11.05.2006

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I tried to write another post, but I've gotten hung up on trying to figure out Biz LeBron's "dunk contests are bourgeois" zinger.

-Is he looking down on them as a wealthy man, or defying them as a bad-ass radical?

-If it's the former, isn't he belittling the working class even more by setting up this strict hierarchy?

-If it's the latter, how does that fit in with a totally materialistic megalomaniac?

-Is he making a knee-jerk attack on the bourgeois ("they would like it") or insinuating that liking the dunk contest makes you bourgeois?

-We see LeBron LeBron express his disdain for dunk contests. But if every LeBron represents some facets of the man's psyche, does this mean that LL also harbors these darker, more sophisticated feelings?

-Is this possibly earnest diss of the middle class (and below?) bad PR?

-If this is an aesthetic criticism, is it then possible that both the cultured wealthy and the with-it streets could be on the same page?

-Aren't we then looking at the same problem posed by the intelligentsia in Russia, i.e. that aesthetic vision will ultimately buckle under class difference?

-Or is this the essence of new jack mogul LeBron wants to be? Perfect harmony of the people and the elite, neither overtaking the other, united by their disgust with dunk contests?

-Do "the people" really not want a dunk contest?

-Biz LeBron's dunk is far more of a dunk contest dunk than LeBron LeBron's.

-If LL's in-game-looking dunk is the winner, and somehow the most noble, does that make BL not noble?

-Does this mean that only someone who cared about the dunk contest would bother to resent it?

-Thusly, is BL in effect calling himself bourgeois? Is his complexity really just amateurish pastiche?

-He knows not of what he speaks, yet he speaks the truth.

37 Comments:

At 11/06/2006 12:58 AM, Blogger T. said...

- No one at Wieden + Kennedy actually knows what bourgeois means?

I'm going with my explanation

magwui = new indie rock sensation, given 7.8 on pitchfork for their new single, however, album had a more disappointing 5.4

 
At 11/06/2006 2:47 AM, Anonymous Brendo said...

I, like Jean-Jaques Rousseau, retroactively contextualize the quote to serve my own stilted philosophical commentary on socioeconomics and policy: said statement was Biz LeBron's "Let them eat cake."

 
At 11/06/2006 2:58 AM, Blogger BenSchwarmer said...

Saw it live, can't find it on Youtube...any help?

This might be the defining commercial of our generation.

Prediction: This year's dunk contest comes down to Josh Smith v. Travis Outlaw.

 
At 11/06/2006 3:18 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

the dvd interviews up on youtube are fairly tremendous. especially when biz lebron says he looks good going to sleep.

 
At 11/06/2006 5:42 AM, Anonymous torgo said...

having seen only the ad, no extras, and going off of the totally hypothetical tangent you've got going on, I'd like to toss out an idea about the 'street' class disdain of the dunk contest.

-imagine, if you will, Flea playing hot cross buns. One a penny, y'know. And the street goes to see the Chili Peppers, and you see, well, me. I bought a bass last year. In a good week, I get an hour of practice in. I can play one song. One. Who'd stay even past the first note?

-Picasso doing paint by numbers. Meanwhile, "starving artists" fill the museum. Who'd go to Moma?

I think we're tired of trying to get excited for Fred Jones, the Birdman, and Nate Robinson. Not, y'know, that it's boring, and all, but who pays broadway prices to see an understudy?

Think back to the 2000 (I think) Dunk Contest. T-mac, Vince, Kobe, throwing down dunks that were so good, no one remembers Stackhouse dunking from the free throw line. That's what we want to see.

Getting hyped up for this dunk contest, it's people paying $100+ for Mick Jaggers arm skin flapping in the breeze. Those in the know, they don't do. Or something.

 
At 11/06/2006 8:52 AM, Blogger Critical Sports Blog said...

Lebron is reading Karl Marx who was also known to despise dunking contests. Lebron's up to page 2 after a month.

 
At 11/06/2006 9:45 AM, Anonymous Joel said...

Josh Smith has already stated multiple times he will not participate in this year's dunk contest. Says he wants to be known as a complete player, etc.

Maybe this commercial has a small effect on the dunk contest itself? I could see a situation where the contest in Feburary is filled with four guys who can barely crack their team's rotation and are looking for any type of recognition.

 
At 11/06/2006 9:47 AM, Anonymous J.E. Skeets said...

WHOA! I REMEMBER JER-BEAR'S DUNK FROM THE FT LINE!!!

(Still to this day I believe Stack nailed that dunk and thought to himself, in complete seriousness, "Yup. You're still in this thing, Jer-Bear. Still. In. It.")

 
At 11/06/2006 10:15 AM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

(I just knew I could count on Free Darko to discuss what is now my favorite line in commercial history...)

Biz Le Bron is the college liberal: when there is something that he fails at/is perceived to be bad at, he immediately demeans that something in the fashionable terms he knows, like Marxist class terminology. Calling dunk contests bourgeois is like saying, "Ah, this game is stupid anyway," but in a quasi-intellectual way." The line signifies a weakness/vapidness within Biz LeBron--he is not strong enough to confront competition/failure, and he therefore attempts to demean the competition itself in terms that sound intelligent, but actually attempt to cover an inner vapidness.

I don't like this interpretation though. Because I think it's the coolest thing that's ever been said in a commercial.

 
At 11/06/2006 10:19 AM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

Or let's add a little post-modernism to our Marxism. Post-modernism suggests that all is appearance/image, and that the sign is actually a signal that there is nothing underneath the sign. The Bourgeoisie is obsessed with appearances and images--the Bourgeoisie just wants to appear refined and rich. Biz LeBron is pointing out that the flashy dunks signify merely a lack of substance underneath it.

 
At 11/06/2006 10:27 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

right, but isn't this also a catch-all criticism of himself?

the dunk contest may be a metaphor for the bourgeois. but in unintelligibly criticizing it after participating for it, biz lebron proves himself the most bourgeois of all.

then again, we are taking it somewhat seriously, so maybe we're just seeing that biz lebron is the faddish past personnified.

 
At 11/06/2006 10:37 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

the end of that got scrambled. he's the faddish past personnified. but we're taking it seriously, so what does that say about us and/or this supposedly outmoded thinking?

is there a zen-like answer that we're too mortal to grasp, or are we ourselves still rats trapped in a pomo maze?

 
At 11/06/2006 10:43 AM, Anonymous seezmeezy said...

i think the multi-brons are both the realife's inner personalities and observations of those around him. for example, i'm sure wise bron is based on his interactions with older cats as well as some of his own grumpy tendancies.

this dual resevoir allows the characters to reflect lebron's personal feelings about himself and society. to me, the biz lebron's comment is poking fun at a holier-than-thou attitude outsiders might attribute to the realife while also allowing realife to poke fun at the type of person he is trying not to be.

it's also entirely possible that this is just a commercial and the writers aren't as smart as we're giving them credit for.

 
At 11/06/2006 10:52 AM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

Here's one of the key points that anybody who takes a course in literary criticism must and will learn: INTENT MEANS NEXT TO NOTHING. What was meant means little next to how we choose to interpret the line. But from my literary criticism studies, I've become (mostly) a reader-response critic, and so this line, like any work of art, is a rorschach test that tells us as much about the interpreter as the work itself.

 
At 11/06/2006 11:09 AM, Blogger Unsilent Majority said...

If James White is in the league he'll win the dunk contest and it will not be close. This is the guy who hit a two handed windmill from the free throw line back in high school

 
At 11/06/2006 12:19 PM, Blogger c-los said...

White just signed with the Spurs but he won't get enough PT for people to see him...i was witness to his jumping ability back in 02 at MSG where he dazzled the crowd in layup lines with dunk afer dunk and then once the game started he was a non factor.

 
At 11/06/2006 1:22 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Damn, I'm in late. Anyway, can we see the dunk contest as being for the bourgeoisie, more and more as time goes by? An appearance, a spectacle for the sake of spectacle? Is it something that needs to be reborn and then returned to the people? Has the rough influence of the proletariat been taken out of the dunk contest?

Then, if that's the case, and assuming that Biz knows what he's talking about, maybe that means Biz is more real than we give him credit for.

Also, I don't buy the college quasi-liberal slant on Biz. I more see him as a truer business mind, like the dude who dropped out and made his millions his way.

 
At 11/06/2006 2:48 PM, Anonymous Sourounis said...

@ Pac. Viking

As any good reader-response critic should know (at least those following Stanley Fish), the notion that "intent means next to nothing", is nothing else but the motto of the long-dead formalism.

Intent is the only logical constraint that makes the efforts of our interpretive communities meaningful. Otherwise it's all fun and games, but that's that.

To interpret is to figure out an intention. Or at least, convince an interpretive community that you have figured it out.


@ Shoals

This was by far the most enjoyable post i've read here in a long time. Congratulations are in order. That is, if congratulating the author wasn't such a bourgeois gesture

 
At 11/06/2006 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The folks at Nike set this campaign up for the counterpoint to the Wade Converse digs. The Converse "I lay it all out on the floor, this is everything I've got" to Brons "Shit, this world ain't enough" argument. Transends time and sport.

 
At 11/06/2006 3:17 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

Would Nike really care enough about Wade or Converse to do that, though?

Has anyone else seen "The Run: Dwayne Wade" that's been running on NBAtv? I only caught a moment of it last night, but the clip I saw had Bron mocking Wade. In a high-pitched voice he said "I'm D-Wade! I'm D-Wade!" They were clearly playing around, but it seemed to have a little bite to it, as if Lebron was asserting superiority by calling-out the "Still Wade, Still Proud" shtick that Shoals critiqued long ago.

Did anyone else catch this? Am I completely off-base?

 
At 11/06/2006 3:30 PM, Blogger Brian said...

This is the most fascinating item in a while. And I agree that it doesnt matter if the writer intended it to be so. My guess is that they didnt. Im sure they had a rather shallow view of what they wrote. But the point is in how it is interpreted, and to some extent the true authors of the commercial - the mega corporation.

Firstly, Biz Lebron is by most interpretations the bourgeois character. So is he plainy demonstrating his aloof nature by saying he doesnt have to show that he is bourgeois? If he views the dunk contest as being of that class that owns and makes money by owning (marxist leeching), and we assume he is of that social class himself, then is he saying there is no point since he is already the obvious choice/winner? Is it biz lebron's resentment of being seen as a cash cow of the bourgeois that subtly irritates his character? This is made all the more ironic by the mega corporate production of the commercial.

This social commentary from a mega corporate source seems to be another interesting angle to me. In all respects, the ones that decided to do this commercial and promotion of lebron are a bunch of biz lebron bourgeois themselves.

So what is meant when biz lebron says the dunk contest is bourgeois?
A. He hates the emptiness within himself.
B. He is the obvious champion of a contest which is no more than an extension of himself.
C. He is wealthy, but ignorant (of terminology) and maybe not educated enough to handle his wealth. e.g. Lebron did not go to college.
D. A marketing attempt to sell bourgeois ideas to an underclass that has no business in really attempting to compete with the bourgeois, thereby solidifying class structure and profits for the real bourgeois.

 
At 11/06/2006 3:45 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

Sourounis, I have a fundamental disagreement with you there. What matters is the text itself; the fact is, we can't really know what the author intended, even if the author tries to say what he/she intended. All we can deal with is the text, which is why I say the intent means next to nothing. There are extra-textual factors that can influence interpretation (time, place, conventions, etc.), but ultimately, if you try interpret a text based on what the author intends, you're probably going to get a much weaker interpretation than if you go after the text itself.

 
At 11/06/2006 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can be taken literally, though a relevation born out of Biz's immediate defeat and the spite it created. Dunk contests are bourgeois. A select class are chosen to participate, who are then judged completely arbitrarily by an anointed ruling class, and a victor is chosen. The winner becoming one step closer (be it a tiny one) to joining that class. As an event, the dunk contest most closely resembles gymnastics or ice skating in these regards, as well as the assumed behind-the-scenes realpolitik. Had the Birdman executed flawlessly, could he have really received a fair shake? Doubtful. Quite the bourgeois events indeed, standing in opposition to footy or basketball being sports of the masses.

In this view, it would be the participants themselves who may be the target of the disdain. Clamoring for the top (and in doing so leaving their teammates behind) and performing to the whims of the judges with only marginal control of their own fate. Now that the kings of the league do not participate, a point of view could be that the participants are something lower. Jesters perhaps. Near the bourgeois world, but not really in it.

Lebron-Lebron did not want to participate. Biz likely only dunked because he was certain of his victory. Old Lebron remembers a time when the contest mattered so he is ready and willing, though unable.

The question is what does Little Lebron's lack of a dunk, yet high appreciation represent? Every alternate Lebron is feeling the contest before it happens yet LBJ comes to the conclusion that he is not. Maybe the net of Biz and Little when brought together is mutual resentment which result in paralysis to act expressed as a non-descript declination and finally reluctant participation and regret.

 
At 11/06/2006 3:53 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

It could signify the evolution of the game of basketball. There was a period when the bourgeoisie ruled; during that time, the dominant basketball players participated in the dunk contest. That time has passed; the bourgeois is crumbling, and a new class form will take its place.

 
At 11/06/2006 4:03 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

obviously the new american class from of the past decade is the hip-hop millionaire. which, as i said, is the kind of businessman lebron wants to be. streets + cultivated taste (i'm talking current hova, not baby) would have the bourgeois left to look down upon.

it's no accident that biz lebron resembles diddy, or that jay often sounds like puff when he's waxing entrepeneurial.

(you know, i thought this lebron character would be a big deal. but if you'd told me that the internet would go nuts over a discussion of his commercial's effects on class in this country. . .)

 
At 11/06/2006 4:04 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that said, he still competes, and is better suited to it than any of them. and it's not like the dunk contest has been getting more conservative over the years.

 
At 11/06/2006 6:10 PM, Anonymous MegaPickles said...

Straying from the literary analysis of the commercial, I present thee with a cinematographic observation AND a throwback for critical comparison...

Old Lebron is given a 4.6, which is clearly indicated on Lil' Lebron's chalkboard. Biz Lebron receives a 7.8. Freezeframe for LBJ. Lil' Lebron simply writes "WITNESS."

If only FD had existed during the glory days of Grandmama. Surely LJ2 would have elicited discussion of women's suffrage, social security, and LGBT equal rights protection.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Y1-bLl0ihG0

WV: mptame- my initials spawn a tame new nickame

 
At 11/06/2006 6:17 PM, Blogger El Dave said...

WOW. Perhaps it is no coincidence that David Stern is hailing a new 'golden age' of basketball at the same time of this ad. While it's important to note that Stern probably doesn't understand the ramifacations of this ad, LeBron clearly does. The Association might be on its way to becoming a true communist nation, in the Marxian sense of the term. I hope this doesn't bore you.
If you'll indulge me, a brief history of the Association through the eyes of the Manifesto:
1. Feudalism. What happens originally, both in basketball and nations. A few (Mikan, Wilt) dominate the others in the clearest slave-master relationship.
2. Capitalism. A stage that is necessary for Marx and the NBA. Interestingly, Marx notes that the largest difference between Feudalism and this stage is the ability to travel and expand markets. Tri-Area Hawks nonwithstanding, this is exactly what happened in both a business and gameplaying sense in the NBA. Teams traveled out west, players start traveling and even flying. Marx does have some praise for the capitalist, saying that they show the boundries of human potential. Surely such claims could also be made about Dominque Wilkins and Alex English. Great things can and do happen during this period. Yet Marx notes that eventually, a feeling of alienation will come out this time, which culminated with the strike. Such a state is untenable for both the proletariat/FD players and the bourgeois/slam dunk contest player.
3. Revolution. Hakeem and Jordan can be viewed as the Engels/Marx of the NBA. While undoubtedly bourgeois, their D was noteworthy as well. This allowed other players to step up, although they were not as great at the dunk- here I am thinking of Barkley and perhaps Stockton. In the present, things have only gotten better. A true passer, such as Nash, gets MVP. Even offensive players such as AI and Kobe are known for their D, if not passing the ball. They are changing too, just look at the the Lakers-Suns series from last year, Gm 7 forgotten.
And now, from a player who supposed to inherit the mantle of the elite, comes this proclamation. There will always be a place for the bourgeoisie in the NBA, such players can often have redeeming qualities. However, we may be reaching a state where the workers of the League shall stand with the dunkers in harmony.

 
At 11/06/2006 6:31 PM, Anonymous Sourounis said...

For some reason, listening to anti-bourgeois statements by Lebron, is like watching Brad Pitt starring in Fight Club. You let yourself go with the narrative, but you can't just help but wondering how much they're fooling you

 
At 11/06/2006 6:50 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Such a state is untenable for both the proletariat/FD players and the bourgeois/slam dunk contest player.

winning the dunk contest is bourgeois, merely participating--or better yes, getting robbed--is completely and totally FD.

gerald wallace, j.r. smith, amare, iguodala, josh smith the year he became a complete player. . . it's like an FD roll call.

winners? nate robinson, gimmicky josh smith, fred jones, j-rich, desmon mason. . .

of course, everything we're saying applies mostly to post-2000. yet oddly, vince might be the most bourgeois player this side of grant hill. and that's not even an insult.

 
At 11/06/2006 8:22 PM, Anonymous edog1203 said...

Here's a YouTube link:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=Q0qdXwIuRxs

 
At 11/06/2006 9:54 PM, Blogger spinachdip said...

Would Nike really care enough about Wade or Converse to do that, though?

I'd say yeah. For Nike to own the Converse brand and for it to mean anything, Converse has to be something Nike isn't. Otherwise, their own brands are cannibalizing each other.

Converse is about rah rah and fieldhouses and floor burns, how anyone can win if they just try. Nike is about the elite, best knowing that they're the best. Or something like that.

 
At 11/07/2006 12:51 AM, Anonymous Jack said...

Brickowski:

The "I'm D-Wade" clip came from USA basketball practice, when LeBron was poking fun at Dwyane for that Gatorade commercial with the little kids acting as different athletes (KG, D-Wade, Peyton Manning, etc.). You know, in little kid voices with the athlete's heads on them: "I'm D-Wade...I'm all day baby, all day." Yes, it was poking fun, but it was just after-practice jibe. Look at USA basketball clips of practice on NBA.com and you'll see the whole thing.

 
At 11/07/2006 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Biz Lebron is tossing out a smokescreen for losing, using a Big Word he overhead while doing Lunch at the Grove with Ari Emanuel/Gold. Biz Lebron can afford to be cavalier with words.

LBJ wouldn't accept failure dismissively.

 
At 11/07/2006 8:02 PM, Anonymous db said...

wise lebron is hilarious

 
At 11/08/2006 1:57 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

The dunk contest is bourgeois. It's an event in which the participants generate surplus value through their labor that they themselves don't keep. The League, the host city and team, the sponsors, and the networks make money. In 2005, the contestants split $89,750; no small amount, but less than the value that their labor produced. And in the history of the event, which player has really ever recovered from the contest itself an appropriate share of that value?

The interesting thing about the commercial is that LBJ both wins and loses (and can't compete and enjoys the show). The winning self is reticent to participate, and the losing self explains why.

There is also a hint in ballLBJ's hesitancy of both distaste for the (impurity of the ) spectacle and for the spectator (typically the equivalent of the bourgeois in a post-industrial economy).

I'm left thinking that this is very much a commercial about bizLBJ: there is little in the contest itself for him, since knows that he can win; therefore, why expend his labor on something that enriches others? His efforts should be directed to endeavors that produce value for himself (and others he wants to be enriched).

 
At 4/13/2009 5:43 AM, Blogger 平平 said...

^^Thanks!!

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