DO THE (RED) THING

April 23, 2008

GAP, not Spike Lee\'s movie

I was sitting in a coffeeshop the other day, and a man walked in wearing a red hoody, with the phrase “INSPI(RED)” printed on the front. A friend I was with told me about (RED). 

Watch out, Lennon and Dylan. Bono, our good man of U2, is also affiliated with parentheses. He and Bobby Shriver founded (RED) in 2006. (RED) inserts its parenthetical trademark alongside “the world’s most iconic brands,” indicating that portions of the profit earned from the products purchased will go to the Global Fund, which helps women and children afflicted with AIDS in Africa. 

The brief About section of (RED)’s website asks, “What’s the meaning of the parentheses or brackets? Well, we call them ‘the embrace.’ Each company that becomes (RED) places its logo in this embrace and is then elevated to the power of red. Thus the name — (PRODUCT)RED.” 

(RED)’s idea of the parentheses being an embracing, inviting figure to help sell their product reminded me of a lingerie store my friend told me about in Boston, called {intimacy}. He was too embarrassed to take a picture himself.


I’m not sure if brackets and the idea of intimacy have any history, but it seems that if nothing else, the shape of their form, as curves that protect what’s inside of them from what’s outside of them, invites the association.

RED’s use of the curved punctuation marks does more than what their disappointing explanation claims. Not only are the parentheses an “embrace,” but they are also algebraic. RED is like the PRODUCT’s exponent. Product to the red power. 

The short promo video on YouTube and their website also suggests that African AIDS patients to the RED power equals healthy, happy Africans. They show three before and after images, first of sick patients, with their names in parentheses, which are then followed by images of the same people, presumably after they have received treatments brought to them by the Global Fund.

The black and white “before” images all become colorful in the “after” images, many times with red highlights, though, as with Silvia, not always. This sort of echoes their business model. They explain in their manifesto, “THERE ARE (RED) CREDIT CARDS, (RED) PHONES, (RED) SHOES, (RED) FASHION BRANDS. AND NO, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE ALL RED IN COLOR, ALTHOUGH SOME ARE.”

Parentheses allow for SOME-ness, and sometimes-ness. They are often optional. This is another way in which (RED) works its parentheses. 

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