Posts Tagged ‘chess’

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Check Mate

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Clever has the brains. Stupid has the balls. Smart has the plans. But stupid has the stories. Smart goes with the head. Stupid, the heart. This, at least, is how the world looks according to Diesel. Their recent campaign — prominent almost to the point of obtrusiveness — repositions foolhardiness as a virtue. By encouraging flippancy, and denouncing tact, Diesel places reason in the dock. Thing is, it’s a show trial. The jury are all wearing American Indian headdresses.

I’ve noticed a good deal of push-back against this campaign. Many of the people I speak with about it evince a kind of mild fury. At a time like this, how could a brand be so irresponsible? How could a brand be so downright…stupid?

And yet, that seems to be the point. It all fits rather nicely. For the Diesel philosophy to hold any ground at all, the campaign ethos needs to be as consistently idiotic as the message it’s promoting. Promote stupidity and in the midst of climatic and economic crisis? It’s a ridiculous idea. It’s perfect.

Perhaps, though, it’s not just the recklessness of the Diesel mentality that grinds on people. We’re being asked to admire the imprudent, to throw caution and our knickers (oo-eer) to the wind. Ads focus on reminding us of the appeal of daftness. But they steer clear of detailing the monotony of intelligence on which this endorsement relies. The elephant in the room arrives in the shape of a colossal cranium. And here’s where G-Star RAW come in.

On first appearances, G-Star’s recent output doesn’t seem anything special. Their greyscale image of a moody teenager can be routinely encountered on almost any London Underground platform. Upright he stands, hands behind back, delivering a seething screwface at anyone who catches his eye. To some, however (especially Norwegians, towards whom I’ve lately been feeling an inexplicable fondness), this figure will be instantly recognizable. It’s Magnus Carlsen, currently the world chess number two, officially declared a Grandmaster aged just thirteen.

He looks like he might have landed his first knockout blow around that time too. Carlsen’s face is wound into a tight ball of indignation. He looks about to crack. Smart — this coding is suggesting — can also be savage. This is an intelligence that spills into ire. What’s more it’s apolitical, undirected. G-Star have transposed the mindless irreverence of Diesel’s idiots and planted it on the face of one of the world’s most fascinating young prodigies.

Carlsen doesn’t clearly sit on the nerd table. Broaches, horn-rims and dynamite quiffs run up against a bruiser who looks like he eats polka-dot socks for breakfast. If Diesel want us to give the thumbs down to a certain version of nerdiness, they had better check the nerds haven’t got there first. Currently, they are relying on a quickly dating understanding of braininess to promote their own personal brand of horseplay. It’s this that makes the campaign feel so tired — not the counterintuitive radicalism that supposedly lies at its core.

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