What is your brand?

I’m so in love with my ibook.
Especially when I’m on long long bus rides with nothing to do. I’m on my way to Washington and it’s going to be 8 hours on the bus.
Thankfully I have a shitload of movies on my laptop to watch while I’m on the bus. (The fact that the battery only lasts for 3 hours is of no consequence, just having the knowledge that I have a lot of movies stored on my laptop is bliss).
I watched East Side Story and Painted Veil back to back. And no, there wasn’t any reason to the sequence.
I didn’t expect all that much of the two movies – East Side Story (ESS) is this low budget independent film while Painted Veil (PV) is this big budget independent film that didn’t do much at the cinemas.
But both films really spoke to me.
It’s funny how subconsciously you pick things that reveal so much of your personality. As a marketer, I’m very adverse to buying anything because of branding. My job is basically to get people to buy more stuff and branding has been the marketing catch-all for every marketing solution now.
Need to boost your sales? You need to enforce your brand presence.
Need to increase market share? You need a brand extension.
Need to increase profit margins? You need to upscale your brand.
So I was kinda surprised watching the two films and realizing that these films were so different and yet so alike to me. Someone else watching these two films would have thought they were two completely different films but because I was watching it, there was a narrative running through these two films.
ESS was about a young aspiring chef, Diego, who strives to discover who he is as a person and connect with his sexuality. As his closeted boyfriend dumps him while he is forced to take over his grandma’s restaurant, Diego finds the courage to decide what he wants out of life as a gay man and a chef. Set in the patriarchal Hispanic society of east LA, ESS was a fascinating peek into gay Hispanic society.
Growing up in a patriarchal immigrant society, gay Hispanics must feel a lot of pressure from their families, friends and society as a whole. This is probably true of gay men from patriarchal cultures such as the Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners etc. I have heard it’s a lot easier to be gay in Scandinavia where society is more matriarchal than patriarchal.
There was a subplot in ESS about the old chauvinist chef in Diego’s restaurant who views gays as degenerates, especially gay white men who comes into East LA to colonize “their” neighborhood. This racial tension resurfaces when he goes to his gay white neighbor’s house warming party and gets mistaken as the Mexican help.
The funniest scene is when Diego goes to the same neighbor’s birthday party and he’s facing the neighbor’s bitchy exaggerated gay friends. His confusion and discomfort when faced with the catty social warfare of these flamboyant gay men was funny and very realistic.Painted Veil continued the discovery theme and brought it to China (okay, okay, it was filmed in Vietnam but it was set in China ) with the straight couple of Kitty (Naomi Watts) and YYY (Edward Norton).
Kitty is the quintessential London uptown party girl (or “Topshop girl” now if we update it) while Walter is the stern straight laced bacteriologist. To escape her mother’s scorn, Kitty marries Walter and escapes to Shanghai where he is based. Even though she doesn’t love him, she finds herself enthralled by the freedom of being away from home.
Not the smartest girl in Shanghai , she falls in love with one of Walter’s acquaintance, Charlie Townsend, and is discovered by Walter himself soon enough. Walter gives her the Ultimate Ultimatum – get Charlie to marry her or accompany him to inner China to treat a whole village dying of cholera.
Choices, choices, choices.
To ensure us viewers have something to watch, Kitty discovers she has been a fool to fall in love with the cad Charlie and reluctantly goes with Walter to deathtown China . She mopes around the gorgeous countryside as she sidesteps dried out corpses (cholera swiftly kills you with dehydration first before anything), horrid Asian humidity (cue copious fan wrist action) and general fly-swapping boredom.
Needless to say, she falls in love with Walter through a series of life changing events as they fend off cholera, the Chinese civil war and scary Chinese people who look like they haven’t eaten for years.
Cynicism aside, I quite liked the film. It was realistic about human nature and yet hopeful as well. And I could see why I chose this film – somewhat exotic (historical Chinese context), somewhat offbeat (indie film set in China ), somewhat racially charged (colonialism in China ). And there’s Edward Norton. Even though he looks like a pasty New Englander now, he’s still pretty hot.
So I guess we do have a brand. Something we project through the movies/books/restaurants/partners/etc we choose.
That’s why we shop. Cultural consumption is expression, more than anything else.
Consumerism will never die.

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