One can see this analysis coming; a criticism of popular culture’s decorative mobile phone covers coming from a self-congratulating highbrow language. You say Swarovski crystals, we say commodity fetishism, you say retro cassette tape iPhone cover, we say commodity fetishism.
But isn’t there something much more interesting about the idea of cases and covers? When we purchase a cover or case, we at least partly do so to protect our phone. But we overlook the repercussion; we have paid a large amount of money for the slimmest, smallest, most appealing phone (never shown in a case on the advert) and then we nullify this by making it bigger, bulkier and less-appealing, precisely in order to protect what we have paid for, even at its own cost.
Doesn’t this show us something about the structure of our desires? It is not the ‘slimness’ that is advertised towards which our desire tends at all, but some invisible characteristic or presence within the product, some always illusive object of desire, which always remains unarticulated.
This new advert for Norton’s phone and electronics protection, tagline ‘if excitement over your new device is causing muscle cramps in your face you may have newphoria,’ seems to capture this perfectly. What we are looking to defend in our product is not one of its actual characteristics but instead some elusive ‘newness’ which produces happiness in us, but which we cannot approach or articulate.
Indeed, perhaps we can go as far as to say that the cover does serve a protective function. It protects us from the realization that our desire cannot be fulfilled; it maintains the illusion ‘underneath that big bulky leather case, and through that screen cover and Manchester United/Hello Kitty back-cover, is an illusive, secret object of desire, which is my possession, and it makes me happy’. If we actually faced the object directly, we would face the realization that it does nothing to fulfil us.
We need the cover because it keeps the realization of our desires at a distance, since if our desires were to be realized, we could not handle it…