Adam Gustafson


Josie and the Pussycats: Commercialism and Synthetic Social Identity
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In this film (2001), Josie and her band must confront a new ultra-aggressive identity based marketing system that sees the Pussycats, and the role of arts in general, as a product for creating a purchasable culture. This movie is a critique of the strategies used by commercial media to create new, borderless, synthetic societies that seek to undermine traditional geo-political means of social identification. The irony is that while the storyline preaches a stay-true-to-you attitude, the film is an overt vehicle for product placement. This paper will first clarify what is meant by the terms social identity, and by extension, role identity. Next, commercial media, and especially the popular arts, will be examined in order to see the shift from product based marketing to identity based marketing. It is identity based marketing that has created synthetic social spheres where personal interaction is replaced with media consumption. In synthetic culture ideas such as “us” and “them” become definable not by geo-political borders or by the role we play within the traditional social structure. Identity is now pre-made for broadcast. Our only role is to consume the products that match the identity.


Adam Gustafson is currently working towards the completion of his PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts from Ohio University with concentrations in music and aesthetics. He received a MMus in composition from the Music Conservatory of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and his BS in Music from MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL. His research interests include the relationships between consumerism and the arts, and contemporary choral music. In 2004 he founded the short lived Chicago Contemporary Choral Ensemble.