5 Absurdly Unapologetic Hollywood Sellouts
Product placements are the rectal catheters of popular entertainment. They only bring pleasure to jaded corporate types in suits, but there occasionally comes a time when you just don't have a choice but to use them. There are countless movies, TV shows, and games that only exist because they spread wide and let companies shove their products inside them. In some cases, it was kind of worth it. But other times, the whole process was handled so clumsily that everyone just ended up with shit on their hands. Incidentally, this column is brought to you by Rhino Hide toilet paper.
Now then, here are a few examples of what happens when product placement goes too far.
Degree Deodorant Saves The World From A Star In Eureka
There was a time when I thought Syfy's Eureka could actually be the new Star Trek. The show told the story of a secret town populated by geniuses trying to change the world with scientific MacGuffins that occasionally technobabbled and became doomsday plot devices. But in the end, the day was always saved by human ingenuity. The show just had this inspiring Star Trek-esque hope for our species that you sadly don't see on TV a lot anymore. Sadlier, you also didn't see it during Eureka's third season.
After two seasons of good reviews but average ratings, the show had to get a corporate sponsor to stay on the air. What they didn't have to do was make it less subtle than a kick in the teeth, but life is full of such little surprises.
It's like a mirror universe version of Where's Waldo?
Initially, I honestly thought Degree was something they made up for the show, because a) the company is known as Rexona in Europe, and b) that is one dumbass name for a line of deodorants. Also, c) (for "See here, you little shits") it just didn't occur to me that Eureka could ever sell out like that. I have nothing against advertisements, especially if it's for a quality product like, say, Rhino Hide.
But Degree didn't just write its name all over Eureka. They were also incorporated directly into the plot, first by becoming the official in-universe sponsor of the company that oversees the fictional town on the show, and then by having their product save the day in one episode. This happened in "Here Come The Suns," when someone created a new sun over Eureka, and the main characters dealt with it by using an experimental deodorant that keeps you cool even in extreme temperatures.
"Do you know what this means? Now, non-insane people will be able to live in Florida!"
It was actually kind of genius. By pairing themselves with a sci-fi series, Degree could show commercials where a guy shrugs off a hit from a flamethrower, and then say "This is what our product basically feels like!" without getting dick-slapped for false advertising. But it was also cynical as hell.
The point of Eureka was always to celebrate science for science's sake, but when season three came around, that message changed to "Well, you know, corporate profits matter too." The only way for that sentiment to sound less Star Trek-y would be for Captain Kirk to deliver it after being commended for never breaking a single Starfleet regulation.
Coca-Cola Literally Saves Lives In Mac And Me
Mac And Me (1988) tells the story of an alien family that gets transported to Earth and loses their youngest child, Mac, who is later taken in by a lonely kid. If this sounds eerily similar to E.T., it's because the producers of Mac And Me have such an obvious, unhealthy obsession with Spielberg's movie that I'm pretty sure this is how MAM got made: One day, someone stumbled upon their handmade E.T. gimp suits, and in a moment of panic, the producers blabbed something about them being costumes for a new alien movie they were working on.
"Why do these masks have round holes for mouths?"
"THAT'S JUST HOW ALIENS LOOK, OK?!"
A few months later, Mac And Me hit theaters, where thousands of people had to sit through an opening wherein an alien gets sprayed in the face with an unidentified liquid, and then proceeds to suck it. What happened later, though, was even more shameless.
Taking a Reese's-Pieces-stained page from E.T., Mac And Me struck a product placement agreement with Coca-Cola whereby they would apparently replace half of their props with Coke cans.
The movie found itself a literal sugar daddy.
It wouldn't be so bad if that's all they did, but like a kid on a runaway wheelchair speeding down a hill, it didn't stop there. In the movie, Coca-Cola isn't just the only liquid Mac is able to consume. At one point, it actually brings his dead family back to life. I know Coke has long been synonymous with Christmas, but that doesn't mean it can perform fucking miracles.
"Mommy, I got you the cure from that funny alien movie. Will your cancer go away now?"
Selena Gomez's "Hands To Myself" Is A Shameless Commercial For Beats By Dre
I should probably start this off by confessing that I'm near-totally music illiterate. I've never owned a radio, and I'd rather give my dick an acid enema than go to a club again. I swear to all that is holy that this isn't me trying to earn my Hipster Badge in time for the next Douche Scout Jamboree. It's just that for most of my life, I've listened to just one genre of music. And no, I won't say what it is, because that's not the point. What the point is is that even a musical ignoramus such as myself can see that most CCTV security footage has more artistic value than the music video for Selena Gomez's "Hands To Myself."
If you can't watch the video for practical or moral reasons, let me summarize it for you: Selena Gomez shows off her body and tries to convince you, the listener, that she is horny for you. More importantly, though, she very subtly indicates that if you had a Beats by Dre speaker by your bed, beautiful, scantily clad women would grope themselves while thinking of you.
"Your disposable income and bad judgment are sooo hot!"
The song/striptease only really kicks off when Gomez fires up her bedside speaker, in a move which was designed to arouse the viewer whenever they think about Beats or Dr. Dre. Surprisingly, this is apparently what people wanted, because the song currently has over 180 million views on YouTube and counting. Damn, I never realized there are so many people out there who've never heard of PornHub.
What baffles me more, though, is that someone had the balls to pretend that this video was a piece of art by including fucking credits at the end. As if that could fool people into thinking they didn't just sit through a three-minute electronics commercial.
"Sit," "masturbate" -- same thing.
Look, you can be as shallow and creatively dead as you want; legally, I can't do anything to stop that. The court was very clear on that after it confiscated my Batman costume and revolver. But own up to your bullshit. It's hard enough to get people to recognize music videos as art without "Hands To Myself" -- though not as hard, or durable, as Rhino Hide toilet paper.
Sex And The City Is Just Advertising For Stuff You'll Never Be Able To Afford
How in the ever-loving fuck could Sex And The City's Carrie Bradshaw afford a huge NYC apartment and tons of designer clothes on a writer's salary? Because I too have written for the Observer, and I can only afford New Balance shoes, which apparently makes me a Nazi. What's up with that?
Man, these are just my color, too ...
What's up is that Sex And The City is essentially a decade-spanning commercial for designer brands, which we know thanks to a hero named Pierre Butin. Butin is a French artist who sat down and watched the entire show to record how often they mention merchandise that's unaffordable to anyone who's ever taken a magic marker to a pair of black pants after accidentally getting bleach on them. Vogue was the most popular name drop, followed by Manolo Blahnik (Carrie's preferred shoe designer), Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany's, and MANY more.
Bizarrely, these brands rarely paid to have their products mentioned on the show. Mostly, Sex And The City just throws their names out there like the Madison Avenue equivalent of that kid that gets bored on car trips and starts reading billboards. And I don't deny that it's been successful in the area of "Coco Chanel, Samantha. That Absolut Martini is so Cosmo!" But if I wanted a bunch of out-of-touch women to sell me stuff I can neither afford nor need, I would stop answering the door naked whenever the Herbalife lady comes around.
The Sex And The City movie is especially bad when it comes to disguising advertising as entertainment. In a little over two hours, it managed to promote every luxury brand out there, from Vera Wang to Carolina Herrera, Glenjamin Pinkswallow, Christian Lacroix, Dior, Ricky la Vida Loca, Fudge, and Vivienne Westwood, only some of which I may have made up.
The sad thing is that I don't know which ones aren't real anymore.
Alan Wake Gives You An Achievement For Watching A Verizon Commercial
Remedy Entertainment's Alan Wake is a video game about a struggling novelist trying to discover the dark secret of a small, secluded American town. It's like the entire horror bibliography of Stephen King rolled into one third-person shooter ... and then stuffed with a creamy Verizon filling using a dick-shaped spoon.
Product placement is an art, and Alan Wake could pretty much be its Mona Lisa in terms of things you should not do.
Short answer: this.
For example, there are a few QR codes scattered around the game. If you scan them, you will be taken to a Verizon site, where you'll get access to all sorts of exclusive Alan Wake content, but not an answer to the most important question of all: "Did gamers fuck Remedy Entertainment's mom for them to be pulling this kind of weak shit?"
"It wasn't that. It was that they never called afterwards."
During another part of the game, you can even turn on a TV and sit through an entire Verizon commercial. It has no bearing on the plot whatsoever, but watching it to the end does reward you with the "Boob Tube" achievement, and I so wish I was making that up. Like, I even asked my genie to erase this travesty from existence, but he said he couldn't, because he created it in the first place when the lamp's previous owner wished for the second-worst thing ever.
At least I no longer feel guilty for killing him and stealing his lamp.
And in case you were wondering, the worst thing ever is probably Alan Wake's first downloadable content, The Signal. In it, the protagonist Alan must find his way out of a surreal world of dark energy while following a signal on his phone. A Verizon phone. A Verizon phone that appears in an exploding sea of light as if it was the second coming of Christ.
Actually, its official name is now "Verizon Presents Jesus 2: Ecclesial Boogaloo."
And when Alan answers the phone, one of the first things he hears is the old Verizon slogan: "Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?" The demographics of people that would like that joke are those who have shouted "Nationwide is on your side!" at the funerals of car crash victims, and no one else.
But you might be thinking: If the game is still atmospheric despite the product placement, then does it really hurt anyone? This actually goes back to the Stephen King comparison I made earlier. As a lifelong fan of King, I'll be the first to admit that some of his ideas are just, well, dumb. But he always makes them work because he treats his creations seriously and with respect, and until he creates a Cujo sequel in which the dog is saved by the healing powers of Purina Puppy Chow, this trend will probably continue. Alan Wake lacks that, because with The Signal, it essentially created an extended mobile carrier commercial and then made gamers pay good money for it. Money that should've gone to something gamers could actually enjoy. Like Rhino Hide toilet paper.
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