Ilan Mochari
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BlogOctober, 2008
How Wal-Mart blackwashed its image; when the movie beats the book

The first AC/DC album in eight years comes out October 16. The only place you can buy it is Wal-Mart. 

AC/DC has always gone to bed with large corporations. Witness their commercials for Verizon, Nike, and The Gap. No, the Wal-Mart-AC/DC union isn’t surprising from AC/DC’s side. Where it gets surprising, for me, is Wal-Mart’s affiliation with lyrics like these:

Magazines wet dreams dirty women on machines for me
Big licks skin flicks tricky dicks are my chemistry
Goin’ against the grain tryin’ to keep me sane with you
So stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen for me

(from “Shake a Leg”) 

She blowing me crazy
’Til my ammunition is dry
Ah she’s using her head again…
I’m justa giving the dog a bone

(from “Givin’ The Dog A Bone”)

So let’s get this straight: Wal-Mart is still too squeamish to sell Maxim, FHM, and Stuff – but AC/DC is sanitary? Wal-Mart can persuade John Mellencamp to airbrush images of the devil and Jesus – but AC/DC, for whom hell is a leitmotif, is harmless?

Snoop around the Wal-Mart site, and you’ll find this policy – updated April 29, 2008 – regarding “mature” merchandise:

MUSIC: Wal-Mart does not carry music that has the “parental advisory” label which warns parents about explicit lyrics. We carry some “edited” versions of music that have been provided by the artist or the music label. Wal-Mart does not edit music. Our role is simply to provide music selections that we believe our customers want to buy.

Gag me. So are we to believe AC/DC’s new album won’t warrant an advisory label? That would finish AC/DC as we know them. What’s really happening here is Wal-Mart’s gradual blackwashing of its religious-right reputation. Today, it’s AC/DC albums; in two years, maybe, they’ll let Maxim back in the stores, once they’ve beta-tested their customers’ tolerance for thongs and Satanic allusions. It’s a terrific marketing shift for the $400-billion company, whose name in many circles remains synonymous with rednecks and censorship.


***

My favorite Czech novel – though I could not call it the best, if wearing my critic’s cap – is I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal. The film version debuted in the US not long ago and I rushed to see it. I extended a last-second invite to my man Wesley Morris but he was in Toronto.

Unfortunately, writer/director Jiri Menzel was not faithful the book’s impassioned, soliloquy ending. He also omitted an important character. In the book, the protagonist and narrator, Jan Dite, has a son. That son is absent from the movie.

Notwithstanding these changes, the movie was excellent. The only hindrance to my enjoyment was my knowledge of the book’s storyline. Of course, that’s usually how it goes: Read the book, and the movie lets you down. But not always:

  • Sons and Lovers (1960). D. H. Lawrence’s novel is one of my favorites – critic hat or no. But Jack Cardiff’s movie tops it by eliminating the book’s farfetched plotting. As great as Lawrence’s language is, he throws around words like “heart” and “soul” and “love” as if he’s penning a pop song. The film kills all of that. And Trevor Howard gives one of the best performances you’ll ever see as Walter Morel.
  • Terms of Endearment (1983). Whereas Sons and Lovers is an elite movie adapted from a great novel, Terms is an elite movie adapted from a so-so novel. I feel awful, with my one published short story, slinging stones at the legendary Larry McMurtry. I worship at the shelf of Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show. But Terms is far from vintage McMurtry. The first 350 pages span one year, 1962. The final 47 pages span five years, 1971-76. The transition is bumpy. It feels more like an escape than an epilogue. The movie, by contrast, builds you up for its woebegone finish. When it comes, you believe it completely. The film also rids the book of a boring character named Royce Dunlup, whose adventures are distractingly extraneous to the central drama of Aurora Greenway and her daughter Emma. 

***

Speaking of my published short story, here are the details: "A Loss to the Stuffed Animal Kingdom" has been published in Issue 4 of Keyhole, an emerging literary journal with an impressive roster of up-and-coming authors. You can buy copies of Issue 4 and read more about this great news in my press release



Ilan Mochari is a novelist and journalist living in the Boston area. His fiction has appeared in Keyhole and been honored by
Glimmer Train. He is a former staff writer for Inc magazine, and he has also written for Fortune Small Business and CFO magazine. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.

 
    © 2008 Ilan Mochari  
Ilan Mochari