A brief directive on class as demonstrated by a Pepsi Max television advertisement, by Callum Hamilton of Surreal Football
From our sceptr’d isles, it’s easy to imagine even from within that we, the British, invented class. Not the ‘class’ that people use to describe old footballers who can go five minutes without hitting, raping, or criticising anyone, but the good old class system.
As the only nation that imagines even itself in caricature, we’ve always seen it as an integral part of who we are. Britain tends to conjure up two particular caricatures to its natives — the old one, stood in colonial red, with Michael Caine’s own personal accent, where the nation was made up entirely of P.G. Wodehouse characters at the top, officers who died noble death fighting hopelessly against hordes of ethnics in some dusty corner of the empire in the middle, and chimney sweeps at the bottom. And that was that.
Then, you have the newer version, as imagined by Matthew Wright or whoever does the cartoons for the Daily Mail, or That Uncle You Have. You know the type. The Broken Britain caricature. Most importantly, though, it’s still based on class. Except at the top, you now have Polly Toynbee and her liberal champagne Thatcher-hating left-wing cronies, organising our ruin. In the middle, you have all the immigrants and gays, and then at the bottom, the good old downtrodden indigenous, pure (some or all or part of Saxon, Pictish, Roman, Angle, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Norse, and Norman) British working-class man, who should rise up and do away with the others, but, er, quickly pop off back down when he’s done that. After all, he doesn’t have to sweep chimneys anymore, at least.
So, no matter what lens we view ourselves through, class is always present. And yet, the most chilling example of the class system made into an institution that could actually go out and conquer, like the Empire did, comes from that supposed classless society, America. I don’t mean conquer literally, of course. There’d have been some serious tsk-tsking and dear-mes if the architects of the Raj saw the mess the American military were making of things (say what you like about Britain, but we know how to oppress natives. Best concentration camps in the world).
No, the forces of conquest here are good old commercialism - for class comes to us today demonstrated with remarkable candour in the form of a Pepsi Max advertisement.
Our heroes, the aspiring petty bourgeoisie, are the supposed-to-be-handsome trio who instigate the plan against their hated figure, The Boss. A golden archetype of American Culture, his baldy wee head informs us we can feel comfortable in his mistreatment from the off. Note the uniforms - class in America is organised by a strict uniform which has become a part of the language. The working-class cleaner is wearing a blue collar. The middle-class office drones are wearing white collar. By this, the class members are able to identify and interact with one another. The boss also wears a white collar, but he is only representative of the upper-classes - I don’t know if they have their own collars or not. Maybe they wear those shirts where the collar is a different colour to the shirt - that would make a lot of sense, if America was run by people who ever thought that looked good.
Our protagonists proceed to carry out a clever plan against their employer, making use of a parrot, two masks, and assistance from their blue-collar underling to convince the tiny-headed man that he is going off his tiny head. Personally, I don’t know why anyone would go to such extraordinary lengths and carry out such a risky plan when the same effects could be had by spiking his Starbucks with LSD or dusting his doughnuts in ketamine, but then I’m not OFCOM, or whatever their equivalent is.
The boss deposed, our class warriors proceed around reordering their office, their society in microcosm, as the manner that best befits the workers. Various revolutionaries have tended to turn towards industrialisation or agrarian reform depending on the resources available to them. Thus, here, the new rulers opt to crack open some fizzy pop, put the telly on, and cheer — and I really can’t emphasise the effects of that particular cheer, so watch it again — some advertising-hoardings-with-engines going round a circular track. The revolution is complete.
Yet there is a sad note. As so often in post-revolutionary euphoria, the little man is forgotten. The blue-collar worker, having performed the most difficult part of the operation (suspending himself from the ceiling, as opposed to putting on a rubber mask), is not permitted to join the inner sanctum and enjoy the benefits of the revolution. There is no Pepsi Max for him, no racing cars, and most importantly, no body-popping.
I like to think that celebratory body-popping is viewed from the perspective of the blue-collar worker* who has been cruelly shunned, as he presses his nose up against the glass, unnoticed. I am moved to think of Orwell: “The creature outside looked from cunt to cunt, and from cunt to cunt, and from cunt to cunt again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
* Please don’t complicate the issue by bringing up the fact that he happens to be black whereas everybody else is white. That wasn’t the point of this article at all! America doesn’t want to hear about that!