American Identity in a Candle

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Perhaps not accidentally, adjacent to “Man Candles” (see post below) Yankee Candle showcased patriotic American candles. Given, again, that the brand claims to be   “America’s best loved candle,” this is not surprising.

Turns out, you can find patriotic feeling through a candle. All you have to do is purchase a candle from the “Great American Summer Home Accents” collection and learn “what spirit smells like.” From the “God Bless America” candle (garnished by the statue of liberty) to “Clean Cotton” (a Yankee Candle standard, this time around featuring an iconic image of laundry hanging near a white picket fence) to  “Stars and Stripes” and “Let Freedom Ring,” YC offers plenty of choices for lighting up the summer in an all-American way.

(It turns out that “spirit smells” something like cinnamon and other spices with a little bit of woodsiness and apples.)*

 

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Talk about nostalgia. A nostalgic product in itself, Yankee Candle has always conjured images of cozy hearths and traditional homes; now, with this “Americana” iconography, it harks back to the most enduring (and problematic) of American mythologies—that simple values and simple times are the bedrock of American culture.

With a candle, then, people can return to some imagined, distant, dream of a true “American” summer. They can also return to a simple notion of national identity embodied in the “glory of an All-American Summer,” an identity far easier to deal with than the complex reality of a rising class gap, messy foreign relations, eroding infrastructure, and polarized national politics. Perhaps it’s reassuring to think that, for a moment, courtesy of an “America the Beautiful” candle, life can seem a little safer and patriotism a little simpler.   Of course, this reassurance comes only from consuming a product (and what could be more American than that?).

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(* A side point: I couldn’t help but think about Nirvana’s “teen spirit,” when I read this YC copy, as probably anyone of a certain age might, an association that takes this ad copy even funnier, since that particular brand of grunge “spirit” is antithetical to the YC message. And of course, there are no threatening teens in these ad images, only cheerful, multicultural children wearing stars and stripes.)

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