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SPANK WHILE YOU SELL: Page 15



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2000: VIRGIN MEGASTORES.

I was amazed to find this (in the London "Independent") as recently as January 2000. The boy dutifully bends over in the hands-on-knees position, so presumably this is meant to be formal school CP, 13 years after its demise from the UK mainstream. With its use of silhouette and its play on a word that can also refer to corporal punishment, this ad to some degree echoes the European Cars ad of 40 years earlier.

But what a contrast in the execution! The European Cars drawing is beautifully detailed, and brilliantly conveys a sense of energy, movement, drama and pain. This one is bland, crude and lifeless.

No doubt we are supposed to see this as "post-modern retro", a self-consciously outdated cultural allusion, the artist being probably too young to have had any personal experience of the phenomenon illustrated -- something presumably true also of much of the target audience for rock CDs, though not of fifty-something Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, who claims to have received many whackings at school.

I also don't really understand why the drawing has been conceived as a cod road sign, presumably meaning "corporal punishment prohibited". Is this connected with the fact that Sir Richard Branson has lent his name to the campaign to make (parental) spanking illegal in the UK and, if so, what does that have to do with selling CDs when the only link with the subject is that the product is "spanking new"?

Note also the Americanisation of the language. Until recently, "spanking" in British English referred specifically to spanking with the hand -- "to slap the buttocks with the open hand", in the classic Oxford dictionary definition -- and was not normally used to refer to punishment with any kind of implement, or at any rate nothing as formal as a cane.

Now, it is beginning to be used (even sometimes by me on this website, where I struggle to keep readers on both sides of the Atlantic happy) in its American sense, to mean any kind of corporal punishment, with or without an implement. In the present case, the implement is presumably meant to be a cane, though it looks more like a riding crop.

All told, a sadly feeble effort on which to end this brief survey.


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