Pass the Retro…[and the Heinz 57 while you’re at it…]

The concept of merging fantasy with reality, of blurring the lines so delicately, so finely that you don’t know which way is up and which way is down — well, it appeals to me greatly, in all media forms. This is one of the reasons why I spent a good chunk of my undergraduate work on W.G. Sebald and his novels. If you’re not familiar with him, I’ll give you the basics: this Anglo-German author’s gig was integrating real life history with fictional characters — however, those fictional characters were often based on very real people of his personal acquaintance and he was often shifty about divulging which one of them was real and who was a complete fabrication of his imagination. It was often deliciously impossible to tell. To add to the heady confusion, his authorship calling card (if you will) was to add photographs, almost always of his own personal collection, into his novels and these served as visual descriptions of the places or people he happened to be describing on that particular page.

It’s what drew me in — that and probably the fact that during my undergraduate years, I befriended a man who had survived Kristallnacht, the winter of ’39 and WWII as a Jew in Germany, somewhat like Jacques Austerlitz in Sebald’s novel of the same name (albeit in different circumstances). It was coincidental, but it added fuel to the fire as I began to study Holocaust literature in college. But it was always that blurring of fact and fiction that thrilled me and gave me a kind of weird mental/emotional high that I still can’t decode. Perhaps because I am still affected by it so deeply.

Now, Don Draper and his fictional 60’s advertising agency are getting the same treatment. Heinz is running the “Pass the Heinz” ads, both on billboards in NYC and in magazines, that Draper attempted to pitch to the ketchup execs in an episode of season 6 of “Mad Men”. Fictional ads for a real company on a fictional television show set in the 60's— brought to life in the real world of 2017. AMC, the show’s creator Matthew Weiner, and companies that were written into the show’s plot have done things like this before on a smaller scale. But seeing something like this is great. I just wish we had more of it.

It’s those yummy blurred lines man — so yummy, they may need a splash of imaginary mid-century tomato sauce on ’em.

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