As a friend pointed out upon seeing this ad, “do we really need Mad Max meets Deliverance”? Actually it would be fantastic to see Tina Turner swaggering in there and knocking something over, a table maybe, or the narrative, but she is exactly not what this nostalgic fantasy is about.
Mountain Dew’s new soft drink is Dewshine, (click the link – it’s amazing), which they’re calling a “backwoods original.”
I didn’t foresee Mountain Dew™ getting in on the heritage hipster/lumbersexual thing too, but everyone else is and it just won’t die, so maybe it was inevitable. This particular incarnation might be more Appalachian or Ozark mountain bootlegger than frontier lumberjack, but the white male, early-twentieth-century nostalgia remains the same. As seems to be usual with the heritage hipster identity, the appeal to historical romance is accompanied by the ever-present—and ever more explicit—white man’s claim to the land. The “forefathers”…
“These mountains are our birthplace, these woods are our playground, the spirit of these renegades our inspiration. And now a new fire has been lit. A fire that will fuel a generation and celebrate a way of living. Introducing Mountain Dew Dewshine. A smooth clear Dew with an old school citrus kick. Dewshine: available legally for the first time.”
“Our birthplace.” Yes, dudes, we know! These days your consumption must always assert your old-timey right to the land! Your land claim can probably be heard from space—you don’t have to keep saying it. At least you didn’t use the word “birthright” this time, though I think that idea hovers over much of your heritage hipster aesthetic.
The sequence of a shoddy factory-produced bottle being earnestly pulled out of a backwoods forge is so ridiculous I almost felt sad. Such a half-assed mix of authentic artisanal DIY, frontier labourer know-how and backwoods landscape on the one hand, with something so cheaply mass-produced on the other. Not to be too purist, either, but that is not how you blow a glass bottle. But I think we can assume the anachronisms are intentional and meant to signal to male consumers “you can still share in the “rebel spirit” [see arm tattoo text and product slogan] and a sense of entitlement to land, even if you’re only partaking in corporate soft drinks.”
So here we are. The beyond-the-arm-of-the-law rebellion of white mountain men is tied to the flogging of corporate soft drinks disguised as backcountry moonshine—Dewshine. But how beyond-the-system is this rebelliousness? We already know that heritage hipsters (real and fictional) are—above anything else—entrepreneurs. And apparently the main item being sold and consumed these days is a nostalgic version of white settler history, whether it’s brave lumberjack or renegade mountain dwellers with anachronistic faux-oldey-timey hot rods. It’s always the same earnest intensity and humourlessness, and as another friend remarked (in the comments below) “drop the last 3 letters of ‘Dewshine’ and say it out loud!” There’s nothing rebel at all in this frontier simulacrum. My instant reaction to it is that it affirms a pretty conservative status quo but under a veneer of libertarian, romantic outlaw. Given that it’s mostly millennials buying this look, and given that their future has been stolen, one wonders why they couldn’t do better than this rather reactionary pre-civil rights, outside-the-law fantasy. This is a whites-only daydream, and furthermore, its world is a sort of anti-Occupy. It’s not Joe Hill. It’s hiding in the backwoods and roaring around selling DIY moonshine to each other in a sort of fit of individualism.
What bothers me most is that if Mountain Dew is running this ad, it has clearly done plenty of market research and focus grouping and it knows this fantasy will sell. So what does this ad tell us about the target market for this deracinated moonshine? At least that there’s clearly a substantial market for this brand of masculinity, or Mountain Dew wouldn’t have spent kajillions on developing this product, brand and advertising.
If anyone thinks I’m giving Mountain Dew short shrift here, we can revisit the fact that in 2013 they had to pull an ad after widespread accusations of racism. The ad sort of has to be seen to be believed, but if you don’t have the stomach to watch it, at least just google “arguably the most racist commercial in history.”
In any case, Dewshine’s branding is merely the umpteenth manifestation of this heritage hipster phenomenon, which after ten years is showing few signs of abating. I know I’m getting repetitive. But so is this conservative trope. For a more examples and a detailed analysis of this trend—if we can use the word trend for something this long-lasting—read this earlier post.
Mountain don’t, anyone? (Sorry.)
And for anyone who thinks this is a one-off, check out this new band from Northern Ontario: Murder Murder.
From their bio: “Murder Murder is a Bloodgrass band (Bluegrass + Outlaw Country + Exclusively Murder Ballads) hailing from the frozen forests of the Ontario Northland. Their tales of death are filled with life by the kick of the suitcase, saw of the fiddle, and roll of the banjo.
As devoted fans of bluegrass, traditional music, and folk music, we were drawn to the murky ethical themes of the murder ballad form and to its enduring nature. Many of the earliest examples are the sole surviving records of victims of violent crimes. Oftentimes murder ballads capture the essence and atmosphere of a dark, lawless and violent frontier. Northern Ontario, although never romanticized in the way that the Wild West or the far north during the gold rush era were, was once such a place – with a wealth of stories and characters. The lack of mythology associated with Northern Ontario is troubling, and thus we felt it our responsibility to create our own mythology. “
white dudes in brooklyn be dressing like coal miners. #OzarkFlow
— TOLKIEN BLACK (@therealhennessy) May 8, 2015