Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Digital Panty Raid

I recently read a Salon article limning an upswing in so-called "Upskirting" in which cell-phone technology allows perverts easy access to captured-for-posterity beaver shots on the street. Litigation on behalf of the victims has yielded mixed results. It's no surprise that Oklahoman women are shouldering blame for wearing skirts in the first place (wait, aren't women required to wear skirts in Oklahoma?) Less clear cut cases of video violation involve women signing off on their own exposure, e.g. Girls Gone Wild, and then balking when the humiliation proves more extreme or reaches a wider audience than had been anticipated.

Here in Deutschland, as per ushe, observing cultural phenomena such as the confluence of exploitation and technology is like looking backwards through a telescope. Voyeurism is virtually celebrated -- in fact, virtual voyeurism is celebrated. To wit: they're peddling a new gizmo on Deutsch TV called "Naked Scanner" which supposedly shows you the naughty bits of anyone who gets within range of the thing. The commercial features a young woman on a beach, fully clothed, being "scanned" in a POV shot by some dude, directly implicating the viewer in the cartoonish perviness of it all. Indistinguishable at first glance from a regular cell phone with a cam, the scanner, when passed over a fully clothed body, produces an image of an airbrushed looking female nude Korper with suspiciously pneumatic breasts and a preternaturally groomed vajajay. I was reminded at once of the old "X Ray" glasses sold in the back of comic books. Sure enough, it wasn't long before a second device, "X-Ray Scanner", popped up on the screen. It comes in the same handsome packaging as "Naked Scanner", but enables one to actually see, instead of the boner under their jeans, the actual "bones" underneath the skin of one's friends! Viel Spass fuer die ganze Familie! The mind boggles.

These ads may be viral and ubiquitous, but it's the flipside of this smarmy surreal permissiveness which suggests a wicked sense of humor. The TV spot that really flipped my whig was the one for some kind of fresh-smelling detergent. A woman strays from her own backyard, enticed by the fresh scents of her neighbor's laundry on the clothesline. So buzzed is she by this aphrodisiac of a soap that she absent-mindedly plucks a pair of panties from the line and proceeds to massage them into her face, inhaling deeply. Naturlich, at that very moment the owner of said panties enters the backyard: sniffus interruptus. Cue freeze frame with "geschockt" expressions on both parties' faces, one still covered in fresh undie. The latter in abject horror beats a hasty retreat to the safety of her own backyard, presumably where she can do all the consensual laundry-huffing her fetish for all things fresh-spring-scented requires.

Now anytime I feel blase with ennui or jadedness, I flick on the TV for the antidote, of which there seems to be a bottomless supply. OK, maybe it's not that surprising that there's a sitcom ("Saint Pauli Blues") which takes place entirely in the Reeperbahn section of Hamburg, probably the world's most famous red light district. But I'd love to see how the Germans would have reacted to, say, Janet Jackson's Superbowl "wardrobe malfunction" a few seasons back, in which the act of voyeurism was reversed into an act of exhibitionism, the audience as noncomplicit victims. I'm guessing the Krauts would have foregone the smelling salts and histrionic litigation and seen it for what it was, canny advertising.

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