Peter York On Ads: Low sat-fat spread - the glue that binds a community together
Sunday 16 March 2008
Communities, there's nothing like them. Everyone wants one. Apparently they're dying out all over the place, with old pubs and post offices closing. So people are making new ones. We're all used to the idea of the black community, whatever that is, and the gay community, ditto, and now there are online ones. Instead of communities made up of people you're stuck with – your ghastly neighbours, the awful village shop whose owners never raise their game beyond spaghetti hoops – you can make communities of interest.
This new consolidation could put you together with people in Pittsburgh and Jakarta who share your unusual interests: 18th- century soft-paste porcelain; the Jerry Springer recruitment processes and contestant follow-up; advanced morgue technology. It's all there, and people find themselves gibbering to types considerably more like them than the man next door.
But still they fret; there's a lot of officially sanctioned fretting about community cohesion. The good thing about communities when they had them, apparently, was that they gave meaning and belonging and security – a sense of place, Cranford or Candleford – to the more undynamic members of society; the very old, the extremely dim and so forth.
The bad side of community – viewed from the no-such-thing-as-society '80s right-on view was that it stopped the progress of bourgeois individualism and turbo-capitalism, prevented the building of shopping centres and casinos, and stopped people fulfilling their potential. Likely lads in south London, under-educated Sloanes in hopeless bits of Hampshire, all held back by the family, the neighbours or the ugliest church in Christendom. Indiana may well want me, but Lord I can't go back there.
You might say that if the Government – or its predecessors – had really cared about communities then it should never have let in those difficult immigrant groups like American investment bankers (who've destroyed the peace of Notting Hill) or Russian oligarchs or Brazilian billionaires. Or the South Ken Frogs who've completely uprooted the native red squirrels from their habitats.
Then there's the white working class. BBC 2 has been churning and frothing about them for the last fortnight. BBC 2! It's taken four years for Michael Collins' brilliant 'The Likes of Us' to filter through into chattering class thinking. But now the people who did Vicky Pollard dinner-party impressions in 2005 are starting to worry that our own free-range Old Spot proletarians might not have long to go.
Clover, the yellow fat spread, is very keen on communities too. It's always showing them in its commercials. The latest is more retro than ever, almost John Major-ish. There are boys on bikes crossing old iron bridges on a fishing trip (sandwiches). There are cheerful people involved in some sort of a garden cook-out for a good cause (corn on the cob). There are happy integrated black people eating things involving bread and yellow fats. There's a whole world of anachronistic unplaceable, provincial, lower middle/respectable upper working life that looks utterly compelling. It's a space for people to love their dads or their dogs and just to get on with things.
"We all love Clover" they sing, so that's clearly the glue in this particular community (crumpets, baked potatoes). But despite the tag line about Clover having half the sat-fat, every single moment here strikes you as a butter opportunity.
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