Ronco VS MarxismNovember 18th, 2008
by David Breithaupt
Heavy hitting, “pimp of post-modernism”, French philosopher, Jean Baudrillard, came up with an interesting idea in his book, The System Of Objects. He wrote; “Could we classify the luxuriant growth of objects as we do a flora or fauna…?” He goes on to add “…everyday objects proliferate, needs multiply, production speeds up the life span of such objects – yet we lack the vocabulary to name them all.”
I think the man is on to something. Do we not love our gadgets and gizmos more than say, a herd of gazelle that live on the other side of the world? iPods, CD players, Blackberries, food processors, are these not the recipients of our love and labor? These are the things we truly love so why not honor them with a classification system worthy of Darwin and the Galapagos?
I have given it some thought. It is time to cast away the old Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species system. First off, I would replace Kingdom with RONCO. Those of my generation will acknowledge that RONCO is King of all gizmos and is the father of the iconic “Veg-O-Matic.” That’s right, we are talking empires here. RONCO was created by one Ron Popeil, born in 1935. Ron it seems, had the particular type of genius born out of pain. At the age of three, he and his brother Jerry were shuffled into a foster home when their parents divorced. Little did they know of the future gold mine they were dispensing with. It wasn’t until Ron was seven when grandparents saved them from foster care and took them and moved to Florida. Like a bad Disney movie, the grand parents were strict disciplinarians lacking nurturing natures. When the family moved to Chicago a few years later, Ron left home at age 16 to create his gadget empire.
Fine you say. That’s all well and good, but comparing RONCO to Darwin? No way! Well let me ask you this, which would you rather have in your kitchen, a Veg-O-Matic or a giant tortoise? True, you could make turtle soup if you were an unscrupulous gourmet but would you really want a 200 year old creature’s fate to end in your soup pot just to satisfy a temporary hunger? That would be rude.
When young Ron walked down the streets of Chicago, he saw sellers on the street hawking all sorts of items and making money. He had the great idea to start selling goods from his father’s factory (Ron hooked up with his real dad who was an inventor). Did dad give him a break on the price when his son bought to resell? Hell no.
Next, Ron hit the state fair circuit. He used his salesman skills that he learned on the streets and began to make up to $1,000 a week. He began to sell one of his own creations, the “Chop-O-Matic”, precursor to the amazing Veg-O-Matic. The money was rolling in but it was dependent on Ron doing the selling day after day. What if he got he clap or something and couldn’t go out and sell?
This was in the mid 1950s. Ron decided to make TV commercials for his wares. “You could sell an empty box at that time on TV.” He said. The orders started coming in by the train loads. It was, no doubt, capitalism in all its glory.
Baudrillard disputed Marxist theory by stressing that consumption, not production is the basis of social order. To me, it’s a chicken or the egg thing. Certainly the 1950s were about consumption, the American Dream was freshly reinvented and could be had for a price. RONCO was that dream come true. That’s why I vote for RONCO to be the new Kingdom of superfluous consumerism.
Over the years, RONCOS creations such as the Mince-O-Matic, Dial-O-Matic and the unforgettable “Pocket Fisherman” made Ron a wealthy man and changed our lives forever. Ron retired at age 52 to let his underlings do his bidding, his job on this planet done. He’s probably sitting in some mansion counting his dough, perhaps wondering what he could next convert to his O-Matic genre.
Next time: WHAMO as Phylum.