Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Levi's and Jim Jones: a tad much for a holiday weekend

Thanksgiving: excellent. Food: delish! And movies: so many movies! More on all of that soon. But for now, I've just got to get something off my chest:

The Levi's "O Pioneer" commercials (which happened to be played before both movies we saw in the theater this weekend) completely, utterly freak me out.

The commercial features an old Smithsonian Folkways recording of a Walt Whitman poem, set to hipster video. I like Walt. My copy of 'Leaves of Grass' has long been worn out. But I digress. The commercial:

(omg I can't believe I'm embedding this terrifying commercial onto my blog omgomgomg)

Here's the problem. Have you seen the American Experience episode about Jonestown, perhaps? It's completely, utterly haunting. Rather devastating to watch, to tell you the truth. Which I've done twice, since I'm a glutton for punishment. The end is nearly unbearable: recordings of Jim Jones issuing suicide directives to the crowd of 900 men, women, and children who died with him that day. "Lay it down," he orders them repeatedly. His voice is shockingly like that of 1957 actor Will Geer, who narrates the Levi's commercial. His tone is eerily similar. The themes... also really uncomfortably similar.

Whitman: "Come my tan-faced children, Follow well in order, Get your weapons ready."

Whitman: "We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger. We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend."

I can't bring myself to post Jonestown links here, but watch the video in the American Experience link above to get a taste of the completely bone-chilling similarity.

Scared of a Levi's commercial. That's me. Actually sitting in a dark theater wondering if somehow Levi's was dumb enough to use Jim Jones recordings, that's how eerily alike they are.



  1. Oh my. I did my "concentration mini-thesis" (we like self-important code names at WFU) on the "Charismatic Leader in Cult Organizations" (see what I mean about the self-important names?)... I spent A LOT of quality time with Jim Jones, Sun Myung Moon and David Koresh... fascinating and totally terrifying.

  2. I knew that commercial freaked me out for a reason! Glad I'm not the only one. I agree with Kate, it is fascinating and scary at the same time.

  3. FREAKS me out - even just the mini ones they air on TV.

  4. It freaks me out so much that I'm doing Google searches to find out who's narrating the poem. His delivery is so menacing. I HATE those commercials, and I'm a literary person, English major, writer, all that. Thanks for your post!

  5. What a horrifying advertisement! I do not feel positive brand associations after viewing. What type of emotion are they trying to evoke? Love the American Experience, haven't seen the Jonestown episode. I'm a bit dark and twisty so I would probably be entralled by it.


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