Why Krusty the Klown epitomises commercialism

Posted on March 21, 2012

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Like many, The Simpsons is a staple in my daily viewing and will watch at 6pm without fail whenever I’m home. The day-to-day inner workings of America’s first animated family is a familiar one to us. And their many other characters are just as well known. And I’ll bet a bottom dollar you can put a name to people such as the inseperable Carl Carlson and Lennie Leonard. Or the hapless misfit, Milhouse Van Outen. Or the sarcastic fatso that is the Comic Book Guy.

Then there’s Herschel Krustovsky. A Jewish clown that had differences with his Orthodox father, riddled with drug, alcohol amongst other vices and addictions, better known to most of course as Krusty The Klown. A misanthropic, sardonic, manic depressive who lives off past glories. But the direct links with celebrity culture and him are that of many. The selling out for the most part to lend Krusty’s name to a whole host of shoddy products and fads. Food products are almost a given. But there’s far more outlandish and obscure things he’s lent his name to – for instance there’s a home pregnancy test – which may cause birth defects – Krusty Brand low income housing, and most amusingly of all (and there’s a long list) a Krusty brand Geiger Counter to measure radioactivity. The fact that I’m writing this up has left me nonplussed but there’s a lot to be said for shameless endorsements by a fictional character and commercialism.

After all, Krusty steps into a line of celebs and sports stars who hereby endorse a particular event or product all in the name of free capitalist enterprise. Until he did the dirty, Tiger Woods racked up sponsorship deals into the hundreds of millions. David Beckham’s doing alright for himself with Adidas, Gillette, his own fragrance, you get the general idea. Success leads to a public image which in turn ends up turning into filthy lucre. At the time of writing, Nicki Minaj has just signed a new lucrative deal with Pepsi going into the x amount of millions.

But what Matt Groening and co. execute excellently here is a multi-faceted, 360 view of an onscreen character whom onstage performing to children is an idol of Bart Simpson’s, but the second he is off air, the image is cut of a nonchalent, churlish misanthrope chain smoking and chinwagging with network executives in full clown attire betting against the Harlem Globetrotters, lighting cigars with $100 bills and putting his pacemaker under considerable strain. Does this resemble a mirror image of what troubled stars get up to at their very worst? In 2012 its easier than ever to get involved with being a voyeur – social media has made sure of that forever. Robert Downey Jr’s drug abuse is well publicized, Amy Winehouse met her end via intoxicants, and the list goes on.

The anti-establishment and counter-cultured may not like it, but perhaps selling out is the way to go for some for those who have the wherewithal or the shrewd business sense. In a 1994 film, ”Swimming With Sharks” about a film executive who mercilessly makes an intern’s life hell states that ”if you’re not a rebel by 20 you’ve got no heart, but if you’ve not sold out by 30 you haven’t got brains.” An injustice considering that sweat shops, exploitation of workers and shoddy products/endorsements make the filthy rich even more filthy (morally) and much richer, but it’s the way the modern world works. Money talks, bullshit walks is often bandied around, but never truer with selling out.

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Posted in: Counter culture, News