By now we've all seen the crazy, hilarious, and well acted ads for Foot Locker / Adidas that Utah Jazz rookie point guard Dante Exum has been a part of. There are five of them, and they are light, fun fare that show Exum to be the superior actor than Blake Griffin is despite his age and inexperience. I'm going to post them all here again, and there's a reason why.
The reason is . . .
. . . I've figured out what they mean as a collective work of art.
1. There is a story here
The people at Footlocker / Adidas released them, but not in chronological order. And yes, there is an order here. The clue you have to look for here is within the greater concept of "Going to Footlocker". Effectively this becomes a "Waiting for Godot" type of situation. Truly, going to a store (aka the church of the American Civil Religion, to partake in the communion of consumerism) is the existential question that we fail to ask ourselves. Let's hit up Foot Locker. We're going to Foot Locker. It's time to go to Foot Locker. The question unexplored is "why?" in this internet age when you can buy your shoes online.
Clearly the answer is found within the secondary story of Dante finding himself. To be recognized by the paparazzi. The expectation to be recognized and afforded special treatment from strangers. The need to work on signing autographs. What does this tell us about Exum, the character in these ads?
He is playing the role of the naive yet immediately relatable character of the novice; though he has ideas of greatness. Within the story line we go from before going to Foot Locker, to after returning from it. During this journey we do find that Exum does finally find out who he is.
Dante isn't avoiding convention out of hubris, he avoids going to Foot Locker because, simply put, he himself is unaware of who he really is. Hence the autograph practice. Do you know who you are? With a pen and paper maybe you can work it out. If you Kubrick these videos out it's ultimately obvious that all work and no play makes Dante a dull boy. And once the pilgrimage is finally complete Dante, immediately recognized by the other (not a fan, not someone in a position to offer him something) finally has found his answer.
He is a point guard.
2. There is no story, it's just Groundhog Day
The clue isn't in a greater story-line. The clue here are the Adidas T-Shirts. They change. They are not always changing. But there are three situations where they do for Dante (removing the other agents in this performance).
It's the same day, every day, except he has some agency over events.
Day "1": Black ADI shirt
This is the "autograph" and "dinner reservation" day. Here Exum works against the universe, trying to coax something out of it for his personal gain. Perhaps I will be recognized? Perhaps I will be asked for something out of my implicit fame? Perhaps the universe owes me something?
In both situations he is rebuked - first by his friend who looks both 20 and 40 at the same time, and second by the person on the other line of the phone.
Day 2: Grey Adidas Net shirt
Dante doesn't want to go out because of the fear of Paparazzi. This sounds like foresight into the future of that day's events. His friends merely laugh it off because they aren't coming into this like he has, having done it over and over and over again. This point, which goes back to the Black ADI shirt shows us that this Ground Hog Day has been happening for a long time already. On Day 1 he's already practicing his autograph, he knows the paparazzi will be there, and is already trying to be ready for it. By the time of this shirt is he done with fame, and is trying to avoid the paparazzi. That entire "fame seeking arc" is over.
Day 3: White ADI shirt
This is the day of reflection. He is at peace. He is oblivious to the constraints of time and space and all days are melding together. What is fan mail? What is a menu? What is an electric bill? These are just the minor artifacts of a finite existence. He knows who he is at the end of the day, a point guard, and is not frustrated. He accepts it. Tomorrow will be another day, just the same one. Over and over again.
3. It's not Groundhog Day, it's A Beautiful Mind
The black guy and the white guy are imaginary. They are figments of him mind, and uh . . . forget that. Let's make this one The 6th Sense instead. Dante sees dead people. Which explains why the white guy looks 20 and 40 at the same time, and that the black guy is, um, okay, maybe it's A Beautiful Mind again now. So these are constructions Dante has created in order to better contextualize and shape the world he inhabits but cannot fully understand. When presented with a ‘real' person, the Dorky Neighbor, he is at a loss to communicate his deeper ideas and has to say them under his breath.
The neighbor moves away, oblivious to the fact that he was dead the whole time.
4. No, dummy, it's Truman Show
Dante is on TV, these overly fake friends are actors, and the neighbor is a fan. Or something. I didn't actually watch this movie. Surveillance culture? Being a start in reality or being a reality star? The finitude of man, and the desire to be the loudest caveman to yell up and against the environment that frightens him? No, that was Ace Ventura I think.
5. It's a horror movie.
And these are just the normal parts they put in the movie trailer before things go nuts. My guess? Something to do with the Xenopus genus. Maybe Dante is a scientist so he knows this stuff, and his friends are dumb, and something bad happens. Maybe he has to fight them off and make a short term truce with a female Paparazzi (paparazza?) and it's like Dawn of the Dead or something? I don't know. I think this is lazy research because the Xenopus genus is from the family Pipidae, which is a group of primitive frogs. How primitive are they? They haven't even evolved tongues yet. How is this scary? Second, these frogs aren't even found in Australia. At least make it some sort of Aussie animal to somewhat ground the casting choice into the realm of logic!
Maybe there is no greater meaning from these videos than the idea that Dante Exum is destined to be a star. He has powerful people looking out for him and helping him make the right decisions. These ads with Foot Locker are great, and I'm fully an Adidas supporter (just like Derrick Favors and Alec Burks, by the way). I hope that we continue to see guys like Exum in commercials like this in the future. The fact that Damian Lillard does these ads shows me that today market size isn't as big as on court performance.