It’s been a tough year for committed Californians. Amidst a
They’d also be forgiven for punching the air at the outset of Apple’s iPhone 13 launch event. The tech/entertainment giant screened a banging cover of
This timely anthem was almost enough to make you forget that the Cupertino company gets
Dreams of Californication
That’s Apple all over, though. Less a company, more a trillion-dollar California cult designed to brainwash us with pleasant high-tech visions and the comfort of a walled garden. Fellow Silicon Valley giants are taking tumbles in public perception, but Apple’s image is stronger than ever — it’s the
Based on incremental improvements to a phone, a tablet and a watch, Apple spins stories about itself that would make a guru look modest. It’s an
But the iPhone 13 launch event upped the storytelling ante significantly. Apple execs ditched the
If you have the very Californian dream of making movies, the event told us, then the iPhone 13 is all you need to live that silver-screen life. It’s Hollywood in an oblong. California-born director Kathryn Bigelow declared that the new device’s improved camera and processor could “change cinema.”
A comedy whodunnit, in the style of California-educated Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, was filmed on the device to prove the point. Just pay no attention to the professional film and lighting crew behind the phone. (Or to the fact that this isn’t new: the movie Tangerine was filmed on a trio of iPhone 5Ss in 2015,
Maybe a California-style wellness cult is more your bag. That seems to be how Apple has decided to market its
An ad titled “Welcome to the Club” urged us to ditch our gym subscription and go outside for boundless joy with Fitness+. “There is no door, there is no ceiling,” the narrator intoned. “There are walls, but we can break through those… the club is the largest in the world because the club is the world.”
An ad for the Apple Watch Series 7 got similarly existential, man. “To live is to ask the big questions,” it began, all of which can apparently be answered by Apple Watch. “Are the mysteries of the universe out of reach, or can we discover them through the power of meditation?” it ended, cutting to a woman in lotus pose, literally levitating. The Apple Watch’s meditation app, now named Mindfulness, offers a library of Fitness+ guided meditations — a clear shot across the bows of two other California cults (sorry, companies): Calm and Headspace.
But for all this universe-spanning grandiosity, the Apple event was oddly honest in a way that few are. Aligning the company so publicly with California values and style is a recognition of what’s deep in its DNA. After all, this is a cult founded by the quintessential California dropout. Steve Jobs, son of immigrants to the state, was an itinerant hippy profoundly inspired by trips to India, not to mention trips on LSD.
Apple began life at the intersection of 1960s Bay Area counterculture and 1970s Silicon Valley technology. The company lost its way in the Reagan era, when New York suits John Sculley and Gil Amelio took the helm. Then Jobs, the prodigal messiah, guided Apple back towards the light, pushing colorful, clean design and media-making fantasies in the way it still does today. He celebrated the life blood of California’s economy —