Landscapes of Global Capital
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This Boeing commercial takes viewers on a rapid tour that ranges from scenes of agriculture in Asia, to the military, to tourism, to outer space. A relentlessly upbeat techno soundtrack suggests an equivalence between these sequences even though the content of each sequence may seem, at first glance, radically disparate. Perhaps because of this sequencing, the ad carries both nationalistic and multicultural moments.

Boeing produces technologies that target both civilian and military markets. Despite the rationalized structures needed to support this technology (e.g., the airport as rationalized panoptic space), the commercial blends in traditional signifiers of non-western cultural images into the mix to suggest that its technology incorporates the interests of all cultural formations. Aesthetization of the images created by composition, color, and camera movement smoothes over the contradictions between these signifiers.

Notice how Boeing uses titles to steer the meaning of its montage of traditional and modern images. An upbeat musical score celebrates technological progress and universal humanism. The commercial opens with a close-up of hands picking leaves off a plant. As the camera tracks backward, it reveals a field of Asian farm workers dressed in red garb and wearing straw hats. This is followed by a series of traditional agricultural scenes -- a tractor haying a field, a cart pulled by oxen, cows grazing in a field with a snow covered mountain in the background, women carrying bowls of produce on their heads silhouetted against an orange sky, followed by a shot of a solitary Western farmer wiping his brow.

Boeing aestheticizes agricultural work, saturating these images with rich colors. This imagery calls attention to moments of agricultural activity (labor), but it is more about the aesthetics of the cultural landscape. These shots are modeled after National Geographic photography, documenting an appreciation of a colorful world out there. What Boeing adds is technology. The final shot in this sequence is of a satellite orbiting earth. Three sets of titles appear over this segment.

A farmer's guide
From outer space
It flies at 1,000 feet

As viewers, we try to make sense of these frames by assuming that this satellite technology is relaying important information to the farmers. The traditional (the farmer) is supported by the modern (satellite technology). Without skipping a beat, the scenes shift to military references and frames. Titles guide the viewer's reading of each of the following sequences.

Below the surface
A launch pad
That floats
It takes off
Without a runway

In this sequence the imagery is militaristic -- a submarine, a missile on a launch pad taking off, a harrier jet taking off vertically from an aircraft carrier deck. Like the preceding sequence these images are also highly aestheticized, disguising to some degree the militaristic functions of such technology. This imagery slides effortlessly into a brief sequence of scenes that at first appear almost as a non-sequitur. Four successive images -- the first of a supermodern city center, the second of a pyramid, the third of a mass of rapid rapidly moving pedestrians, and the fourth of a night-lit bridge signifying movement. The following scene of a jet gliding through the sky is framed by a title sequence.

A jet that goes so far
It brings people closer

The content of the commercial shifts again. A montage of disparate signifiers is used to suggest a multicultural world created by Boeing -- a soaring jetliner across an orange sky, close-ups of a older Scotsman, a white-veiled Arab, a bearded Indian, and two Russians.

Flown and serviced
Before it was built
That defy gravity
What will tomorrow bring?

The final sequence opens with two small jets that skate the clouds followed by the standard signifiers of going into outer space: rockets igniting, a space shuttle take-off, a space walk, and the release of a satellite. Beams of light refracting from the eye punctuate this montage suggesting a future of unlimited technological possibilities.

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© Copyright 1998-2003
Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey