Levi’s Abusing Walt Whitman?

I think I dislike this use of Walt Whitman. It feels like a debasement of his poetry—like using the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita to sell soda. And what’s up with the Leni Riefenstahl vibe and the fascist salutes (one toward the middle and one at the end)?

The more I think about this the more I hate it. The ontological mysteries (to which Whitman’s poems are addressed) are hijacked for the selling of pants. Ontological mysteries are turned into the functional, the fake. It is an artificial spontaneity, a mimicry of authenticity, like the evolved tricks of this octopus:

Whitman wrote his poetry under inspiration; Levi’s appropriates his poetry for market manipulation. Ironically, most people’s exposure to Whitman’s energies will only ever come via this insincere and debased Romanticism; this simulacra.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Levi’s Abusing Walt Whitman?

  1. Veronica Abbass says:

    This is gross. Coincidently, yesterday I was looking Levi’s jeans with the familiar red tab, thinking about when Levi’s jeans were the only jeans available and Levi’s was a synonym for jeans. Now the company is trying to compete with the more expensive brands. This ad reminds me of Calvin Klein jean ads. Levi’s has surpassed CK in bad taste advertising.

    Did you notice the repetition of the word “youths”? It sounds worse pronounced than it looks in print.

  2. santitafarella says:


    I agree it’s gross. With its faint echoes of fascist glamourization, I half expected to see a book thrown into its concluding bonfire.


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