Heil Levi's!

I noticed a fleeting image in a Levi's jeans commercial which may cause controversy, or maybe the blogosphere won't notice. You can see it on It's the "film" titled "O' Pioneer." A recitation of some corny, ancient sounding poem or essay, I guess, over top of young men and women in jeans running around the great out-of-doors, a few images of deer antlers while the narrator mentions taking up axes, startled girls in close-ups for no other purpose than to see how pretty they are. It's trying to touch on old American propaganda like "Go West, young man" and Twentieth Century Soviet propaganda. About half-way through the one minute commercial, the camera moves past a girl standing with one arm raised in salute. After viewing it a second time, I noticed that she's standing in front of a statue that's also giving the salute. (Click on the image below to see larger versions.)

levi's salute

Now you and I, being the erudite, sophisticated chuckleheads that we are, recognize that holding up one hand in salute did not originate with Hitler or the Nazis, any more than the swastika originated with them. Seems like it might have been a Roman salute, as in the Roman Empire. Or maybe that's the thing where they smack their forearms across their chests? Last time I saw anyone do that was in The Phantom Empire or Lost City or Flash Gordon or one of those old sci-fi serials.

I know I've seen stills and moving images of American kids reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with their hands held out like this, before they switched to holding hands over hearts. In fact, the statue behind that woman could be in America, possibly pre-dating the Nazis. (I was right! It appears to be a statue of Sacajawea created in 1905, now displayed in Portland, Oregon.) When I first saw this on tv, I didn't notice the statue, but the image it brought to mind was Chinese Communist propaganda posters. "Young Workers Make the Most Glorious Backyard Steel!" or something like that.

That salute has become so strongly associated with Nazis, I'm wondering how long before blogospherists start raising a hubbub about it. Not that I think there's anything offensive intended by the ad, but if they freak out over the political significance of Rachel Ray wearing a checked handkerchief in a Dunkin Donuts ad, then they'll have a minor field day with this salute. Right? Left?

So anyway, if it becomes a controversy at all, beyond the comments section of the video on Youtube, you read it here first, 10:23 AM EST, 28 SEP 2009. Or you could have read it here first.


Unexpected honor-bound violence

I can't put my finger on it, but there was something odd in common between a couple of movies I watched yesterday.

*SPOILERS coming up*.

At one point in the 1959 Western "Escort West," Rex Ingram plays an injured/dying man who tries to convince his friend Victor Mature to carry on without him, since they're being pursued by "rogue" Indian bandits. The man will almost certainly die if they leave him, so Mature is reluctant to do it. Ingram aims a gun at Mature, then puts it to his own chin as a threat to Mature not to come closer, to move along and save the rest of the party. It seemed like a gritty thing to show in a Fifties Western, a guy threatening suicide to make a point. Come to think of it, this movie was somewhat racially progressive too. Rex Ingram is the only black man I can remember in a Western, other than Blazing Saddles. And they made a point of saying that the local tribe of Indians respected their treaties, but the villains were a handful of rogues or bandits.

Later I watched "The Great Waldo Pepper" (1975) starring Robert Redford as a barnstorming, wing-walking biplane stunt pilot in the 1920s. At one point after a stunt goes wrong, a friend of his crashes. The man is still alive when Redford runs up to try pulling him from the wreckage, but foolish bystanders gather around with their cigarettes, and the leaking fuel catches fire. Redford tries to pull him from the burning plane but he's trapped. Since they had talked earlier about how some pilots in those days would jump out without a parachute rather than burn up on the ground, Redford grabs a piece of wreckage and clubs his friend over the head, either knocking him out or caving his skull in so he wouldn't be conscious while he burned to death.

Maybe they had nothing special in common, just odd behaviors to watch good guys engage in.