Opinion – I came across a new advertisement from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation. The spot uses archive footage of John Lennon which has been altered so he speaks on behalf of OLPC (an organization created nearly 25 years after his death in December, 1980). To be honest, when the video was over I found myself standing there with my mouth hanging open. How could the memory of John Lennon be used to solicit donations (even for a beneficial OLPC)? And aren’t there living people who could do the job? Why desecrate the memory of a man?
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to those with influence using their influence to help people, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And I believe very strongly there are bona fide reasons why celebrities would want to help those they’re able to help.
Still, I think most would agree that John Lennon had a vision. And while his vision may be in line with the ideas portrayed by the OLPC Foundation, it was still his vision when he was alive. To have his estate using that which he himself (while alive) created and worked so hard to foster (remember staged bed-ins to encourage peace?) for these kinds of commercial purposes seems something far less than right.
Lennon is dead. He’s never had a say in whether or not the very image of his face could be used to push such a product. In fact, from what I understand of Lennon he may well have not appreciated the OLPC endeavor, believing instead in the power of people and not technology. That by turning to each other in love and for love first, through that connection all else would be achieved. It didn’t seem to require a device or gimmick. It was simply love.
And now I’m in a difficult position. My mind naturally just can’t help but imagine what’s next. I’ve already seen Humphrey Bogart morphed onto a 3D map and made to speak about old movies. I’ve seen a virtual Elvis selling products and talking in the most stereotypical ways the man rarely spoke in. So, what’s next? Some form of robotics applied to real images of people that can be physically wielded out on demand for whatever purpose? Maybe they’re wired to actors who, like the way 3D animated movies are created today, convert their gestures into ones more like the character, therefore able to push any product. Just so long as the estate makes money. And the company makes money, right?
I just can’t believe we’re anywhere close to that place. This John Lennon OLPC video has really struck me. And I find it weird beyond words that such an idea would even be considered. I also find it insulting that anyone associated with Lennon would use his image for such an advertisement.
As for Lennon or Beatles songs being used to sell commercial products, that is a contractual arrangement the representatives of those performers entered in to when they were alive. They have no recourse for being upset about the record companies using the products they bought and paid for in the most despicable manner imaginable. After all, they are running corporations and corporate goals are profit. So, it makes sense. But to have someone like Lennon, 28+ years after his death, pushing a product that didn’t even exist until 3 years ago … I am just floored.
I could use some cliche now, like maybe instant karma’s gonna get them. But in truth, I would simply like to see that ad taken down and an apology issued. I would also like to see this serve as a lesson to other corporations and foundations that the memories of those who have past should be left alone. They were what they were, good, bad or indifferent. And anything you do after that fact forever alters their memory and twists them into something they weren’t.
But, don’t take my word for it … judge for yourself. See the YouTube spot here:
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.