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The will to power
by Thomas Wagner | 5/30/2011
The Force: Volkswagen Commercial

In design, are there actually only good, bright forces at work? Or are there dark powers, too? However large the inclination to improve the world, the wish to be a white knight may at times even overpower designers who then find themselves metaphorically speaking at the poker table. At some point, they have to show their hand. Small wonder that such games interest the ad departments, where the one or other dark lord then seeks to control the forces. Or, should we say, in capitalism the idea is always to conquer some empire, i.e., outdo some rival and establish monopolies. While there is no evidence that Karl Marx worked on the script for the successful "Star Wars" sci-fi fairytale, but he certainly gets into the thick of things at the latest when pride of place in the global auto industry is at stake.

It is nothing more than a cliché that the serious games of accumulation and the right feel for power is not foreign to the businessmen who rule the world. That ads can be funny and parodies is, however, less common. Now Volkswagen has succeeded in a commercial for the new Passat produced for the US market in wittily combining power, fun and technology.

The commercial uses the mythical Hollywood figure of Darth Vader and playfully recreates the man without the frightening aspects. Power, now that's child's play. So the child Lord Vader tries as he may, but the force is simply not with him. Until the right auto rolls up the drive – and the boy suddenly... Well, the power, as the most striking element in the Star Wars series, is that force-field that permeates everything and holds the galaxy together. But at the end of the day all it is: magic, in this case technological magic. Which the ad departments all believe in. With or without a remote control.

The commercial is so wittily made that it was only a matter of time until it was parodied. As part of the new Kenneth Branagh film "Thor", such a parody has now emerged, with a new protagonist, of course. And the small, blond Thor, like any little boy obsessed with power and energy, rushes round the sleek suburban house with his toy hammer and tests his abilities on the dog, a doll and household appliances. Like his dark Darth Vader sibling, the little thunderer gets disappointed. Until once again a car draws up (this time an older Rover model) and Thor gets out his hammer ("Mjölnir" it was called in the Old Nordic literature) and it packs a punch. Thunder and lightning certainly make their mark.

Which just goes to prove three things: power cannot be controlled, it tends to be unleashed spontaneously. Nordic mythology can easily rival Hollywood myths cobbled together from countless different sources. And: Thor's family needs a new car, too.

The Force: Volkswagen Commercial
Little Thor