5.25.2009

The Age of Nice: Back by Popular Demand

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/fashion/24nice.html?_r=1

[...]
“We are now in an age of nice,” said Eric G. Wilson, an English professor at Wake Forest University, who, as the author of “Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy,” qualifies as a professional curmudgeon. But even Mr. Wilson sees no end of smiley faces. He cites as avatars of a new niceness the Obama administration, which has been criticized for being too friendly to some repressive world leaders; advocates of political correctness who still hold sway in many public forums; and the director-writer-producer Mr. Apatow, whose era-defining comedies feature “nice guys who finish first — a great hope for non-threatening puerile males,” Mr. Wilson said.
“There’s more spark to nice — it is really in,” said Graceann Bennett, the director of strategic planning at the Chicago office of the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. She said clients are shying away from the arch and sardonic campaigns that were in vogue when the economy was flush. Ogilvy recently pitched an ad for Truvia, a new sweetener, showing two mounds of white powder meant to suggest female breasts, one more perfectly shaped than the other. The proposed tagline: “The difference between real ones and fake ones is obvious.”
[...]
Niceness in the culture spikes when the real world is full of trouble, theorized Catherine Ryan Hyde, the author of “Pay It Forward,” the 1999 novel that gave a marketable name to the idea of doing good deeds for strangers with the expectation that they would then do the same for others. (The book inspired a 2000 movie starring Kevin Spacey and a charitable foundation, run by Ms. Hyde.)
[...]
OperationNice.com links to news articles about good deeds and asks bloggers to take an oath of niceness. The blog was created 10 months ago by Melissa Morris Ivone, a 28-year-old graphic designer in Cinnaminson, N.J., who was inspired after a stranger held the door for her in an elevator. She wanted to create an oasis of good vibes online.
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