Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Valentine's Day

“Better late than never.” “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” “Fits like a glove.” “Not the brightest bulb in the box.” Clichés are a vital part of our language and our culture and they often play a key role in movies. Many films base their story lines off of typical clichés because people can relate to them. Garry Marshall’s 2010 star-studded film Valentine’s Day played to the cliché “true love will always prevail” but also subliminally communicated a problematic message of “being single is bad.”

The cliché that love always wins and true love will always find its way is communicated overtly in the overall plot of the film. This movie is unique in that it follows six or more different story lines as it documents all the characters’ issues on Valentine’s Day. One character deals with finding out her boyfriend is actually married, another struggles with his sexuality, while yet another deals with being a senior in college and knowing she will be far away from her boyfriend in a few months as they leave for college. Each character has their own unique struggles with relationships, but in the end they all find love. The first woman gets revenge on her married boyfriend and realizes she’s in love with her best friend, the second meets a cute man, and the third just learns to celebrate her happiness with her boyfriend and live for today. This cheesy and unmistakable message that “love will triumph” is very effective in this film as it relies on emotional arguments. As Andrea Lunsford describes in Everything’s An Argument, the scenes of each character finding their happiness and discovering love use pathos to “hit precisely the right note” in the heart of the viewer (Lunsford 40). This use of pathos truly makes the movie-goer feel the thesis of love and happiness. 

While the movie is a heart-lifting story of true love, it also sends mixed messages of love being the only place to find satisfaction and of singleness being embarassing.
This is communicated when Bradley Cooper explains that he doesn’t like heart shaped candy because “it reminds [him] that this is Valentine’s Day and [he] is newly single” (Valentine’s Day film). His tone of embarrassment and disdain over being recently single communicates the idea that it is something to be ashamed of. Also a particular subplot that plays well into this problematic theme is the one of Jessica Biel’s character. She is an extremely hardworking career woman that is so consumed by her work that she answers phone calls while running on the treadmill in her office. She is a single woman and she does not hide her anguish over the fact that she is single on Valentine’s Day. She even despairs, “I just want to know if in fact I am the only person on the whole freaking planet who is completely and 100% alone on Valentine’s Day” (Valentine’s Day film). She is completely miserable the whole movie and the only time we see her happy is in the end in which she ends up with a man. This subplot reflects nicely what Giannetti describes in his Understanding Movies as a “women’s picture – emphasizing a female star and focusing on typical female concerns such as getting (or holding on to) a man” (Giannetti 430). Just as the cliche message played on pathos, this problematic message relies on the argument of ethos. Unfortunately, Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel's characters both seem to define themselves based on their relationship status. Biel is a powerful career woman that clearly has made a great living for herself, but she feel worthless because she doesn't have a man in her life. This idea of identity shows that the ethos of these characters is defined by their love lives, which is frankly horrendous! 

I believe the intended audience for this film was sixteen to thirty year-old women. Although men can definitely watch the film and not be completely miserable (take their girls on an actual Valentine’s Day date?), the messages were more intended for their female counterparts. Unfortunately, this means that the targeted viewers are not just enjoying a happy love story; they are subliminally receiving the message that they cannot be happy without a man in their lives and that being single is something to be ashamed of.

For it’s subliminal message of women needing men (and my belief that women can just be as powerful without a man), I give this film a mere two bags of buttery popcorn.

Friday, October 5, 2012


           A fantastic way to advertise a product is to place it inconspicuously into a movie.  Who doesn’t like movies? Although many people like different types of movies, everyone enjoys something.  It is hard to believe that someone does not like movies at all.  No matter what movie the advertisement is put into, there are a large variety of people who will see it.  One movie in particular had clear sponsorship: Transformers.  Many, if not all, knows this movie is about cars and other technological devices that transform into giant robots that help save the world.  Because of their heavy use of cars as the robots, sponsoring a car dealership was a brilliant idea .
            They use Pontiac, GMC and Hummer H2 throughout the movie but the most memorable is Chevrolet.  They use the new Camaro.  It’s yellow exterior with black stripes fits the characters name, Bumblebee, perfectly.   Because it is a classic car that has been around for decades, they used the old Camaro as a way to advertise the newer version.  Initially, Bumblebee takes the shape of a 1970’s version and the character played by Megan Fox insulted the car by implying that it was too old of a version. (Associated Press, 30 ).  With this comment, the 1970’s Camaro upgrades into the newest version in order to be “more impressive.” 
            This movie, while can intrigue many ages, is directed towards a younger demographic.  However, David Koehler explained that, “The younger demographic most likely to flock to the theatres is exactly what GM needs” (Associated Press, 11).  The importance of having their brand of car as the “main robot” is important because the robots are, in a way, the main characters of the movie.  Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox would be considered the main characters when only considering the human perspective. However, the robots themselves are actually who the story is based around. They bring people to the theatres because it is something new.  Many movies have famous actors and actresses in them but very few have robots as their main characters. This new concept intrigues a new audience. One problem that can occur is that some people may not like the idea of robots.  Lunsford explains that, “People look to equally knowledgeable individuals to guide them in less momentous matters as well” (Lunsford, 57).  Because humans are not the main characters of the movie, people may hesitate to watch it because they cannot relate to them.  The actor’s credibility in a movie is very crucial because the more relatable they are to the viewers, the more successful the movie will be.
            Because Bumblebee is such a big part of Transformers, Chevrolet even created a Superbowl commercial that used Transformers, specifically Bumblebee, to draw in the audience.  When  the dealerships mascot hit a yellow Camaro with a hammer, it transformed into the Transformer. This caused everyone to panic and then Bumblebee transformed back into the car and drove away.  This direct reference to the movie allowed Chevy to attract a younger group of potential buyers.  The commercial ends with someone saying, “Never mess with a Chevy, dude” (Superbowl Camaro, 1).  This final comment gives the viewer the idea that Chevy is tough.  It instills the idea that only tough people drive tough cars.   Lunsford says, “When writers and speakers find the words and images that evoke certain emotions in people, they might also move their audiences to sympathize with ideas that they connect to those feelings and even to act on them” (Lunsford, 41). That specific statement from the end of the commercial connects to the viewer by making them want to feel tough.  By instilling this emotion in them, they feel the need to act upon it and potentially buy a new car.
            Another commercial that Chevy uses is from the getaway scene in Transformers 3.  This commercial states that, “You may never have to outrun a Decepticon invasion, it’s just nice to know you can” (Autoblog, 1).  This video emphasizes the ability of the new Camaro to get away from anything that could be chasing it.  What guy doesn’t love a fast car? Every commercial created for Chevrolet with a Transformers theme immediately gives off a tough and dangerous image for the car and the company. 
            Chevy and the movie Transformers definitely helped each other with advertisements.  The movie was a great opportunity for the dealership to bring in a bigger and younger demographic.  The car dealership also helped advertise for the movie because after each commercial they would show the date that Transformers would be in theatres.  Sponsorship in movies is a great opportunity for companies to get their product out there. In return, movies receive great publicity by having their movie associated with a product that many people use.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Dark Knight

            In Hollywood today, product placement in movies, or the use of props and the filming of a scene that displays the company logo or product, is one of the hot topics in the film industry. The money paid to the studio or to the product’s company is reaching huge numbers for just a few seconds of airtime. Product placement is most often seen in lighter genres, such as romantic comedies and action films, and rarely in drama. However, in the recent “Dark Knight” Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan, the Lamborghini is an eye-catching reoccurring product throughout the series, especially the Lamborghini Murciealgo LP640 in The Dark Knight. The placement of the Lamborghini in The Dark Knight ads to the company’s reputation of designing a well-known, dependable cars that will make the owner a glamorous socialite, as well as enhancing the character development in the movie.
First, let me begin by saying that I know very little about cars. However, whether you or I know cars or not, anyone can recognize an expensive, luxury car, especially the Lamborghini. In Everything’s an Argument by Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz, the authors discuss how company symbols convey authority and provide credibility that the movie and the product they are trying to promote is well done (456). Lamborghini is a well-known brand, thus the audience is likely to be familiar with the brand prior to seeing the movie. After the car’s appearance in each of the Batman films with Christian Bale, specifically The Dark Knight, the car’ popularity grew even more. In Understanding Movies, Louis Giannetti discusses how movie stars and companies in Hollywood “attract the loyalty of both men and women” (257). Furthermore supplementing the ethos in the film, men and women who love Christian Bale and flashy cars flocked to the theater to witness the spectacle, therefore increasing ticket sales and the movie’s popularity. In addition to the spectacle of the car, the film and product can be strengthened by “visually [conveying] the image as effectively as possible” (Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz 60).The audience realizes that this dependable vehicle is a luxury car, owned and driven by the wealthy in society. Many wanted to become Batman, or be like the fictional superhero, believing that if they drive a Lamborghini, they could be like Batman and save the world.
            In addition to the audience’s want to be like Batman and drive a nice sports car, many men and women attached associations to the car in the context of the film. Martin Crispin Miller states, “most placements really flatter the product” (“Advertising”). Self-explanatory and true, the film and the product’s company have every right to flatter their product in the short amount of screen time. The film and the company have the intention of flattering the product, hence the point of the product placement.
The flattery of the Lamborghini can be seen in two scenes, in which the audience attaches associations. When Bruce Wayne arrives at a party, driving a Lamborghini convertible with two gorgeous women as his dates, the audience feels a desire and a hope to be rich and famous, stemming from the engrained, cultural belief that money will make you happy. Who doesn’t want to be rich, free to spend money and drive nice cars? Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz state that arguments seek “to rouse an emotion that will make [the audience] well disposed toward a particular message” (40). After seeing Bruce’s dazzling arrival with everything anyone could want, the audience yearns to be rich, drive nice cars, and have two gorgeous women, or two gorgeous men, as their dates. The studio used the Lamborghini to make the audience like Bruce because they wanted to emulate him, thus using the product placement to enhance the character development.
Another association made in the movie is that the Lamborghini will bring the owner fun and laughter. When Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler, asks Bruce if he will take the Batpod, to which Bruce responds the vehicle is not subtle enough, Alfred rebuts and asks if he will take the Lamborghini. Bruce does not respond, which Alfred takes as an affirmation, to which he mutters, “much more subtle.” Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz discuss how humor puts the audience “at ease, thereby making them more open to a proposal” (48). Evoking a chuckle or a smile from the audience, the viewers know that although the car will not be as noticeable as the Batpod, the Lamborghini will still stick out like a sore thumb, as, ultimately, neither the car nor the Batpod is subtle. The studio capitalizes on the notion that driving a Lamborghini will get someone noticed.
Lastly, the placement of the Lamborghini in The Dark Knight adds logic to the argument that Lamborghini is a luxury car driven by superheroes, like Batman, and supports the already fictional plot. In the film, the audience is able to deduce that the film is fictional and a fantasy, created for the enjoyment of the public. The car is not fictional, but the idea of Batman is not realistic. More importantly, Bruce owning a Lamborghini reinforces the belief that the car is a glamorous vehicle only owned by the rich and that the car will make your life awesome. Everything’s an Argument states that “some of the assumptions in an argument will be based on shared values derived from culture and history” (Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz 87). If the studio had Batman race the streets of Gotham in a mini-van, the public would have been furious, as culture has shaped the audience’s mind to imagine a superhero with nice cars. The car gives the fictional plot a believable vehicle equipped and fit for a wealthy, playboy star.
In conclusion, the placement of the Lamborghini in The Dark Knight added credibility, associations, and logic to the movie. The car allowed the audience to recognize a vehicle made for a hero, but still a human being, as anyone can own a Lamborghini. The car brought forward emotions of longing and a want to be wealthy. Lastly, the car added reality to a fictional plot. Overall, the placement of the car in the film advanced the argument and helped the film, rather than hindered. The car beckoned to the men in the audience, as I know many of my guy friends lusted after the car and placed it as their screen saver. Not only did the movie become a top box office ticket seller, but the car and the Lamborghini Company gained fame.