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Wrestling with Sass

Sassy commentary from a failed journalist

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An ode to Future Advertising in Film

The 2001 movie Spy Kids is a masterpiece for many reasons.

It inadvertently created the blood-bath revenge-porn film Machete with veteran actor Danny Trejo, one of the main characters says ‘”shitake mushrooms” instead of ‘shit’ in one scene and it also features one of my favourite uses of futuristic movie advertising ever.

It’s not a major plot point that this movie is set in the future, I mean yeah there are evil villains that are just fucking thumbs, but no other future tech. But somehow one of the main characters sorts through non-branded packaging pops it in the ‘rehydrator’ and BAM Big Mac and Fries – no sauces or drink though so I assumed they eventually died of thirst.

Seriously what the fuck were these?

Perhaps you remember it because you were awed by its inventiveness and in-you-face attitude, or maybe like me you were a bit fat when you were a teenager and anything that involved a machine produced McDonalds whenever you wanted was pure genius.

I don’t want subtle, I want in your face

Obviously, there’s a bit of a backlash to advertising in movies, but as long as it fits comfortably in the film, then who cares? Even the part of Fight Club where they smash a brand new Volkswagen Beetle was advertising to some extent, it just fit with the tone of the movie.

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the advertising that’s screaming in your face. This is especially true for movies set in the future, this gives advertisers the chance to do something cool and interesting.

There is something beautiful about how obvious in-film advertising is – a special breed that creates an alternative universe where it totally makes sense to create a futuristic microwave that pumps out junk food because it’s a the only logical way to get it into the film naturally. Personally, I love films where someone hasn’t just had a fleeting mention to something but has had to create an entire plot device to segue it in.

Demolition Man

Demolition Man is the prime example of this. After a recent re-watch of this film just because I really didn’t understand the sex scene when I was 13 and I needed to watch it as an adult and see if it made any more sense. SPOILER ALERT: It didn’t what the fuck was going on, how do babies get made.

Taco Bell being the only restaurant left in the future is a pretty famous example of pushing the advertising into the plot of a film, but it’s an excellent one. Did the screenwriter have ‘insert highest paying bidder’ here in the screenplay or were they going to a futuristic restaurant with futuristic food anyway, a la Firefly Ice Cream Planets? It’s also worth noting that we don’t have Taco Bell in the UK (why don’t we lads) so Pizza Hut was badly dubbed in to cover that.

Minority Report

If you work in advertising and marketing, I just heard your collective groan.

Okay, I get it, I heard you.

Most advertisers will have heard the Minority Report analogy probably 100 times over. Whether it’s the haptic technology John uses when he’s predicting future crimes, which is pretty cool but has been in TV shows like CSI for a while now. The ‘hot take’ I’m referencing is one you’ve probably read is around the personalised advertising that happens in the shopping mall.

Typically anything that horrifies the general population, we call you ‘consumers’ in the biz, delights and intrigues advertisers. When I first saw Minority Report I was fairly horrified at the prospect of walking into Budget Booze and a pretty model asking me “Back for more cider you fucking lush?” After a few years of taking photos of every inch of my face and tagging myself in every location the idea of my personal freedom and autonomy is now pretty “meh, who cares, we’re all dying, I don’t care if the  cyborg in Tesco reminds me I need to by onions.”

I, Robot

What was this film? I vaguely remember it. It came out in 2004. It was good? No, it was bad? It had Alan Tuydk in it, so it was probably good? But it had Will Smith in his 40-year-old teenage role right? I think I half watched this movie five times when it was on Sky Movies and I was at a loose end on a Saturday night because I had written my Harry Potter fan fiction already.

One of the main offenders for product placements as it was discussed heavily in pretty much every review of the film. But the one that really sticks out is the Converse All-stars conversation.

  1. Those shoes look fucking awful, are those canvas? They look leather and shiny and awful?
  2. This is set in 2035. Those are 2004 shoes. That old woman is what? 80? She must remember what fucking shoes looked like?!
  3. This is only 31 years in the future, I don’t see people wearing platforms from the 1970’s and scream
  4. WHAT DO SHOES LOOK LIKE NOW? I DON’T SEE ANYONE ELSES SHOES AT ALL ARE THEY WEARING LIKE PLASTIC BAGS OR ARE THEY HOVERING ABOVE THE GROUND ON TINY ROCKETS? ALL THEIR CLOTHES LOOK THE SAME?

I like the idea the screenwriter was on set and someone came up to them and was like “Look listen, Will has this idea about shoes, he just got some new Converse, he’s really into it. Can you write something about him showing them off? I know you had that whole soliloquy about the futility of man and artificial intelligence being a silent killer but can you scrap that and pretend nobody knows what shoes look like? Cheers lad”

Final thoughts

Perhaps it’s just nostalgia speaking but there was something special in 90’s about crappy advertising penetrating our everyday life. Whether it’s in films, or in the real world.

When I was thinking about this blog, I remembered one of the greatest places that ever lived. If you lived in London, or nearby like I did in the hellhole of Surrey, then there’s a chance you might have visited heaven on earth that was a celebration of gross 90’s over-advertising and futuristic world-building come to life.

Segaworld at the Trocadero was everything future advertising in films had promised me. It was perfect in every way, dark and only lit by garish neon, filled with over enthusiastic teenagers queuing to place the heavily advertised Sonic the Hedgehog games or trying to get onto the Pepsi Max, a themepark ride in the middle of the arcade. To play some of the machines you could enter ‘Sonic’ tokens while you happily sipped on a Slush Puppy.

I have fleeting memories of this place, I speculate that it may have been renamed Funland when I went as eventually the Hedgehog bucks ran out but the rides and the advertisements stayed the same. You took an escalator named Rocket to the top of the six floors of pure unaltered fun while 90’s trance music blared around you.

If the future of advertising is going to futuristic flights of fantasy into AI, chat bots and data mining. Can it be less slick? I’d like AirBnB to know less information about me, but I’d happily spend all day in an Ikea style showroom of apartments I could possibly stay in all around the world. What I’m clumsily saying is, if it’s true that millennial’s are pretty much done with products and owning things and having loyalty to brands and what they really want is the ‘experience’ of a product – then can we get back to basics? Can we have more in your face advertising that’s trying to desperately garner the positive sentiment of young people? Can they do that with lasers and neon and self-lacing shoes again?

What I’m really saying is, can we have Segaworld back please? I never got to go on the Pepsi Max drop because I was too short.

Why Gone Girl is the Greatest Film of All Time

So Emily, why write an op-ed about a film that came out in 2014 that commercially did well and critically even more so?

Because I’ve seen this film three times now. The first time I saw it in the cinema based of a recommendation from my sister, she said she wasn’t sure about it and wanted to know my thoughts. I hadn’t read the book and didn’t really know any back-story, all I knew was I had that it had divided heterosexual couples especially.

Specifically that it had caused fights due to the different genders perceiving the film and it’s characters in wildly different ways.

After the first viewing with my boyfriend, we had pretty similar views, we both enjoyed but my immediate killjoy feminist response was ‘hmm, I need to consult the Internet before I decide whether I should have enjoyed this film or not’. The view was similarly divided over whether the film was a feminist gem wrapped up in a commercial story or a misogynist story about privileged blonde white women.

So I stuck to my guns, I fucking loved this movie. I loved it the second time I watched it. And I loved it the third time I watched it, on a train, going to Oxford, sat next to an old dude who was staring at my laptop screen where Rosamund Pike was covered in blood in her underwear.

So Gone Girl, let me count the ways.

Feminism and murder

The controversy surrounded Gone Girl when it was originally released was the question “Is this film feminist?” Now I’m not talking about the Bechandel test way (although it does pass) I’m talking about the discussion that nowadays typically takes place more-often-than-not when a film’s central character is a woman.

And this film doesn’t only feature a woman’s story at the heart of it, but it touches many gender specific issues that are polarizing topics of conversation: women as inherently good or caregiving, men are cheating bastards, nagging women, false rape accusations, women manipulating men, men lie etc… The central theme of Gone Girl is that Amy believes Nick has murdered her by stealing her money, her youth, her passion and her love by lying about being a better than he is and cheating on her with a younger women.

This isn’t a story that is new: Picture Perfect, Sliding Doors, Nine, Bridget Jones’ Diary – all of these typical female Rom Com’s feature some kind of prominent ‘all men are cheating bastards plot.’ You know what typically happens in these movies? They loose weight, they get better jobs, they get prettier by cutting their hair, they confide in their female friends OR they meet a new man! Yay, we all know how to fix a broken heart right?

This is where Gone Girl swerves the genre, instead of finding a new man or getting a new hair cut, she concocts an intricate plan to frame her husband for her murder and she gets to watch the fall out before killing herself. WOW, THAT SOUNDS PRETTY DARN AWESOME, I MEAN JESUS CHRIST.

WOW, THAT SOUNDS PRETTY DARN AWESOME, I MEAN JESUS CHRIST.

At the heart of Gone Girl is a clear cut revenge story, which features some of the most intense playing on the fears of the majority of men in an eloquent retelling to make men furious and terrified.

Men are Afraid of Women

There are a few themes on Gone Girl that play on some of the inherent fears of men.

  1. Women are nagging bitches who want to change how awesome and cool you are
  2. They’ll lie about sexual assault, rape or domestic violence to ruin your life

These are specific to the themes in Gone Girl but they boil down to: men think women will manipulate and lie to get what they want, and they will be believed because they’re women.

If you think I’m incorrect about these unfounded fears then I invite you to peruse around /r/mensrights or /r/theredpill (I’m not linking cause they are too gross) and get back to me. Perhaps you’d be interested to know that whilst we read about false rape accusations a lot, the figures are actually incredibly low at 3% and even then the British Home Office says they could even be lower than that:

“The interviews with police officers and complainants’ responses show that despite the focus on victim care, a culture of suspicion remains within the police, even amongst some of those who are specialists in rape investigations. There is also a tendency to conflate false allegations with retractions and withdrawals, as if in all such cases no sexual assault occurred. This reproduces an investigative culture in which elements that might permit a designation of a false complaint are emphasised (later sections reveal how this also feeds into withdrawals and designation of ‘insufficient evidence’), at the expense of a careful investigation, in which the evidence collected is evaluated.

The media coverage on these cases can ludicrously prominent despite such a low amount of actual cases. The majority of rape cases cannot be proved due to lack of evidence so the idea that someone can fake a rape is insanely small as physical evidence is key.

Gone Girl plays on these fears in a very clever way and is one of the main reasons why some feminists believed it to be increasing the false idea that these crimes are committed often and easily. Alyssa Rosenberg from The Washington Post summed it up fantastically commenting that “Amy Elliot Dunne is the only fictional character I can think of who might be accurately described as simultaneously misogynist and misandrist.”

Men Hurt Women and Women Ruin Lives

In a world where the idea of a female villain conjures up the image of a hysterically bunny boiler, I personally welcome the image of Amy Dunne making lists and plans for months and months to fuck over the man who fucked her over. Personally, as a woman whose seen the many iterations of the spurned female, I felt a lovely little tingle as it was revealed that Amy was clever whilst being fuelled by murderous anger.

Here in lies the divide between men and women when it comes to this film. Was it because women left the cinema not only feeling that Amy had a right to do what she did, but they also enjoyed her furious vengeance? Vengeance films are typically to do with writing a wrong, and typically that wrong is when a wife, girlfriend or child has been murdered to hurt the male protagonist.

Comic books have employed ‘fridging’ to further a superheroes storyline and also make their plight seem relatable to its audience. So how do you make a female vengeance flick relatable? Either she’s is murdered and robbed of her child like in Kill Pill or she’s gang raped like in I Spit on Your Grave. In Gone Girl, Amy Dunne is mourning for her lost life, her lost potential and her pathetic husband – she’s not getting vengeance for anyone else; she’s getting vengeance for herself. And in a very obvious way, giving all the women in the audience who’ve been cheated on or had men steal part of their lives whilst knowing they could date a younger woman up until they’re pretty much dead, a taste of vengeance as well. ISN’T THAT AWESOME

Okay the cool girl speech is slightly lame but makes good point

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”

Anne Helen Petersen at Buzzfeed wrote an excellent long-read about the virtues and downfalls of Gone Girl’s ‘Cool Girl’ monologue so I won’t go into length about it. However I’ll admit it does walk the line between shitting on women and making a clever commentary on this insane pressure on women to everything to all men all the fucking time. 

Quick amazing things about the movie

Soundtrack

Director David Fincher teamed back up with Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch to provide the score for Gone Girl after the success of their previous soundtrack to The Social Network, which won the Oscar in 2010. Full disclosure, like most angst ridden teenage girls I’ve obviously been in love with Trent Reznor since I was 15 however, that doesn’t come into how awesome this soundtrack is. If you need to listen to something that will simultaneously put you on edge whilst also making you feel insanely productive, I fully recommend you rock out to it while you’re making that colour coded excel spreadsheet.

Cat

HOLY SHIT THIS CAT IS THE STAR OF THE FILM REALLY.

Margot

Nick’s twin sister is just this refreshing female character who just seems like a normal person and she’s a babe and I love it.

Ben Affleck’s Dick

NSFW WARNING

SERIOUSLY

SOME D

IS COMING UP

NOW

Lol how could I not mention this?

So that’s 1500 words on why Gone Girl is the greatest film of all time. Feel free to strongly disagree with me on all points except the cat, the soundtrack and Ben Affleck’s willy.

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