What’s in a name? In Apex Hides the Hurt, Whitehead’s narrator becomes a nomenclature consultant, stumbling upon the power of naming things while between jobs. He learns that a powerful and persuasive identity emerges once a product is named and the one who creates the name is also empowered. Prior to the naming, both the thing and the parties involved with its production are non-entities. Success depends upon what the name conjures in the public sphere and whether or not it is widely accepted. While Whitehead uses the conceit of corporate colonization throughout the novel, I also see a religious theme.
Marketing seems rather god-like to me, particularly in correlation with Catholicism. The parental-client produces an unrecognized blob-child whose identity is nil until baptized with a chosen name. Only then is the possibility of eternal life breathed into the child-product, the seed of hope for the perpetuation of the system.
The original names of Adam and Eve, according to the book of Genesis, were handed down by God, the father himself. God then told Adam to name the animals and he would rein over their kingdom. In both cases, he who names holds the power. Eve surely got the short end of the stick… but so did Jesus, so to speak. Then again, if the one with the most names wins, Jesus takes the prize. I digress.
In Apex Hides the Hurt, the job of naming goes to the all powerful and knowing marketing firm with a finger on the pulse of parishioner demographics. Our narrator “came up with the names and like any good parent he knocked them around to teach them life lessons” (3). This is God the father’s test, offering up free will only to see if his children will sin against him or remain true when faced with life’s obstacles.
The relationship between god, parent and child (a holy trinity of the non-traditional sort) is not over once the name is assigned. The identity of all three hinges on the?loyalty of each individual part. For this reason, the parental-client makes a covenant with the marketing firm, accepting certain commandments. “They had to stick to the rules if they were going to use the name” (38). After all, god is only as strong as the faith of his obedient disciples. Without a faithful and devoted flock, god’s power is bankrupt.
Naming is just the first part of the life cycle. The ability to create identity offers an “insurance policy to reassure people or make them feel less depressed so they can accept the world”(44). Faith in the marketing god heals what ails the good people of this earth, offering a promise for their general betterment and salvation.
Spreading the word is the other side of the coin. The flock must increase to better serve god and also to offer fellowship and support to those in need (of bandages, pills and such). This is where branding comes into play. Name recognition and “sacred logos” (37) offer comforting reminders to the populace. “It was not the first time he had been saved by the recognizable logo of an international food franchise, its emanations and intimacies” (37). In moments of faltering faith and despair, whenever two customers or more are gathered in “The Admiral’s” name, all is again right with the world.
Yes, we can rest assured that the corporate God is always here, reminding us of his presence with the ever-reliable change of season at Outfit Outlet. Our narrator “had heard of people who had made regular pilgrimages to the windows” (41). Devoted sheep in awe of this great mystery offer generous tithes into the great collection plate with the high hope that they will have sacrificed enough of themselves to reach nirvana one day.