Dead Celebrities Selling You Things

After a point, a dead celebrity ceases to be a person in the public imagination, and becomes a person™ instead. Take Marilyn Monroe for example. Legions of young women – from teens through old age – claim to “love Marilyn Monroe.” Many of them love Monroe™ instead: a franken-celeb comprised of dubious “girl power”-y or twee quotes, a series of photographs, and scant biographical details. This character bears little resemblance to the once-real person who survived a neglected childhood, wrote poetry, read Dostoyevsky, and was closer to a modern size six than the oft-cited 16. Audrey Hepburn is the same way. Girls worship her the way they would a favorite Disney Princess. She’s become a mascot for ladies who hope to be thoughtful, graceful, and maybe a bit mysterious.
Once a dead celebrity has become a person™, their image is used to sell things in ads. As a bonus for advertisers, once a celebrity is dead the chances of their image taking a nosedive is pretty slim. So, here you have it: a bunch of dead celebrities posthumously schilling stuff*:

Audrey Hepburn

I can just see the concept meeting for this one. A bunch of ad execs have a white board, listing “Celebrities Who Seem Gap-y.” Richard – it’s always a Richard – throws out “Audrey Hepburn,” half-joking.

“Isn’t she dead?”

“Did she ever wear Gap, anyway?”

“She doesn’t have to be alive. She doesn’t even have to wear Gap. We’ll just use film footage of her dancing all 60s-like.”

And they all went to lunch.

Like, was she even into chocolate? I want to say no.

Marilyn Monroe

This time, the whiteboard at the concept meeting was titled “Celebrities Who Seem Like Maybe They Would Have Smelled Good.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

(1) It’s immaterial what party any celebrity or president of 50+ years ago was in, as both have considerably shifted their platforms since then.

(2) King did speak about the Republican National Convention — to urge people to vote against Goldwater. He wasn’t to keen on Johnson’s foreign policy either.

(3) Pretty sure MLK was … pretty liberal, you know? [Democrats: that doesn’t mean you should make a billboard, either.]

Kurt Cobain

“Here we are now/ entertain us,” Kurt Cobain sang.

“Here we are now, entertain us,” the young people in the mid-2000s demanded.

“I feel stupid. And contagious,” at least one of the developers of Guitar Hero probably thought. And they were. They really were.

John Lennon

This is like the charity ad version of those Brian Williams rap videos. They compiled bits of Lennon speaking into an ad he never made. I’m most impressed with how they got him to say “laptop.”

Jimi Hendrix

Chris Farley

“Okay, pretend you’re talking to your good friend who died. We’ll use this to sell things.” – Something a director essentially had to say to David Spade.

Gene Kelly

Because when I think Gene Kelly (RIP), I think cars.

John Wayne

What do the Rockies taste like? Shame and disappointment, sort of.

The Ultimate: Tupac, Elvis, Bruce Lee, Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain

Shutup, The Netherlands. Shut up shut up shut up.
* As a tangent for the nerdiest among us: Using dead celebrities’ images has already been discussed in court, but the advent of face-recognition software is raising new questions about what it means to have a property interest in your own face.

Guys, considering these people are dead, there’s a good chance that if you were able to ask they’d say this stuff doesn’t matter. But I’m living, and I think it’s creepy.


6 thoughts on “Dead Celebrities Selling You Things

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