October 05, 2008

"Party like it's 1492"

According to a TV commercial, Old Navy is having a pre-Columbus Day sale this weekend. "One thousand four hundred and ninety-two items for just 14 dollars and 92 cents." The sale's slogan: "Party like it's 1492."

Any Indians out there feel like partying like it's 1492? Maybe getting a new pair of jeans to celebrate Columbus Day?

Let's think a moment

Actually, it would help if the ad was more specific. Are we supposed to party like it's October 11, 1492? Or like it's October 12, 1492? Because there's a big difference.

Oct. 11 would make sense. If it were Oct. 11, Natives could party as if they were living in peace and harmony with the world. As if they were unconquered and untainted by disease or Christianity. They might rue the knowledge that all good things must end, but that's something we all must face.

Meanwhile, Euro-Americans could party as if they were about to discover the mother lode of riches. Two continents full of natural resources (gold, crops, slaves) practically free for the taking. Arguably the greatest gift ever given to the world--a gift from God since it was unearned and unjustified.

Oct. 12 would make much less sense. Natives wouldn't have much to celebrate if that were the date Old Navy was thinking of. But Euro-Americans could kick up their heels. An endless supply of heathens to rape and pillage from, enslave, and Christianize. It must've seemed like Christmas in October to Columbus and his men.

In the ad, Old Navy flashes many of the 1,492 items on sale. This embarrassment of riches seems to suggest that the golden age is upon us. Columbus found his treasure and customers can find theirs at Old Navy. Party like it's 1492!

Hmm. Did Old Navy think about these things when it created its ad campaign? I'm guessing...not. Luckily they have us to do their thinking for them.

Others agree

I'm glad to see someone else had a reaction similar to mine:

Party Like It's 1492--Old Navy, Capitalism, and GenocideWhat, therefore, are Old Navy and the producers of this campaign thinking? Are they so naive that they have accepted the white-washed version of Columbus' arrival to the West Indies? Or have they bought into colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism so completely that the commoditization of genocide is something to be made light of?

Of course, it's not that surprising that a bourgeois chain like Old Navy that caters to mostly suburban upper-middle class White people would so mangle the truth for their own commercial gain. Truth goes out the window when there's a quick buck to make.

And the consumers that buy into this system, those currently shopping at Old Navy during this sale, who have forgotten the real events of 1492, those slaves to fashion--perhaps they should stop to consider truly what slavery means, their slavery to consumerism, and the barbaric slavery of the Natives of the Americas (and also, later, our brothers and sisters in Africa). It was and is this very slavery that built the foundation of the consumerist world in which we live today.
Ironically, Old Navy's ad campaign is getting a lot of irony-free play on fashion websites and blogs. One of the sites is called "Slaves to Fashion." Nice, eh? Indians were slaves to Columbus and now we're slaves to fashion a la Old Navy.

Below:  An Old Navy ship heads for a great deal on clothing and Indians. In other words, it sails for sales!


christine said...

hey, I just searched for this advertisement because I saw the sign at Old Navy at the mall where I work. Returning with a camera to take a picture two days later, I noticed that these signs are down already, as though the company headquarters had come to a realization.

Rob said...

I believe the sale was only Oct. 3-5. So...no, I don't think Old Navy came to any realization. I'm not sure they even heard of the protests.

Anonymous said...

And the funniest part is, Columbus' expeditions led to massive inflation in Europe, so "Party like it's 1492" doesn't even make sense.