Blogs & Comment

Harmony Korine's Proenza Schouler fashion ad is super creepy, but is it racist?

Indie director unveils what might be the weirdest commercial ever.

Have you ever seen Gummo? The 1997 film by director Harmony Korine, perhaps best known as the writer of Kids, that must be considered one of the strangest movies ever made. The reason I bring it up is this short film called Snowballs, created for fashion brand Proenza Schouler, might just be the Gummo of advertising.

Apparently, Proenza Schouler’s new line is inspired by a trip the designers took through the southwestern U.S., which doesn’t really explain the two girls in Native American head-dress wandering around a dodgy suburban landscape. And it certainly doesn’t prepare you for a gibberish-spewing old-timer with fingers-on-fire, all intertwined with distorted narration that warbles, “We love trouble. We dance on raindrops. We are God’s children.”

Now, fashion brands are no stranger to bizarro branded content. The latest Marc Jacobs preview is tough to beat on the Random Weirdness scale. But this takes even those standards to the next level. Some might even call it racist. And by some, I mean Forbes, who said it’s “probably the most racist, disturbing, and bizarre thing I’ve seen in a long time” and “Not sure what you call it when a company sets out to chase customers away but, whatever it’s called, this is it.” Adfreak, meanwhile, said it’s “a faux-Lynchian freak show lacking the creepy artistry and underlying menace of the master.”

It’s always been a strange idea that a director like Korine would work with brands. Or rather that they would work with him. But since he started directing spots back in 2008, there have been some surprisingly cool results, most notably this Thornton’s spot from 2009. Back then Korine told me, “Telling stories in 30 or 60 seconds is a lot of fun for me. It’s still filmmaking. It’s like a musician playing different instruments. It’s just about having fun and trying new creative things. The more outrageous it is and the more I can challenge myself, the better.”

That’s good for him as an artist perhaps, but what about the client? Depending on your perspective, this is either brand-inspired art or a complete and utter mess of a marketing tool.