Monday, May 30, 2011

Remembering Product Placement

This long weekend, the family and I spent some quality time at the local mall multiplex.  The missus and I went to see Bridesmaids, which was...well...actually quite entertaining.  I was a bit worried that the ambient estrogen in the room might be too intense, but other than having the strangest feeling that my menstrual cycle was trying to synchronize, I really enjoyed the film.  We cut the boys loose, giving them tickets to Pirates of the 'arribbean: It's the Same Movie Again, Suckers and cash to hit the food court and wander the mall afterwards so Mom and Dad could hang out together.  It was a very, very American evening.

During the ads before the movie (not the trailers, the ads), we were pitched the next movie in the Transformers franchise.  Well, no, actually.  We were pitched a Chevy Camaro, as Bumblebee leapt and blasted and jumped.  Paramount and Hasbro aren't the only companies that have skin in the franchise.  General Motors also makes a point of connecting product to entertainment, insuring that as we watch we are filled with desire for Chevrolets.

We all know this.  Anyone with half a clue knows that product placement goes deep into the culture of moviemaking.   But as I watched the Transformers trailer-slash-ad, I realized that other products were prominently featured.  Very prominently featured.

In the ad, we see a swarm of CGI Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors move towards a Decepticon besieged city.   That's identifiable product.  Not one we buy ourselves, of course.   But product nonetheless, product that needs to be marketed.  The V-22 has a long and troubled development history.  It's an interesting bit of tech, but any weapon system that was in development when I was in high school and still hasn't really been fully requires a bit of marketing assistance.

So I find myself what extent does our arms industry intentionally connect to our entertainment industry?   When I see a Ford or a Chevy, or a can of Coke, or a prominently placed glowing Mac logo, I know that someone's people talked to someone else's people.

But when we see a General Dynamics M1A2 Main Battle Tank blasting away at alien robots, or a Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II raining down depleted uranium rounds on a Decepticon from it's General Electric GAU/A 30mm rotary cannon, I find myself wondering if maybe this isn't random.  These are products, produced by corporations, who have a strong interest in our feeling a stir of boo-yah when we see them dishing out destruction.

Lord knows the big players in the weapons industry pay attention to marketing.  Like in today's Washington Post, where a full page Memorial Day color ad from Boeing reminds Congressmen and Senators that "the people of Boeing honor those who gave their lives for our country's freedom."  And where another full page color ad from the men and women of Lockheed Martin announces, under a flag, that we have "A Nation of Freedom From the Courage of Heroes."   And where, on another undulating flag background, Northrop Grumman tells us that "Bravery Lives Forever."

Seeing those ads, I do remember, but I remember two things.  First, I remember the deaths of men and women who committed themselves to serve our country.  That's a significant thing, and an important thing to honor and remember.

And second, well, second I remember that the wars that claimed their lives are the hundred-billion dollar lifeblood of some very large corporate entities.  That is also something it is important we not forget.