I watched a great documentary on Tchaikovsky the other night (clever old BBC4). Of particular interest was a brilliant concert pianist named Natascha. She spoke of Tchaikovsky's music being wonderful for its nobility, its tragedy and its melancholy. And with great pride she went on to say... "there are no happy bits in Russian music... ever". All that noble melancholy was apparently "in our genes".
Now I have only limited knowledge of Russian culture, but what she says rings true… I can’t think of one book, one symphony, one pop song that is Russian and anything other than sad.
I was reminded of a chat I had in the summer with Anton, the Head of Planning at McCann Moscow. He was very at home with the idea of sad-vertising and described a recent Coke ad that involved a bear and a sad story of some description. I forget the details, but a sad bear story is very different to what you might expect from Coke… and certainly not something you’d expect to find in American ads.
You can see where I'm going... perhaps the appetite for emotionally complex ads is culture-bound? Consider the infinite rumours of different countries having different film endings. Napoleon Dynamite in the USA ends with a happy wedding... in Europe it ends with a non-descript and rather pathetic table-tennis match.
I know emotion is universally experienced and expressed the same way, but the cultural filters that influence when and to what degree it’s permissible to express emotion, doubtless vary.
So, I wonder which country is most fond of sprinkling negative emotions in with their positive?And which country makes the most sad ads?