F#@% Blake Griffin: How Nike Just Ruined Space Jam
My name's Daniel, and I went to college. Everybody watch this commercial for a Nike sport shoe. There might be other commercials you want to watch, but if you watch them instead of the one I'm suggesting you'll be doing the wrong thing.
If you're at a place where you can't watch videos, I'll explain it. Marvin The Martian flies down to Earth to threaten professional basketball player Blakegriffin The Human's life (Blake's crime was performing a dunk that was so sick it was described by at least one doctor as "earth-shattering," and Marvin is furious because "earth-shattering" falls under his jurisdiction, and if you know anything about space law you know he has a pretty solid case).
Blake's friend intervenes and says that Blake deserves a chance to defend himself. Marvin agrees with the logic of this plea, and Blake chooses to settle things with a slam-dunk contest. A slam-dunk contest ensues, and it looks like Blake is going to lose out to Marvin's dope moves, which is unfortunate because he and the Clippers already lost this year and Blake could probably use some good news, and also because the penalty for losing is actual death. Then Bugs Bunny shows up and sells Blake some new shoes out of a truck, which Blake uses to make an amazing dunk, and then Bugs sets a series of events in motion that results in the near-total destruction of Mars.
As Cracked's foremost Space Jam Authority and Occasional Wearer Of Shoes, I obviously have a lot of issues.
We're going to dig into the commercial at hand in a minute, but I wanted to take a brief sidebar to discuss what I see as a very troubling relationship among the three boys watching Blake and his friend Dr. Drain play.
The boy in the red shirt ("Red Shirt") says to his friends, "I think that's Blake Griffin," while looking up close at a person who could ONLY be Blake Griffin (he has Blake's size, skin-tone, obvious basketball prowess, and the other male on the court loudly calls him "Shake Griffin" ). His one friend in the hoodie ("Hoodie") seems to consider this possibility, but their one friend with the hat ("Squidward") immediately dismisses this with a thoughtless, "Nah."
With eyes like that he'll make a great official someday.
I don't want to harp on this too much, but Squidward is never punished for doubting his friend. Squidward never even says, "Oh, you're right, that IS Blake; I'm sorry for dismissing you so rudely." Nothing. This could have been a teachable moment about hubris, and Nike let it slip away.
Instead, Blake does some rad moves, the skeptics are swayed, and we transition into the meat of the commercial, where a professional basketball player faces off against a faceless, tiny space monster in a slam-dunk contest. Squidward barely even checked to confirm if the basketball player was Blake Griffin; he had already decided that his friend Red Shirt was wrong, sight unseen. This speaks volumes about the toxicity of their friendship. I imagine that this isn't the first time Squidward's instincts drew him toward thinking Red Shirt was instantly wrong, and you can't have that in a friendship. You want your friends to support you. If Red Shirt is as good at evaluating his own self-worth as he is at identifying who in a given crowd might be Blake Griffin (which, based on the limited information with which we are presented, we have to assume is "very"), then he should exit this friendship and hook up with some people whose knee-jerk reactions don't involve putting him down.
"I think that's Blake Griffin."
"Saying stuff like that is why your dad's an alcoholic."
But back to the matter at hand and the reason you all called me here. This ad doesn't make any sense, because it starts off with two very problematic and canonically inconsistent assumptions: 1) Marvin The Martian is angry at Blake Griffin and by extension all human basketball-playing adults, and 2) Marvin The Martian is a top-notch dunker. THIS IS AN ISSUE. To understand why it's an issue, you need to understand Space Jam, a movie that pits the Monstars (a misguided alien race) against the Looney Tunes (and Michael Jordan) in a basketball contest. There is historical precedent, I'm saying, in the category of Looney Tune vs. Human High-Stakes Basketball. An important precedent that this commercial ignores. The most important thing to remember about Space Jam (as it pertains to this commercial) is that Marvin The Martian DID NOT PLAY. He was the referee.
This takes us to the problem(s). if Marvin is such a good basketball player, why wouldn't the Looney Tunes have drafted him in Space Jam? OR, if Marvin hated Earth-based basketball superstars so much, why wouldn't he work with the Monstars in Space Jam? Answering both of my own questions, it's because he's both a Looney Tune AND an alien, which explains why he was able to remain a fair and impartial referee in Space Jam; he has ties to both worlds and an equal-sized dog in both fights. Marvin The Martian would not choose a side according to the established Looney Tune continuum.
He's even letting Bugs go full Sprewell on Daffy without ejecting him.
This commercial was not made in a vacuum; it knows Space Jam exists and in fact trades on the goodwill established by that movie with a number of winks and nods to it throughout the commercial. It knows you liked Space Jam and it hopes that its tenuous relationship to this commercial will make you buy the product. If that thing I just said is true (and we have to assume it is), then why would the people behind this ad completely ignore the Marvin The Martian precedent set in Space Jam, a phenomenal family film that came out before 9/11?
I say this as a person who attended a midnight screening of Space Jam literally a week ago: I am upset. On the subject of respecting those that came before it (and paying attention to your own established continuity), this advertisement for shoes disappoints.
Is This An Effective Ad?
I know how advertising works, so I know that asking and answering "Is this an effective ad?" is much more important than asking and answering "Does this ad slide neatly into the greater and established canon of inter-dimensional basketball folklore?" We KNOW this ad fails in the latter category, but does this commercial (which admittedly has very competent editing and a refreshingly diverse cast of extras) make me want to buy #SuperFly4 shoes?
Before we get into the answer, I want to give you a bit of backstory about me for context. From 2002 to 2004, I sold shoes professionally at a Sports Authority in New Jersey. My boss' name was Ken, I got a number of my friends jobs there, our store code was 832, and it was fine. I threw myself into the shoe-selling job as I've thrown myself into every job since. Five days a week for two years, I spoke eloquently about which shoe was right for which person. Want to talk about Pronation? Supination? I'm your guy. If you came in looking for a simple cross-training shoe, I'd have you leave the store in some expensive New Balance 991s with some (bullshit) water-proofing spray for your troubles, because I was that convincing. I was sort of a shoe shark in that way.
"Hey, Brian, we got these in sevens? Brian? BRIAN! I swear if you're back there,
texting your GODDAMN girlfriend again-"
I bring this up as a way of establishing my shoe credentials, which I think you'll agree are at this point unimpeachable. And once we both agree that I am a (sport) authority on shoes, I hope you'll take the following statement with the appropriate weight; I would not buy the shoes advertised in this commercial. Is this an effective ad? This shoe-selling, voting American says no! I would not buy these shoes, not even from Bugs Bunny and not even from a van.
-Look at this guy.
He will never be impressed with anything that happens on this court. Basketball superstar Blake Griffin and actual cartoon character Marvin The Martian have a dunk contest where the stakes are murder, and this man never gives a hoot.
"Are you guys serious? They're just rocket shoes. Damn millennials."
His reaction to this impromptu dunk contest that he CHOSE TO ATTEND will never change, and I envy his confidence.
-Marvin The Martian is ALSO sporting Nike branding. I no longer know how to feel. Is Nike also sponsoring our enemies? Because that's a war crime. Nike is on the wrong side of history here.
-I mentioned the fact that Bugs sold Blake shoes from a van, but I feel like it should be repeated. I suppose it's technically a truck, like a food truck, but still. This commercial explicitly encourages accepting errant (unwrapped!) shoes from strangers in vans. The target audience for this commercial is impressionable youths. Draw your own conclusions.
-Dr. Drain. I just feel like his character was underdeveloped.
Is it a doctorate or an MD? These are the questions that keep 3 a.m. Dan up at night.
-I'd sleep easier knowing Red Shirt found someone to make out with after the dunk contest. Narratively, that just feels more satisfying.
Daniel O'Brien is the head writer for Cracked and author of How To Fight Presidents, which you can buy right now! John Hodgman calls it "very funny," and Beyonce has currently not yet read it.
Not everyone loves Space Jam as much as Dan. Tom claims Space Jam is all about the soundtrack in 6 Movie Soundtracks That Put The Actual Movie To Shame. And read more about Dan's love of 90s movies in The 3 Most Depressing Minor Characters in Famous Movies.
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