The marketing and promotional departments of major studios do not have an easy job. If, say, the United States Postal Service wants to be one of the nine corporate sponsors of The Amazing Spider-Man 2—along with Revlon (“Six limited-edition nail polishes and three lip glosses are formulated with glowing glass pearls to give an electrifying look, a nod to the film’s electricity theme and Spider-Man’s newest nemesis, Electro.”) and Baskin-Robbins (which offered the no-doubt-delicious Amazing Spider-Man 2 ice cream flavor)—then it must be accommodated, however awkwardly:
It’s one thing to stretch the themes of a movie, Spidey-like, to suit a corporate tie-in, but it’s quite another to betray them altogether. The last year has brought at least three promotional campaigns that aren’t above subverting a movie’s message in order to serve a partner:
1. The Men, Women & Children Sweepstakes
If you’ve seen Jason Reitman’s new movie Men, Women & Children—and woe be unto you if you have—you know that the film’s attitude about technology and its impact on human connection is grim. Instead of having healthy relationships, we’re staring at our phone and monitors all day, posting creepy photos of underage girls, arranging hook-ups with prostitutes and bored married types, or masturbating to bondage porn. The optimal response to Men, Women & Children would be for viewers to leave the theater, make a beeline back to their homes, and destroy every computer, tablet, and smartphone they own. Like thusly:
But if you enter The Men, Women & Children sweepstakes by November 5, you can win an iPad Mini Tablet! Now you, too, can live in a techno-bubble of perversion and crippling emotional isolation!
2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire “Victory Tour”
In the dystopian world of Panem, the annual Hunger Games are a tool used by the elites in The Capitol to both oppress and distract the surrounding districts by forcing them to offer up their own children for a televised fight-to-the-death. Part of the propaganda effort occurs after the Games, when the winner embarks on a grueling, mandated “Victory Tour” through the losing districts to honor the slain children and affirm The Capitol’s benevolent authority. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, this is an excruciating ordeal for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who have fomented unrest in the district by winning the Games together and prompting the government to resort to strong-arm tactics.
But divorced from all context, an all-expenses-paid Victory Tour sounds fun, doesn’t it? Subway certainly thought so. Its “Victory Tour” sweepstakes offered the winner an 8-day/7-night trip for four to Oahu, with surf lessons, tickets to local attractions, a tour of the location where the movie was filmed, and $2,000 in fun money. Jackbooted thugs not included.
3. The Giver limited-edition nail polish line, from China Glaze
Teenage girls love wearing colorful, sparkly nail polish. Boom. Done. Onto the next campaign. But what’s that you say? The Giver takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which society is entirely black-and-white, and there’s no place for color or emotion of any kind? How unfortunate. But is it available in a deep purple?