The Aisles of Power: Supermarkets Branch Out

They’re huge.

There’s one in every town.

They’ve long-since starved out the smaller, independent stores.

They offer a bizarre spread of products and services — from toilet roll to funeral care.

If anything comes close to the dystopian sci-fi notion of one company ruling our lives, it’s supermarkets. It’s more than a little scary. Anyone who’s seen my local store knows what I mean:

And anyone who’s been in on a Saturday will confirm that for you:

But supermarkets aren’t content with their growth to date; they’re branching out. And the last few months have borne witness to two of the most unlikely power plays.

*   *   *

Activity 2:

I’m going to say a random word. Then I’m going to say another. Try to imagine a connection between the two.

Shepherdess. Bunting.

Sophomore. Renege.

Rainbow. Toothbrush.

ASDA. DATING.

*   *   *

There's a couples of thingses wrong here...

Well done!

*   *   *

This is another website that’s changed since I first discovered it — now, typing in asdadating.co.uk links directly to the UK Dating website. But originally it was its own, Asda-branded homepage, utilising that familiar spring-onion-flavour green to couch spurious claims like ‘supermarkets have taken over pubs and the Internet as the UK’s no. 1 place to meet people’.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a romantic encounter in a supermarket. One time I brushed baskets with a woman twice my age, complete with whiskey-breath and overdyed black hair, who proceeded to enthuse how good I was. That’s about it.

I was so good.

Now let me be clear: I’m not slating Internet dating. I’m not even slating Asda; there’s a couple of years back there that Asda prices got me through.

No, I’m slating the picture.

Why not consolidate your existing hopes into one lower, more manageable expectation?

This is old-school lovin’ — choleric manbrute in George-label fitless tee sits golem-like, tolerating his woman’s hysterical affections. She is the one that has to move, and has to move her entire body to accommodate this angry-looking rock formation. Immovable, he shatters the honeymoon she’s been dreaming of since she was six.

Sigh.

It just strikes me as a really, really strange picture to use on a splash page. Or really for anything promotional. It’s true, that’s an Asda ownbrand readymeal. It’s true, that’s a mermaid’s purse of Persil they’ve pierced to quench their thirst. But the only sort of dating this picture’s good for is carbon.

*   *   *

Even more sexually fulfilling — at least for me — is Tesco’s respective spoof of critical thinking.

I remember reading, many moons ago, this article on Tesco’s foray into feature film production. Promising name-starring, high-production DVD exclusive adaptations of bestselling novels, the threat was communicated as very real.

The first such production is Jackie Collins’ Paris Connections.

Unfortunately, sticker placement was the only part of the production to hold any kind of charm. The other positive thing to say is that most of the cast seem like they’d do well for themselves in another vehicle.

It’s hard to imagine a flatter, more tired film than Paris Connections. It’s poorly made. Nothing seems exciting or interesting. The characters are flat, and move along like somnambulists with their clothes caught in the narrative, which comes across as awkward and dutiful as the sex scenes.

Yes, do it to me. That is pleasant.

As is often the case, therefore, we’re left with just the assiest bits to enjoy. But Paris Connections is motley even as a collection of crap; everything feels ancient and bored, and the promised glamour is decidedly lacking.

Take the first real scene in the movie; journo Madison Castelli reports to her editor in the offices of hot Manhattan magazine.

Did you know the cabs in Manhattan are yellow?

Aside from clearly being a student’s dingy bedroom, this is one of the most unconvincing media control rooms in moving image. There’s shit everywhere. That’s not mood lighting, it’s the cumulative tint of carbon monoxide. Look at the magazines on the wall: a ‘best of the 80s’ Manhattan mural. And in a bid to make the editor seem too important to have workable legs, he calls out to an obviously nonexistent secretary.

Really, they're yellow! In Manhattan!

Madison enters and, straddling tiger stripes and cigarette burns, sits on a chair that looks like it’s being publicly shamed. Nothing matches in this place; questions as to the quality of the magazine start to arise. The office lacks any kind of design. The editor only wears found objects. Is there really a niche in New York City for a magazine called Manhattan? That looks like this?

Dark red on black? Good choice, KNIGHT RIDER...

And yet, miraculously, a magazine that can’t properly space their copy, and nearly print off the edge of the page, has the funds and the clout to send their top hack to Paris, to follow fashion week and their very own cover girl.

This season, whiteface is the new black.

This particular show is funded by newcomer to the fashion industry, Russian oligarch Aleksandr Borinski.

We know he’s Russian because Paris Connections has the habit of using nationality as an epithet, reminding us how international things are.

Anyway. We’re in Paris. And how grand — it’s fashion week!

Oh, I’m sorry, I meant a fashion week.

Where was I…? OK, so the model is murdered —

C’est vrai — Paris Connections is a murder mystery. Wait, wait — wait — let me rephrase that. Paris Connections has murders in it.

So Generic McJourno teams up with former beau and photojournalist Jake. They interview debutante fashion designer and Russian-oligarch-Aleksandr-Borinski’s squeeze, Coco De Ville — played at 300% by Xena fallout Hudson Leick, who spends the whole time trying to emote through walls with expressions like this:

The whole time.

But don’t worry, here’s one of the few points where Tesco seems to have intervened.

Anyway, Madison and Jake start digging around for clues, and masticating over their former love affair. You scratch your ears off. They grow back. Madison sneakily interviews fashion player Mme Saint Clair, played by Anouk Aimée.

I told you things were international.

That’s right — Anouk Aimée. You might be familiar with her from films like A Man and a Woman, Fellini’s 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita.

Moving on. The two are without leads. Another model dies. Russian-oligarch-Aleksandr-Borinski’s son seems to be a potential suspect. The journalistic duo meet with the detective in charge of the case.

He doesn’t know much either.

As the murder mystery element grows ill and takes its own life, their abortive historical love affair comes to the fore. Jake is still into her; she’s moved on. But Paris is rekindling their connection.

Yes, Madison is swayed. Trying to work out whodunit brings them closer together. They work late, side by side. Jake takes her back to his flat, and shows her his art.

I think I've just worked out who the killer is...

Not. Even. Explained. Rainbow toothbrush.

More information arises, and it turns out it was Russian-oligarch-Aleksandr-Borinski’s assistant (played by Trudie Styler). She can’t bear the something of it all, and throws herself off un balcon.


*   *   *

So there we have it. Asda Dating, and Tesco cinema. The former has receded — at least for the time being — into its affiliate company. And the latter — well, the latter sucked.

It seems that, for now, our hearts and our minds are still outside the reach of the supermarkets. But a company that has the kind of financial weight and the ambition to attempt either of these ventures is not going to sit still for long.

Maybe they’ll set up an adoption agency. Maybe they’ll start publishing. Maybe they’ll buy a space station, and be truly international.

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2 Responses to The Aisles of Power: Supermarkets Branch Out

  1. Pingback: Enter the Entrance | enterthesnowman

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