The Human Pixel Who Wouldn't
Mike Cameron's minor act of rebellion is an example of the
kind of public theater that increasingly makes up American culture. Cameron,
as many will have read, committed the crime of wearing a Pepsi shirt on Coke
day at a Georgia high school, for which he suffered a one-day suspension and
then elevation to instant celebrity status.
It seems that
Greenbrier High School in Evans, Ga., was participating in a competition in
which schools around the country come up with a plan to distribute Coke
discount cards in their local areas. But, apparently because it is about 100
miles from Coke headquarters in Atlanta, the Greenbrier student government
decided to turn the competition into a ritual celebration of Coke that
included a sea of human art of the kind one can still find at ceremonies in
Communist China. At a rally, many students wore red and white -- Coke's
colors -- and lined up to spell the word "COKE" for an approving audience of
But it turned out that one of the human
pixels who made up part of the "C" in Coke -- namely Mike Cameron -- was
less than cooperative. According to the principal, Cameron whipped off his
outer shirt at the last minute, just as the photo was being taken, and
revealed a shirt with a Pepsi logo underneath.
crime of trying to undermine the school's publicity photo, the
nonconformist-turned-scapegoat suffered a one-day ritual suspension. Little
did the principal realize that she was merely playing into Cameron's hands.
Much to her dismay, he became an instant celebrity and she suddenly found
herself playing the villain in someone else's media event. Such indignities!
Many in the media proceeded to treat all this like an "outrage story" of
persecution, but one that people weren't expected to take too seriously.
(Sort of Outrage Lite.) Meanwhile, Pepsi and Coke both got tons of free
The incident certainly provides an insight into the degree to
which commercialization now pervades almost every element of American
society. The school's willingness to let its students be turned into living
advertisements looks like something one might expect to see in one of
Hollywood's nightmare visions of the future.
the anti-hero of the story, rebelled by using his own sense of theater
against the corporate-inspired theater of the school. As in so many battles
today, it was a case of dueling representations and an act of
pseudo-rebellion against a pseudo-event.
Still, in its own
small way, it was, as a certain soft drink ad would put it, the real thing.