Saturday, September 25, 2010

Inadvertent politicking

This November is going to be hard for Democrats. Everyone knows that.

Ironically, the rise of the conservative right-wing Tea Party may actually make it less hard for the Democrats than it should be. Some Tea Party candidates will certainly cannibalize seats that probably could have been won by mainstream Republicans.

But it will still be hard.

And the movie Megamind seems to inadvertently be making it harder, if only on a subconscious level.

I have started to see this eye-catching advertisement for the movie, due out November 5th, up around town. There's actually one just a few blocks from where I live. It works as kind of a subliminal introduction to the title character of the movie, without it being 100% clear that it's a movie being advertised. In fact, it works kind of like a political advertisement.

An inadvertent negative advertisement against the already embattled Obama administration.

The "No You Can't" slogan in the Megamind poster is obviously a play on Barack Obama's famous "Yes We Can" presidential campaign of 2008. The design echoes the design of the most iconic image of Obama presented at that time, which was designed by prominent graphic artist Shepard Fairey, who was also responsible for the Andre the Giant sticker campaign. I've included it here for your reference, in case you're one of the many Americans who has already forgotten, just two years later, that change is not immediate, and that the candidate you supported then is still the same guy now, still trying to do the same things. That poster campaign most often read "Hope" instead of "Yes We Can," but the Megamind poster wouldn't work quite as well, I think, with Hope's opposite at the bottom: "Despair."

Unfortunately, this poster, while likely intended only as a clever visual pun, may help that sense of despair sink deeper into the electorate. See, this poster has an unfortunate real sense of truth, one that is probably totally accidental. Before the 2008 elections, we really thought we could; now, we don't think we can at all, and it all seems like a cruel joke. (I haven't given up hope; I say "we" to describe you ideological sell-outs who want to jump ship on Obama so quickly.)

What's worse is that because it doesn't immediately announce itself as a movie poster, the Megamind poster could read to some people as an actual political advertisement put forth by the right, in which Obama's face is warped into that of a sadistic alien on the verge of maniacal laughter. This would advance the conservative agenda in another way, since the conservatives have always been trying to make Obama seem like an outsider, an "alien," who is not entitled to the presidency, from questioning whether he was actually born in this country, to accusing him of being a practicing Muslim, to using his middle name (Hussein) every time they refer to him.

Then there's the little issue of timing. Megamind hits theaters only three days after the mid-term elections on November 2nd. That means that this "No You Can't" advertising campaign, should they continue using it, might only get more prevalent as the political season heats up, and as the Democrats' control of the senate and the house becomes ever more flimsy. The last thing Obama supporters on the fence need to see, as they're driving to the polls, is one final repudiation of the ideals of the president they voted for two years ago.

So how did this happen?

Like I said, it was surely an accident. If you're looking only at the three main vocal actors in the cast -- Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt and Tina Fey -- you have three very definite liberals. I mean, Brad Pitt adopts African babies and Tina Fey mocks Sarah Palin. How much more liberal can you get?

But of course, we all know that actors have as little to do with the campaigns for their movies as writers or directors or key grips do. So you have to look at the studio, really: Dreamworks. That's right, the company launched by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffery Katzenberg. Three dyed-in-the-wool liberals. According to wikipedia, Geffen has been a big financial supporter of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Katzenberg has made 95% of his political contributions to Democrats and less than 1% to Republicans, and Spielberg is ... well, Spielberg. Suffice it to say, if people in the marketing department are going rogue, they won't keep their jobs for very long.

So am I the only one who looked at this poster and thought that it could hurt the Democratic party?

If you asked Tina Fey what she thought of all this, she'd probably say "Lighten up. It's just a movie. And, it's funny."

She'd be right about the last part. But I think she'd be wrong if she were implying that this poster has no possibility of contributing to the din of negativity directed toward Democrats.

If the best advertising is subliminal advertising, then Megamind may be subliminally helping overthrow the politics of hope, and inadvertently helping put Sarah Palin in the White House in 2012.

Who knows -- maybe Fey just wants more work doing her Palin impersonation.


Daddy Geek Boy said...

I can't imagine anyone, even Glenn Beck, who would look at the Megamind poster and think that's Obama.

I give them credit for trying to do something different. At least it's not the bland poster for The Switch.

Vancetastic said...

Ah, you picked up on my exaggeration for the sake of rhetoric. My point was not actually that it's supposed to be or to look like Obama, but that the whole campaign reminds us of Obama's "failings" at a very inopportune time. The fact that it's an alien, and the way that relates to Obama in direct or indirect ways, is a coincidence. But you can't say my reading is totally far-fetched.

And for the record, although I did not include this in the piece, I too think this is a good ad campaign, it just has this unfortunate side effect.

Vancetastic said...

Also, what did you find particularly bland about The Switch that was worse than most bland posters?

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Vance...Didn't see the movie, but the poster was boring an unimaginative.

Vancetastic said...

I just think that's a curious film to target, because the poster that I'm looking at actually does a pretty good job of summarizing what's going on in the film. On the top, there's Jennifer Aniston looking shocked -- which would certainly be her reaction when she realizes Jason Bateman has switched his sperm for the other donor's. Then at the bottom there's Bateman looking at a donor cup with an expression that suggests he's planning to do something unsavory. Would you rather just have had Bateman and Aniston standing next to each other and smiling?

I guess I just feel like there are a lot of other posters that are a lot more lame.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

A movie poster is meant to pique your curiosity about a movie with one image. In LA, I find that I'm exposed to these images as I'm speeding by in my car. Most people only give posters a cursory glance. So the image should be arresting and telling.

I found the Switch poster didn't tell me anything. Jason Bateman looked like he was smelling something bad. Had I not known about the plot of the movie, the poster would have done nothing to tell me anything about it.

Maybe it was being raised in the 80s with Drew Struzan's amazing poster work that's spoiled me.