John Lennon’s chin was constantly moving. Instead of saving his breath for the next song, he slowly wiggled his chin from side to side. John used these jaw movements to complement his iconic glasses, his long hair, biting irony, or a uniform that expressed his attitude toward the Vietnam War.
It was a strange circular movement that you don’t see in the spotlight today. But the jaw movement was as significant as rock ‘n’ roll itself. It was even older, and it was even more America. That jaw movement was part of pop culture until the early 90s, and then it suddenly disappeared at the same time as standing ashtrays. John Lennon chewed a gum.
Chewing gum was as much a part of the American dream as the Statue of Liberty. With chewing gum, you stuck your chin out at the old world. Chewing was rock ‘n’ roll, but it was also a resolution to take life into your own hands. What customers practiced with Wrigley Spearmint was a little aspirational chewing. Back in the 1990s, Wrigley ads sold us the American dream: a sunny California beach, Beach Boys music, real American mint. Just breathe freely. And then someone got the idea that chewing gum could help maintain a healthy mouth. The American Dream has been replaced by the pH curves. The smell of freedom has been replaced by the fear of periodontal disease. Chewing gum became a medical device, and that was the end of its youth.
Cigarettes took a similar path of health mortification. Unlike a hand-packed cigar, a rechargeable cigarette has the sexappeal of a nicotine prosthesis. Instead of a chin stuck out on life and death, healthy smoking provides nothing but a little extra years for an active retirement. Cigarettes themselves have embarked on a path of demortalization that will be their death.