Monday, July 02, 2007

The Purloined Gyro

“What could be more convincing, moreover, than the gesture of laying one's cards face up on the table? So much so that we are momentarily persuaded that the magician has in fact demonstrated, as he promised, how his trick was performed, whereas he has only renewed it in still purer form: at which point we fathom the measure of the supremacy of the signifier in the subject…But a suspicion occurs to us: Might not this parade of erudition be destined to reveal to us the key words of our drama? Is not the magician repeating his trick before our eyes, without deceiving us this time about divulging his secret, but pressing his wager to the point of really explaining it to us without us seeing a thing? That would be the summit of the illusionist's art: through one of his fictive creations to truly delude us.”
- Jacques Lacan, Seminar on The Purloined Letter

I was first introduced to the precious Gyro Girl ad campaign by long-time friend and distinguished author of the hilarious Commedia Dell'Farte, Dr. Poopshadow. As younger gentlemen, we relished the opportunity to snicker knowingly over the air-brushed absurdity of these posters. While I can’t speak for the Doctor, I suspect our long-standing fascination with the Gyro Girl had less to do with adolescent lust and much more to do with an inaugural confrontation with Camp. These posters were probably funny for the same reason that retro “Spam” Miracle Meat t-shirts were funny for a thirteen-year-old in 1997.

This campy effect is achieved in part by the peculiar advertising parity amidst an ostensibly eclectic oligarchy of corporate Gyro suppliers. While more careful inspection reveals that this gal is specifically endorsing “Kronos,” this brand, like all Gyro brands, plays a nearly inaudible second fiddle to the “Gyro as basic foodstuff” declaration. This commercial team-up figures the Gyro as an essential food element rather than a food compound (which is what it is), effectively aligning the Gyro, despite containing a diverse array of ingredients and pre-packaged preparation, with the wholesome appeal and collaborative publicity of the raw and semi-raw materials market. Take milk, for example. Milk the food presents a unified, brandless front. A victory for milk is a victory for all milk brands. Meats have long pursued a similar strategy. Like a battalion of British redcoats, Beef (“it’s what’s for dinner”) and Pork (“the other white meat”), have honorably cast their lots together, launching a single, upright, frontal assault on the American public, whether by choice or because government subsidy mandates it. Gyros have chosen to deal in the same semi-brandless currency. The result is the feeling that one might wait in line to receive a bushel of gyros along with some toilet paper and bread.

Satisfied with this campy arithmetic, I put the issue to rest. Only recently have I stopped to consider my true delusion. This handsome woman (and really what other word but “handsome” can be applied to her flawless visage?) had obscured the real mechanism of the Gyro’s appeal beneath the symbolic act of revealing. On the surface, the Gyro Girl ads recall a simpler time when advertising was a straightforward and unself-conscious business – the kind I was quick to associate with campiness. I now see, however, that the imprint of the Gyro Girl ads on my own consciousness is the result of a more nefarious symbolic structure. Like Poe’s purloined letter, the most effective hiding place for this deceit was right out in the open.

Performing a Freudian double-clutch, the Gyro Girl superficially sells Gyros to you with her good looks. Meanwhile, she is actually selling you to Gyros. Her seductive smile, arched eyebrow, and prelapsarian skin call out to hungry men everywhere. What these men don’t see are the Gyro Girl’s jeans, fastened with a thin alligator-skin belt well above her midriff, in direct conversation with Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally.” What they don’t see is her wedding ring and another thing they don’t see is the toddler clamped to her leg. All along, her delicate form suggested she was about to take a bite! But she’s not about to take a bite! She is about to make you take a bite! The Gyro Girl is not Eve! She’s the snake!

After years of chuckling at the Gyro Girl’s pathetic innocence and naïveté, I have only now seen the illusionist’s art: that she is the one laughing.