“Are you happy?”

Alice Butler, the protagonist of PopCo, receives this question from a mysterious correspondent, and it constitutes the gesture that brings on the entire narrative development (the technical word escapes me – is it ‘intrigue’?). What does it mean to be happy? This question seems to be very widely discussed, even if indirectly, as in ‘Should I have plastic surgery or not?’ can be read as ‘Am I going to be happier with myself afterwards?’. The responses seem equally readily available, especially in advertising. Would I be oversimplifying if I said ‘all advertising is about happiness’? Probably – this kind of statement would never fly in academic writing. However, ‘advertising directly or indirectly links its promises to happiness’ would (I hope). However, the problem is the steps that need to be undertaken for that happiness to be achieved, and here’s where the more complex problem arises: sure, I would be sooo much happier with that Lexus SUV in my garage, but I can’t quite afford it right now. Oh, but wait, there’s an answer to your dilemma, and it comes by way of endlessly delayed gratification, and endlessly deferred happiness. The linchpin of advertising is the aspiration toward happiness, rather than happiness itself. The promise of endlessly tending to happiness (excuse the redundancy), just as in ‘x tends to zero’, but never actually reaching it. The promise of happiness is what keeps corporate subjects going. The problem is they never ask themselves: “Am I happy now?”.

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