Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle is earning a lot of publicity this week, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Based on a Philip K. Dick sci fi novel, the show is about an alternate history timeline in which Japan and Germany won WWII, taking over big chunks of the United States. To celebrate the release of the new Amazon series, the streaming service put up ads on the New York Subway that nod at both the pasts of Germany and Japan. Obviously, some people have not been excited about the Nazi imagery.
Pictures started popping up all over social media yesterday, showing that subway trains in New York were half-covered with the Nazi insignia of German’s axis power. The other portion also focused on Japanese flag-oriented vinyl wrapping. According to Gothamist, the wrapping on the subway trains is expected to continue from November 15 through December 14.
Some people haven’t taken too kindly to the use of Nazi imagery on the subway nor on the 260 posters that have graced subway stations in New York over the past several months.
While the difference between using imagery like this to advertise a show and using that imagery to send a social message is a subtle one, it’s more likely that Amazon is attempting to show potential viewers what the world could be like had the Axis powers won out during WWII than trying to offend the thousands of people riding the subway each day. Either way, it’s pretty edgy advertising—the kind of edgy advertising that got Bloomingdale’s in trouble this month.
While ads that don’t conform to standards have been pulled in the past, the MTA notes that this one conforms to standards in that it is related to a fictional TV show and not reality, although some of the imagery is the same as real-life historical imagery. It’s the same sort of thing that shows that blur the lines between reality and fiction—like The Newsroom or Mr. Robot--have been doing for some time.
Advertising has blurred lines for a long time. Nudity, violent images, foul language, and even drug references have caused some ads to actually get banned in the past. This is the first time we’ve seen people a little bit discomfited over an ad for one of Amazon’s originals, but it probably won’t be the last.
If you're feeling curious, here's the greatest banned TV posters of all time.