“Air”ing out our cultural grievances

Courtesy of Wallpaper Flare | The movie “Air” follows the story of how Nike was able to sign then Michael Jordan before his rise to stardom.

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

April 13, 2023

One of my more charming red flags, according to my girlfriend, is my collection of Nike shoes.

While the collection is far too modest for me to be considered a “sneaker head,” I do enjoy buying the latest shoes when I can afford them. Whenever I had a good month in my last career, I would reward myself with buying a way too expensive pair of Air Maxs ignoring the price tag in order to satisfy that dopamine laden impulse.

There’s just something that feels good when a young person, especially a young person that looks cool, compliments your shoes.

I also feel that a slight way to combat toxic masculinity is to normalize men giving other men compliments and there’s no better way to do that than letting a stranger know they have some “dope footwear.”

As most self-absorbed millennials are, I, too, am a huge fan of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s “Good Will Hunting.” So when the new movie, “Air” hit theaters, it seemed like the perfect movie for a date night.

What I did not realize is that I would be watching a horror film. For 100 minutes, I witnessed a slow and painful murder.

A murder not of humans, but a cruel killing of our culture.

If you are worried about spoilers, don’t be. I will not be revealing anything that is not common knowledge.

“Air” advertised as a biographical sports drama, follows the events that Nike took to sign then-rookie player, Michael Jordan.

The hour and 40 minute Wikipedia-page-made-into-a-movie forces the audience, through Hollywood trickery, to believe that these old white men are heroes, going against the grain to revolutionize fashion while still being ethically responsible.

If you pay close enough attention to the film, there is a sequence that tries to get the viewers to draw similarities between Dr. Martin Luther Kings “I Have A Dream” speech to Matt Damon’s character’s sales pitch to Jordan.

It’s quite obvious Affleck took a lot of “artistic liberty,’ when creating this made-for-Amazon movie.

The painful realization while watching this way too long commercial for Nike is that we no longer have a culture. A movie that, according to Variety, made $20.2 million in its first five days of release has us wanting to root for corporate entities as unsung heroes.

It seems fitting that during the same weekend, there was a controversy surrounding too many mediocre beer distributors for their choice as a spokesperson.

Like soldiers picking their side for war, I spent way too much time this holiday weekend listening to people talk about water flavored beer and which side various celebrities took on this ridiculous issue.

It was also just a weekend removed from the unsanctioned Banksy exhibit that came to Pittsburgh. Another prime example of the commercialization of art and the eagerness to brand areas of our culture that do not or should not be monetized.

We have become a void of individuality and become a bottomless empty pit of faceless personalities in exchange for loyalty.

Our culture has been erased and we have tied our personality to whatever these massive corporations are cheaply producing for us to gobble up like an addict begging for their next fix.

Despite the massive amount of commercial influence, we are not the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the water bottles we carry, the TV shows we watch or even the politicians we vote for.

We are, or at least we should be, so much more.

There has been a lot of talk about how we are divided as a nation. While this may be true, I have a hard time believing that it’s due to our political differences.

It is my belief that one of the major catalysts that has on a brink of a civil war is how we have divided each other into separate camps based on our purchasing and entertainment choices.

It has become way too easy to tell how a person thinks based solely on their receipts.

Where is the art? Where are the artists that are breaking molds in order to shine light on the shared human experience that we all should find comfort in? Where are the fresh ideas? Have we become so profit driven that the risk of failing is too expensive to try?

I do understand that fear of standing alone and not fitting in can be overwhelming. We all, at least to some extent, have that need to feel like we belong. The vulnerability of showing one’s true self can be one of the most terrifying experiences one can face.

Perhaps it’s time for us all to act like the brave rich executives in “Air” and take a swing at the fences and create our own cultural icon.

Then, Amazon can make a movie about how brave and awesome we all are.