In my research for this book, I’ve discovered that, if you look hard enough, almost anything eventually connects to Polaroid. Even Britney Spears.
The i-Zone was the last hit product introduced by the pre-bankruptcy Polaroid. It appeared in 1999, and made tiny integral-film photos, the size of a 35-mm. negative—that is, an inch by an inch and a half. The camera was small, too, about the size and shape of a toothpaste box. Some versions of the film were made as peelable stickers. They were a huge hit among teenagers and even younger kids, and for a little while, you’d see i-Zone photos on every looseleaf notebook in every junior high in America. (The darker part of the story is that the film, unlike everything Polaroid made during its golden age, was produced by cheap Mexican labor; I’ve heard, but cannot confirm, the grim story that those tiny film packs were not only consumed by children but also made by them.) Britney Spears—who, you may remember, was a Disney star back then, one who was promoted as an utterly wholesome creature of family values—did the ads. Love the tagline: “The real Britney. In five photos or less.” Maybe not quite, judging by what we learned a few years later. (And let us not discuss her generally fraught relationship with photography, at least the paparazzi kind.)
Teenagers being teenagers, the craze burned itself out, and i-Zone did not last. (Film was discontinued in 2006.) The product’s celebrity spokesteen, however, is spreading her weirdly compelling brand of barefoot crazy around Louisiana and Hollywood to this day.
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