Advertising isn’t just about TV spots, sometimes it’s an industry making “educational” films for schools!  Which inspires this fake retro film about the wonders of asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral used as an insulator and flame retardant for much of the 20th Century but which was found to be quite carcinogenic.

A few things inspired this week’s video, apart from my desire to do a cheesy, corporate anthem:

  1. An ad for asbestos that I saw in an old Look Magazine that was in my college library. They had the issues bound by year and sometimes I would pick out a volume from a year I thought was interesting—usually something in the 1960s to see what bands they were writing about—and I’d thumb through the pages. The asbestos ad had the headline “Without asbestos life would be a lot more dangerous,” the irony of which was chilling and memorable.
  2. My home town of Waukegan, Illinois, had a Johns-Manville plant that made asbestos-infused roofing materials. Like many industrial cities along the Great Lakes, Waukegan’s factories began to close in the 1970s, and growing up I didn’t witness a city with a thriving and employed middle class but rather a city with closed and toxic post-industrial sites. I can’t look at 50s nostalgia without thinking of the aftermath.
  3. The many “educational” movies I saw in the public schools. Many of them were made by lobbying groups, corporate councils, and industry advisory boards. In Illinois the farm lobby treated us to films about the horrors of soil erosion and how it was the biggest problem facing our country. The Simpsons do a great spoof of these called Meat & You, Partners in Freedom, with the best actor of all time Troy McLure.

So this week’s ad comes out of that. It’s not meant to make fun of asbestos or those hurt by it, my intention is to thumb my nose at naive optimism and misguided nostalgia. Enjoy!


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