Home Columns Anantha Narayan In the Lord’s name

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    If a self-styled Hindu fundamentalist like Praveen Togadia was called on a quiz show and asked to name four brands funded by the Vatican, his fertile mind would likely spout: Christian Dior, Cross, Virgin and Old Monk. Such is the profound knowledge of the saffron conspiracy theorist that he might even assume Nazareth and Judas Priest to be bands peddling gospel music!

    Jokes apart, are there brands that milk the religious equity of Christian icons? Oh yeah, there are plenty. But the funny thing is none of these have any connection whatsoever with the church.

    ‘Jesus Jeans’ is a stellar example. Made in Italy, since 1971, the denim brand raised the hackles of the clergy by channelling the divine carpenter for selling its wares. Ostensibly inspired by the rock opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, Jesus Jeans pushed the limits of provocation by featuring the generous rear of a woman wearing denim shorts with a strategically placed headline that read: “He who loves me follows me”. With time, the brand-named-after-the-lord somehow managed a trademark in the USA. And now, it’s busy issuing notices to anyone who uses the good shepherd’s name to sell anything. Can you beat that?

    Then there’s JCLU (Jesus Christ Loves You), a women’s T-shirt brand that proudly plugs lines like: ‘PTL (Praise The Lord)’, ‘Keep Calm & Pray On’ and ‘Jesus is my saviour, not my religion’. If others were blissfully spinning a yarn around Christ, sandwich chain Pret A Manager went a step ahead and put out tomato crisps under the ‘Virgin Mary’ label. Their logic being: if Bloody Mary were okay, so was Virgin Mary. Unfortunately for them, the religious lobby raised hell and Pret A Manager had to find a thick shroud to bury the crunchy Virgin Mary.

    Despite the protests, many companies still continue to exploit biblical iconography thanks to the readymade recognition enjoyed among 2.2 billion Christians. Perhaps that’s why you have a Taiwanese e-commerce chain calling itself ‘Buyble’, a European food and beer chain opting for ‘Holy Grail Pub’, a German start-up choosing ‘Amen’ as its name, a New Zealand shirt brand picking ‘3 Wise Men’ and a cheese grater giving itself the moniker ‘Cheesus Christ’. One wonders how these brands will fare on Judgement Day.

    - Anantha Narayan

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