Have you ever watched a film or TV show and thought “that’s a really terrible imitation of [brand we’re meant to recognise without it being the actual brand, which they can’t or won’t use for legal and/or commercial reasons]”, for example when a character gets a vague-looking beer out of their fridge or has Fakey-Flakes breakfast cereal on their kitchen table? I definitely have. Sometimes they’re atrocious, not much better than the deliberately generic Acme products in an old cartoon. Some of them are actually not terrible at all; occasionally they’re even quite witty. Real world discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl also specialise in these Brand X near-clones. One of the best ones I’ve seen recently was Lidl’s “Neos” (i.e. fake Oreos), whose name and packaging is so brazen I had to laugh at their audacity.
Of course it’s also remarkable and somewhat depressing to realise just how attuned, trained and indoctrinated most of us are to logos, branding and corporate identities. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be disconcerted or find it funny when somebody does an imitation of these brands, alludes to them, puns with or satirises them.
It stands to reason that it’s somebody’s job to design and make these TV perfect simulacra of consumer goods. One of those somebodies is Independent Studio Services, who have a long list of film and television credits as background and practical prop suppliers. I’ve picked out just a few of their products. There are loads more of these on their site. If like me you’re a bit autistic about things like this, I warn you that following the link may lead to inexplicable episodes of missing time.
I think the internet has rewired my brain. Nowadays when I’m reading a book (you know, the things made of bound paper), I’m constantly distracted by passing references or random facts because some part of me immediately knows I could look it up. One recent example occurred while I was reading about Jewish/Zionist terrorism in Palestine after WWII, which was mainly focused on forcing the colonial British to leave. There was a fleeting mention that the Mufti of Jerusalem had been involved in recruiting Muslims into the Nazi SS. Obviously there’s “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” to consider, but Nazi Muslims? Outside of the crazed, ignorant, hateful imaginations of certain Republicans in the US, I mean?
It’s true. The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar didn’t actually operate in Palestine, but they were mostly recruited in 1943 from Bosnian Muslims to fight on the Axis side against Yugoslav partisans. A combination of naive orientalism, pseudoscience and the good old standby of Nazi hypocrisy allowed Heinrich Himmler to convince himself and his racist idiot cronies that Bosnian Muslims fit into the nonsensical genealogy of the so-called Aryan race. They definitely had nothing to do with Slavs, oh no, definitely not. The hardline Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni– fairly indiscriminately opposed to the British and to Jews no matter where they came from– was brought in to convince and legitimise Bosnian Muslims into defying their own Islamic clerics, who had expressly and unanimously (and wisely) forbidden their communities from getting involved with nationalist causes or the Nazis.
In common with all their other Schutzstaffel colleagues, the 13th Waffen distinguished themselves mainly for their indiscriminate brutality both in battle and against unarmed non-combatants. In this case it was mainly Serbian civilians who bore the brunt of war crimes that were punished afterwards with executions of the perpetrators. And of course, much like the rest of the SS with their Hugo Boss uniforms, the horror of what they did was somehow accentuated by the fact that they always turned up for mass murder, genocide and hatred immaculately styled, covered in logos… and in the case of the 13th Division, wearing a fez.
Members of the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS. You can probably work it out for yourself, but the pamphlet they’re reading is ‘Islam and Judaism’.