The demise of the Jeremy Scott Adidas or what I’m calling the Dred Scott Adidas reminds me of an interesting experience that I had while participating – sitting in the audience really – in a panel discussion on film distribution about 10 or 12 years ago. As is often the case during talks about movie distribution, the conversation turned to diversity or lack there of, and some audience member pointedly asked a distribution representative why they did not distribute more films for the Hispanic market. The distribution guy nodded, appreciating the question of course, and went on to describe the complexity of the market and the difficulty of reaching a niche market with a niche product. By way of illustration, he told the story of distributing a film called Star Maps to the Hispanic market.

The distribution rep, aware of the dangers of stereotyping, noted that in general their research told them that the Hispanic audience tended to be ‘family oriented’ and ‘religious’ (majority Catholic), so a ‘coming of age family drama’ like Star Maps should have fit right in his view, but there was ‘stuff’ that had turned off the intended audience. Like many coming of age dramas the father and son have conflicting dreams: the son wants to break free and chart his own course while the father wants to shape his destiny. However, in the cases of Star Maps the father is a pimp, the family business is male prostitution and the father uses the tried and true methodology of pimps – beatings, threats, etc – to insure that his son remain on the track. Yeah. This is the film they hoped would make inroads with a ‘religious, family oriented’ audience and its failure, in the minds of the distribution guys, was attributed to the ‘complexity’ and perhaps ‘unpredictability’ of the audience, not ignorance and even lack of diversity within the company itself.

Mistakes like this are legion in our global economy. The Nova, when marketed in Latin America failed because they didn’t realize that that in Spanish ‘No va’ means ‘no go’. The Pinto flopped in Brazil because ‘pinto’ is apparently Portuguese slang for ‘little male genitals’. Pepsi cola’s “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” campaign translated to “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead” in Taiwanese. And Coors beer’s ‘Turn it loose’ slogan translated to ‘Get diarrhea’ in the Spanish market. Culture matters. Collective experience matters. Symbols matter. The Jeremy/Dred Scott shoe as a product to be sold represents a violation of all three, but as a piece of art I think its kind of compelling.

In its brilliant and tacky way the Dred Scott Adidas touches on some of the defining issues of our time: rampant consumerism; coded racism; sports/celebrity worship. The shoe itself captures the wearer. Is he ensnared by his desire for attention or his bad taste? Is the wearer making a statement about crime and public safety, as in his shoes will be stolen so he must be chained to them?  Are we ‘slaves to fashion’? We could probably go on in this vein, but these are the kinds of questions we should be asking, especially in the middle of a recession/depression because the vote we tend to overlook is that of the dollar.

So, I’d like to keep the Dred Scott Adidas alive, but of course I need a slogan. So, please add one to the comment section and the winner gets a free pair.