What’s better than having a grand time? Having a grander time—at the newly renovated MGM Grand resort in Las Vegas. A series of ads promotes the upgraded facilities and targets young professionals, stoking desires for luxury, excitement, and effortless sophistication. One ad in particular sandwiches a somewhat diminutive male between two attractive women. He gracefully carries a cocktail, a handy catalyst and potential excuse for the “grander euphoria” about to unfold. Behind him, the piercing eyes of a sensual brunette confide in us. Might we too join the party?
The marketing of casinos as sanctioned pleasure palaces is by no means new, nor is advertising that appeals to sexual fantasies. “New rooms” and “New clubs” typify the spirit of Las Vegas, a city that continually reinvents itself or perhaps just doubles up in the form of “New experiences.” Notice, however, the absence of gaming and gambling images in MGM’s new campaign. Romantic wagers alone account for much of the advertised gameplay. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?” Yes and no.
Matters of private life may be isolated to specific locations, but memories and values don’t stay put; they enter our personality, influence our interactions, and affect public space. Has there ever been a culture more obsessed with thrill seeking? A persistent taste for adventure can be a sign of passion and even progress, but it can also be a sign of spiritual stagnation and cultural decadence. Under the lights, amid the bells and whistles, are we able to tell the difference?
The packaging and sale of uncommon pleasure has become all too commonplace. Can’t we just enjoy a weekend of excess? And why do we even need one in the first place? Is everyday life that dreary? What is our standard of living? And is it a double standard? In light of the current socioeconomic conditions, “grander euphoria” seems like a hollow call, a shallow fantasy; a sad and desperate incarnation of the American Dream.