Advertising is Nothing New, as this Juxtaposition of an Amish Choir and Alien: Covenant Posters Makes Clear

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Often on Saturday, a choir (I think they might be Amish) sings in the busy Times Square subway station. They set up in front of a panel of back-lit ads that changes from week to week. On a recent Saturday, the juxtaposition of puritanically-styled singers next to a promo for the latest Alien flick seemed to carry a hidden message. The end is near? Ain’t life funny? What we define as ‘alien’ is only a matter of perspective?

In any event, it made me think that advertising isn’t a modern idea. Humans have always tried to sell each other stuff–whether it’s goods, or an experience (like a film), or a religion, or a political ideology.

What’s surprising is that you’d think the pretty sounds of a chorus — their voices are lovely, echoing through a station usually dominated with groaning, screeching trains — would attract far more people than a black-and-white image of an anonymous mouth contorted in a terrified scream. And yet I for one would rather watch Alien: Covenant than hear a sermon of any stripe. And I suppose the fact that in just a few weeks Alien: Covenant has earned over $100 million means that I’m not alone in that regard.

A Crossroads of Contrasts

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Times Square has always been a crossroads of contrasts. Its old image–as an epicenter of porn and depravity–contrasts with its newer identity as a showcase for Disney and so-called wholesome (i.e. commercial) family fun in the form of Applebee’s and Ripley’s Believe it or Not. And yet (in another contrast),  pockets of porn still linger, side-by-side with packed tour buses and Broadway theaters. There’s also the wealth of the world travelers who clog the sidewalk contrasted with the growing number of homeless who sleep on it. And this video shows a musical contrast in the Times Square subway station: a Michael Jackson wannabee dancing within earshot of an Amish chorus.