Anikó Imre is Associate Professor and Chair of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Identity Games: Globalization and the Transformation of Media Cultures in the New Europe.
Commercials as Time-Space Machines
This chapter discusses socialist commercials as ideological and economic anomalies that defied the regimes’ official images of themselves, retroactively upsetting easy Cold War stereotypes about socialism. Television ads reveal the underlying commercial infrastructure within state socialism, which developed into a semiofficial matrix by the 1970s and 1980s. The discussion first examines the place media marketing occupied within two of the most developed and commercialized countries, Yugoslavia and Hungary. Then it explains how commercials’ out-of-place quality in the socialist landscape triggered and spread identification with consumer lifestyles across the region due to cross-border watching. Commercials helped even out the time differences that existed among countries of the region and within Europe in an experience of virtual simultaneity. Television advertising did not simply encourage identification with other places; it also conveyed a complex temporality that inscribed longing for a more colorful future within the present, an alternative timescape to be found mostly across the borders of other countries. Commercials have also served as vehicles of nostalgic travel across time, from postsocialism back to late socialism, the preferred period of postsocialist nostalgia. The complexity of postsocialist nostalgia cannot be understood without grasping how commercials embodied longing for alternative times and places within late socialism.