included), then Whitman can be pop culture and Levi’s can be high art. Postmodernism FTW.

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