The Stars have started to come out at Cannes. A surprisingly sedate Marilyn Manson mumbled his way through a presentation that involved neither simulated sex nor prosthetic breasts. A surprisingly passionate Viola Davis riveted her audience with the kind of authentic self-assurance that never fails to connect. A surprisingly scatterbrained Tim Berners- Lee completely confused everybody. A surprisingly humble Pharrell gave all the credit to his collaborators. A surprisingly thoughtful Jamie Oliver advocated for the fundamental right that children have to learn about food and nutrition. What will Kim Kardashian, Grace Helbig, Marialla Frostrup, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus surprise us with tomorrow?
The deals have started to flow, too. WPP, Snapchat, and Daily Mail lured a passel of journalists out to the Daily Mail’s (spectacular) yacht this morning to announce the creation of Truffle Pig. That’s the ~vivid~ name for a new content marketing agency that combines the reach of Snapchat, the content prowess of the Daily Mail and the marketing know-how of WPP. Also: vertical video, which is much more consequential than it sounds, given that it is the ideal orientation for mobile phones. Unilever and Vice Media also teamed up today on a multi-year deal supporting the launch of Vice’s new female-focused channel, Broadly.
Sitting on a Fence
Google put their mission on display today. “Don’t be evil,” is easy to say, but it’s much harder to live out in the real world. Most of us believe, reflexively, that the internet is and must remain an unrestricted environment. Of course, from the outset, YouTube—where most of the knotty questions of restriction emerge—was designed to restrict only nudity and porn. Then things got messy.
What about “Betty”? She’s a little old lady who produced an excellent DIY euthanasia movie. YouTube pulled that down, but not because of the ethics of that. Rather, they were worried kids would kill themselves. And the famous film of Neda Agha-Soltan’s murder caused controversy. Despite being horrific to view, the world has the right to bear witness. It stays up. ISIS, on the other hand, filmed full executions which YouTube pulled down immediately, saying that they refuse to be a distribution channel for “brutally violent propaganda.” As Google’s representatives said, “Knowledge is powerful, but it’s how we use it that defines us.”
Crawling back to you
TED Brough three talks to Cannes this year—actress Maria Bello, poet Rives, and, most notably, swimmer Diana Nyad. Nyad certainly inspired the crowd and received a heart-felt standing ovation for her efforts. She spoke of her repeated attempts to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys—a distance of 110 miles—and of her determination never to be the timid person on sidelines always asking what if.
Even though she was transporting, particularly when she showed us how she kept time in the water by singing Joni Mitchell, I couldn’t escape a sense of unease. Like all world-class athletes, Nyad is driven to be the best, and that’s always a narcissistic quest. Narcissism and great success (and TED talks) often go hand-in-hand, but I’m not sure that the inspiration-from-personal-narrative circuit is as culturally nourishing as we seem to believe. To this Gen Xer, it feels like a hallmark both of the generation that has hammered us from above and the one that’s smashing us from below.