Columnist Dan Neil says that Michael Phelps's new TV spot for Subway -- comparing his life and eating habits to that of former fatty Jared Fogle -- is nothing special. But he points out that culture
deconstructionists will pick it apart for oblique references to the scandal that ensued after a photograph of him hitting a bong surfaced earlier this year, and then he goes on a bit of a
deconstruction mission of his own.
To wit: "The consequences to Phelps -- actually, the lack of consequences -- suggest that something bigger than mere endorsement dollars is in play. It
seems Phelps has moved the weed needle."
Only Kellogg, among Phelps's corporate sponsors, discontinued its deal after the picture appeared, and in June he added H2O Audio, maker of
high-end waterproof headphones, to his roster. Neil says that marijuana is being steadily decriminalized and de-stigmatized in the U.S., and advertising is a highly sensitive antenna of culture.
"Because it strives to reach, hold and please the greatest number of people, it represents a special threshold of cultural acceptance, the floorboards of the norm," he says. "The return
of brand Phelps says more about us than it does about him."
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