In the music industry, it’s not about the music; it’s about the t-shirt, the poster and the songbook. In the modern politicized tragedy, it’s not about the dead body; it’s about the hoodie, the t-shirt and the keychain. At a rally in Sanford, Florida, where the whole thing began, a vendor was eagerly selling commemorative t-shirts, shouting, “I’ve got every size.”
Like the concert, the protest rally or the memorial event is a great place to pick up some merchandise. Discriminating consumers can choose from t-shirts that denounce Zimmerman, white racism or the menace that faces every black man in America once he buys some skittles and puts on a hoodie. Then there’s the always popular, “Enough is Enough” shirt which can go on being sold at just about any event when the outrage machine had moved on to the next grievance theater.
Not to be left out of the action, Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother has applied for trademarks on “I Am Trayvon” and “Justice for Trayvon.” They say that you can’t buy justice, but if the trademark is approved then you will be able to license, “Justice for Trayvon” from her for a reasonable price.
This is being done to trademark, as the filing document puts it, “Digital materials… downloadable audio and video recordings, and CD’s featuring and promoting TRAYVON MARTIN.” That’s the sort of language used to describe musicians, but any DVD and CD featuring and promoting Trayvon Martin can only showcase a dead teenager. In life, Martin may have had promise, in death his image is being kept alive as a zombie cash cow and a political statement.
The White House has not been slow to cash in on Martin. Though Obama did not apply for a trademark on “Trayvon Martin could have been my son,” his website’s store has begun offering hoodies with Obama 2012 on the front. Alternative designs include an Obama logo on the front and back or a budget 55 dollar “Obama University” hoodie for college students who haven’t learned anything at all except how to spend other people’s money. For the truly oppressed, there is also an Alexander Wang sweatshirt with the words, “Let Us Be Clear” running along the zipper line. Clarity through an indefinite political statement will only run you 95 dollars courtesy of the Obama campaign.
The Obama/Trayvon hoodie may be only marginally more cynical than the women’s tee featuring the “O” of Obama transformed into a Venus symbol or the Joe Biden can holder, which claims to be there for soda, but is suspicious emblazoned with the phrase “Cheers Champ”, suggesting that it’s intended for a different kind of liquid. The merchandising has to hit up every demographic from single women to working class beer drinkers to the sort of people who think that reelecting Obama will prevent another Trayvon Martin case from taking place.
Plenty of Trayvon Martins have come and go in the last few years without exciting much commentary from the White House. It wasn’t the death of a troubled seventeen year old, or the particular details of his life that made him more important than high gas prices, massive unemployment, the health care debate or the race to an Iranian bomb. It was his convenience as a symbol.
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