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Postmodern Village
est. 1999
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Got Freud?
By Burke Burkean

Freud both provokes and begs the question of whether one does, indeed, have milk. For Freud, this is of the most primal and basic of questions as it raises the dialectical issue of both overt and subliminal desire. The widespread and enduring popularity of the ad campaign (it is one of the most successful in American history) demonstrates that there is, in fact, a fixation upon the issue of milk.

This fixation is of the first and primary stage, the Oral Stage. The "Got Milk?" campaign provides much evidence of this stage through the inherent mechanism of milk transference and the resultant presentations of desire and satisfaction. Plainly put, the id desires milk. Milk, as commonly understood by the consumer, appears most often in a glass - around which the desiring individual places his/her lips. As the lips are, by nature, the most sensorial apparti of the oral stage, it is not surprising to consider that the most familiar and reassuring substance is milk. (Consider the reassuring and soporific effects of warm milk.) Drinking milk in the medium of a smooth glass (mimicking the smoothness of the mother's breast skin) connects the drinker to her/his mother. To drink milk both satiates the drinker and elicits sexual desire for one's mother. Therefore, to ask the question "Do you have milk?" is to confront the viewer of the advertisement with the suppressed desire for one's mother. This elicitation is also connected to the common command by one's mother to "Drink your milk."

Drinking milk reaffirms the power that the mother has over the child. The more the child drinks, the more of an oral fixation the child will have and the more sexual desire the child will contain. Advertisers exploit the issue of the male son growing up to defeat his father by promising such results as "healthy teeth and bones," "great skin and hair," and "great muscle tone." With the promise of sexual virility and the encouragement by the mother to drink milk, the son continues to obey his mother in order that he may grow strong enough to replace his father as the male ideal for his mother, as the established authority, and as the apex of power. Thus, the older milk slogan of "Milk. It does a body good" provides the foundation for enticement by the male son to supplant the dominating father by the very wishes of the commanding mother.

Let us turn to two examples of the "Got Milk?" campaign. The first is the extremely popular print ads of celebrities and attractive people, found commonly in The Milk Mustache Book: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at America's Favorite Advertising Campaign.

The so-called "milk mustache" easily demonstrates the desire for milk drinkers to embody an adult male persona for sexual gratification of the female (consider the popularity of male stars of adult films during the 1970s. A full and prominent mustache means a large, powerful, and satiating penis). In this book both men and women are photographed with milk mustaches. The milk mustache which adorns a woman's upper lip is an oral stage exemplum of penis envy. Dialectically, they desire milk and are satiated by milk (evidenced by the self-satisfied and smug look on their faces after having engaged in the subliminal act of nursing). On the other hand, there is the more overt penis envy demonstrated by the parallel of the mark of oral sex. The "milkiness" of semen around the woman's mouth is very similar to that of the milk mustache. The smug look on the woman's face offers the sign that she is willing to perform oral sex and finds pleasure from it. Similarly, the male with a milk mustache presents, dialectically, the desire for both masculinity through the facsimile of facial hair, and the subliminal fear of having a small penis - thus, offering a display of willingness to take in a penis through the mechanism of the mouth. As the classic display of homosexuality is that of the 1970s mustache, the male milk mustache provides an example of one's own passiveness and the id's desire for the stimulation of the anus, phallus, and genitals demonstrated in the second, third, and fifth stages.

The most famous example of the "Got Milk?" ad campaign is also one of the most popular ads in American history, thus providing the innate power of the Oral Stage (it has given many people over the years much pleasure to talk about it). The "Aaron Burr" commercial from 1993 provides a number of examples of Freudian codes. Perhaps, the best way to psychoanalyze this commercial is to break it down in sequential order and let the mere presentation of each bit speak for itself.

The scene opens up with a gradual close-up shot of a man preparing a sandwich. Immediately, there is desire to put something in his mouth. Various shots show the man's obsession with Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury. Here, we see that the man evidently has an obsessive fixation to collect and control in an anal-retentive and ordered manner.

Classical music plays in the background (another example of elitist fussiness). As the music ends, the disc jockey says that the composition is the "Vienna Wood Dance in D." Must I REALLY comment on this? I didn't think so. The composition is by Mozart, who (like Freud) lived in Vienna - a known European hotspot for both Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century sex (but more repressed in the Twentieth with the fascism and all…).

As we see the close-up shot of the man shoving the phallic, rolled-up peanut butter sandwich ENTIRELY into his mouth, the disc jockey announces a contest for $10,000 to the person, who can answer a trivia question, called at random.

When he asks the question "Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?", a display of two long pistols, their suspended barrels pointed towards each other just inches away from touching tips, is presented accompanied with two gun shots and a final climactic explosion.

The thud of an anxious heartbeat accompanies images that this man is obsessed with the death of Alexander Hamilton and has spent his entire life, his entire BEING, acquiring and studying EVERYTHING concerning the circumstances involving his death.

The disc jockey calls him and before he can finish the question, the man prematurely ejaculates into the phone "AHHHRUN BUHHHH!" with smug self-satisfaction. However, the disc jockey cannot understand what he is saying. The man's mouth is full of the phallic sandwich. He is expected to answer, to show his mastery and he cannot. He suffers anxiety concerning his raison d'etre. This is the apex of his existence and he cannot perform. He panics.

The poor man tries again, then muffles for the disc jockey to hold on while he gets the milk, but there is only a splash of milk left in the carton. The breast is empty. The glass is useless. We see the man through the warped translucent glass only vaguely filled with life-giving and satisfying milk. He has obsessively pushed the phallus into his mouth and now cannot supplant his oral fixation with a more primal act of satisfaction. He screams like an infant who cannot be sated, who cannot find his mother's breast to feed for the id's desire to win $10,000 - something he would be able to do under the circumstances provided by milk.

The disc jockey tells him his time is almost up. The man suffers from performance anxiety and begins, frantically, to cry again and again "Ahhrun buhh!" but he has already shot his load. He has stuffed himself so that he cannot ejaculate the proper answer for his reward. He is emasculated.

The closing shot has him whimpering into the receiver while the disc jockey tells him condescendingly that his time is up. The disc jockey has continued to have power over him. To the man's right is the knife with which he spread the peanut butter on the sandwich. The knife is pointed down into the peanut butter, its phallus spent. It is also the phallus of the father that has cut off the man's masculinity and inserted a feminizing penis into the man's mouth in unrestrained pleasure.

The commercial fades to black with the words in familiar logo "Got Milk?" The fade to black is the later Freudian idea of not finding pleasure, but evading death. The "death" of the commercial demonstrates the inability for the man to re-produce the correct answer that he has rehearsed in his mind his entire life. His failure is death, and each time the commercial is shown, he relives his most painful moment again and again trapped in his own wretched, Nietzschean eternal recurrence. He dies as a substitutionary martyr for each of us and is reborn like some tortured messiah! We project our own failings upon this man. We mock him because we repress our own and we are ashamed. Thank you, Aaron Burr Man! Thank you! Your suffering is not in vain.