Happy Holidays from the Hilfigers. An ad presented as a seasonal greeting card could easily find a home on the mantle. Of course, including this image among the cards of real families would be farcical. The Hilfigers are models, actors, guns for hire. They’ve been paid to represent a family. Yet that representation contains some farce in and of itself.
One hears the word family more often these days in connection with big business. From our family to yours; the so-and-so family of companies, et cetera. Is this a marketing strategy for embedding brand names in the American psyche or simply an unconscious expression of materialism, possibly even greed? After all, the term family values rose to prominence during a time of unprecedented corporate malfeasance and remains as popular today as it is vague.
Lodged between the desires of individuals and the agendas of companies, families seem least likely to survive the power struggle. Although visions of family life influence our decisions, those visions are probably unrealistic, vestiges of the nuclear family, or, a household devoid of grandparents or grandchildren where people have fixed roles that last into perpetuity.
The Hilfigers may or may not hold a place in our imaginations, but assembled as such, they do appeal to our sense of personal identity. The expression of each family member looks natural. For a moment we forget the staging involved. Yet something tedious unites this motley clan. Is it the Hilfiger motif of red, white, and blue? Or the latent aura of vanity that emanates from any given photo shoot? In the foreground, two basset hounds look elsewhere, merely enduring their masters.