Indiana Jones & the Crystal Skull

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With initial feedback from several friends, I approached this movie with lower expectations in the hopes of having them exceeded. And they were. This is a decent movie and was worth the $ and the time.That said, for a similar piece of "some years later" adventure, I prefer "Live Free or Die Hard," which features a similar pairing of an aging veteran protagonist and a younger sidekick.

For most people, Harrison Ford's age was the primary cause of concern. Would a much older Indy ruin the memories of a fine franchise? The years since "Last Crusade" can't be disguised, so it was written into the story. Nevertheless, do we like seeing old men take a beating? Nope, but that's what Indy does. Ford's age was ultimately a non-factor, in part due to an energetic performance, but mostly by being far overshadowed by greater suspensions of disbelief. I'd have to say that Harrison Ford handled the Indy role better than the script served to provide excitement. Unlike "Raiders," I wasn't amazed, enthralled, or on the edge of my seat. Instead, it was a pleasant visit with an old friend, a friend that I was happy to see is getting along pretty well.

One shot near the beginning of the movie was particularly reminiscent. It's interesting how images or icons affect us. I had a friend in college who wore an "Indy" hat. He never said much about it, and he was a big fan of the movie. Did he feel in some way connected to Harrison Ford? Did he project himself into pivotal scenes? Did he seek to attract comment from other fans? Did he think he looked cool? Or, not to be completely dismissed in college, did it work as a chick magnet?

I don't know.

But icons are everywhere. My wife wears a Coca-Cola T-shirt. Nike conquered the golfer as Tiger conquered the courses. A Jaguar hood-ornament speaks British sophistication. "Harley Davidson" is read on any variety of things owned by late-model baby-boomers. And sadly, when I was in the 8th grade, I was not sociably outfitted with a Member's Only jacket, a sensitive time for me. Sniff.

We're victims of marketing, and if we were not, then sellers wouldn't advertise. Some advertise a function or utility of which a consumer might not be aware, but most stimulate desire by appealing to the viewer's self-image.

A study in Europe approximately two years ago measured responses in a certain part of the brain when viewing slides of brand logos. By wired connections and some other technical mumbo-jumbo, they could record a person's overall sense of satisfaction as each image was displayed.

As expected, BMW and Mercedes brought very positive neural responses. When thinking of consumer commodities, that's not a surprise. Again, these appeal to self-image (and to be sure, there's a positive perception of the operation and quality of the vehicles, but people in the sample groups didn't necessarily own these). The surprising result was that icons associated with less glamorous institutions, such as banks and insurance companies, also generated a significant response.

What this means is that advertising works, even sub-consciously. So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Were we born with a need to find satisfaction in things other than base needs of food, clothing, and shelter? Or does advertising create the demand?

It's rather easy to point fingers at the Madison Avenue folks, but I have to allow that we seem to be born with a desirous nature that is heavily self-centered. It's more than possible that we are fashioned with a need that awaits fulfillment. That makes us ripe for marketing.

A financial management class I took some time ago told the story of a manufacturer that opened a plant in a third-world country, where jobs were scarce (and, obviously, low cost). They trained the workforce, and as they entered production, paid the employees their first wages. However meager the wages might seem to us, they far exceeded the employees' base needs, literally affording them wealth to meet their needs for a long period to come. Result: there needs were met with a single paycheck.

The manufacturer, faced with a crisis, chose an interesting course. They provided the populace with catalogs, making the people aware of how much more "stuff" is out there that would either ease their lives or make it more enjoyable. The money was spent; they returned to work.

I recognize the influence of advertising that leads me to spend when I should otherwise save, but I have to admit I'm hooked. With that monkey comfortably on my back, I'm fairly certain I'm going to buy a Battlestar Galactica T-shirt in the near future. I'm not exactly sure why I want one, but one possibility can be removed, as I'm certain that my wife will have no fear of it being a chick magnet.

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