6 of the Best Ironic Uses of Brands in Comedies
It’s no secret that most movies and TV shows are just thinly veiled advertisements for various products. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was created to sell candy, Stranger Things is one long commercial for Eggo waffles and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was basically sponsored content for Reese’s Pieces and, for some weird reason, Coors, the official beer of elderly plant-based alien creatures. But sometimes, comedies are able to sidestep criticism by integrating real-life brands into their stories in a hilariously ironic fashion, like when…
Wayne and Garth Hock Pepsi, Reebok and Pizza Hut in ‘Wayne’s World’
The granddaddy of over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek product placement, one of the best scenes in Wayne’s World finds Wayne and Garth arguing against their producer’s directive to pander to advertisers… while simultaneously enjoying conspicuously prominent bags of Doritos and cans of Pepsi. Wayne claiming that he will not “bow to any sponsor” while pausing to enjoy a hot slice from Pizza Hut remains an iconic image in the annals of cinematic history.
‘Arrested Development’ Declares Burger King to Be a ‘Wonderful Restaurant!’
Trying to help their struggling show with a bit of monetary help from big fast food — while trying to maintain their artistic integrity — the writers of Arrested Development memorably turned a product placement for Burger King into a scene in which Carl Weathers informs Tobias of his plans to “underwrite” a new TV show by setting some scenes at Burger King… at an actual Burger King. The meta stroke of genius includes several extraneous establishing shots of Burger King, ultimately ending with Tobias’ gleefully disingenuous exclamation: “It’s a wonderful restaurant!”
‘Idiocracy’ Predicts Starbucks Will Sell Grande Hand-Jobs
Idiocracy’s vision of the future famously included several real-life brands, which corporations signed off on believing that they would be “pumped up” thanks to the publicity generated by a feature film. They thought wrong, as the companies became fodder for displays of future idiocy. No brand emerges unscathed, as the future slogan of Carl’s Jr. is “Fuck you, I’m eating,” while Fuddruckers’ good name devolves into “Buttfuckers.” But our favorite gag is the Starbucks of 2505 offering $50,000 “Full Body” lattes. It’s been rumored that these jokes, at the expense of Fox’s corporate partners, were a large part of why the studio decided to torpedo its own movie.
A Walmart Magically Appears in the Desert in ‘Looney Tunes: Back in Action’
It’s no surprise that the follow-up to Space Jam, a movie based on a literal shoe commercial, would feature blatant examples of corporate synergy, but Joe Dante’s underrated Looney Tunes: Back in Action cleverly turns an ad for Walmart into a funny gag. As our heroes randomly stumble upon a supercenter in the middle of the desert, Bugs Bunny pointedly questions: “Mirage, or product placement?”
‘30 Rock’ Asks for Verizon’s Money
Topping even their gratuitous Snapple scene and their constant promotion for the Sheinhardt Wig Company, one episode of 30 Rock slipped in a favorable reference to the new “Verizon wireless phone.” Liz Lemon continues to heap increasingly insincere praise onto the Verizon corporation, culminating with Tina Fey straight-up breaking the fourth wall, staring directly into the camera, and asking: “Can we have our money now?”
‘Evolution’ Ended With a Firehose Full of Head & Shoulders Being Shoved Into an Alien’s Butthole
Ivan Reitman’s alien Ghostbusters knock-off Evolution ends with the revelation that the extra-terrestrial threat can be bested with selenium, which just so happens to be an active ingredient in the dandruff shampoo Head & Shoulders. Sure, this seems like a painfully transparent product placement, like if the climax of Independence Day involved pelting the invading flying saucers with Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supremes, but Evolution’s use of this particular brand is oddly subversive. The movie literally ends with our heroes using a firehose to awkwardly give a giant, grotesque alien monster a shampoo enema.
But hey, all publicity is good publicity, right?
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