Earlier this week in Boston a presumed terrorist bomb plot was debunked and revealed to be the product of a quirky ad campaign for a late night cartoon series. Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a series which has anchored Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block for years has a feature film being released this Spring. The show features a crew of anthropomorphized fast food items and a revolving cast of surreal creatures, from a cybernetic 'Terminator'-like Thanksgiving turkey to a half dozen or so extraterrestrials, among those, two Atari pixeled punks called mooninites. It was a mooninite named Err, that was rendered on small Light-Brite boards placed throughout Boston that spooked the public and authorities into assuming a terrorist threat.
Now the 'War' on Terror has spawned many undesirable repercussions, some of them serious like the loss of civil liberties and the invasion or privacy, some of them merely inconveniencing, such as restrictions on airborne carry-on items. Yet the 'War' on Terror appears to have engendered further insidious effects on other parts of our daily lives as well. The recent advertising bomb hoax proves, among other things, that post 9/11 Americans have been groomed not only to be paranoid, but to fear things they don't understand. As such the field of cultural production (in this case Art and Advertising) is a prime target for scrutiny and repression.
How is it that a marketing campaign can bring a city to its knees? Its simple. Aqua Teen has never been and never will be embraced by the majority of Americans. Its intrinsic logic, if you can call it that, is too alienating for most folks. Consequentially the series' idiosyncratic nature is what makes it popular to those who know and love it. It is, by its own very nature, marginalized. It cannot ever be mainstream or it would cease to be what it is and become something else.
Now, advertising for something like this is a tricky endeavor--one might even call it impossible. It would take a skillful advertisement indeed to not only explain to Joe American just what the hell Aqua Teen is, but to prove to him it is good/interesting and that he should go out and spend money to see the cartoon's feature film. In short, it is a losing proposition, so the folks behind the advertisements that were produced did the only thing they could: made the product placements as off-beat as the show is itself. It shouldn't come as a surprise then that not only were the advertisements rejected by mainstream America, they were an assumed terrorist threat!
I have known for some time that the 'War' on Terror has slowly been changing the way we all see our world. Yet I had never given any thought to the fact that it is helping to 'mainstream' our culture, physically constructing individuals to fear everything in the margins of society so much so that they seek to eliminate those margins altogether. Sure, the Boston Aqua Teen bomb hoax may seem like a laugh (and it is indeed quite funny, unintentionally and sort of sadly so) but it illuminates an ideological process that must be exposed for what it is. And mocked ruthlessly. I mean how much fun would it be to live in a world devoid of a Fast Food superheroes? The answer is Even less fun than it sounds.
Perhaps things should have been handled like this