Camille Reyes

Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

A Fallen Football Hero

In Advertising on January 29, 2010 at 4:40 am

My first question when it comes to controversy is, “Who paid for it?”  This question and the answer are at the center of my anger about an advertisement set to appear on the Super Bowl, starring Florida Gator football legend Tim Tebow and his mother.  Notice I’m not calling the ad anti-abortion or anti-choice.  On the surface, the ad actually sounds like a celebration of life; I can get behind that.  No, the happy shiny message tarnishes the instant I get the answer to who paid for it: Focus on the Family.

Focus on the Family uses that kind of Bush administration, Karl Rovian evil genius language we were numbed by for so many years.  You remember, stuff like the Clean Air Act that actually relaxed pollution controls or the Patriot Act that actually took away more freedoms than it preserved.  Focus on the Family would have you believe they exist to strengthen our nation’s families, to promote love and community.  Annnngh (buzzer sound), thank you for playing.  Focus on the Family only wants to support families consisting of one man and one woman (preferably at home & pregnant) with children, all of whom Bible thump in an exclusive way.  Their definition of love is narrow and dangerous.  Now if they just stopped at supporting their kind of family, I would be less vocal in my opposition to them.  No, this organization-this cyclops of love-engages in buckets of hatred.

For a look at this in action, I encourage you to rent the documentary For the Bible Tells Me So.  You’ll see how a focus on their kind of family actively rips apart actual living breathing families with gay children.  You’ll see their brand of love in action.  The word ‘brand’ reminds me–this ad is going to be played on the Super Bowl on CBS–a branding bonanza.  Times must be tough for CBS to interrupt the ad beer pong long enough for a public service message.  Free speech advocates get their panties in a bunch (mine included) when you suggest that this might not be the appropriate venue.  Again, I’m not even calling this an anti-abortion ad, but I am calling the organization who paid for it some choice names.  I also have to raise an eyebrow at CBS who conveniently changed their “no advocacy commercials during the Super Bowl” rule AFTER this commercial came their way.  They just want to make a buck you say?  Well, due to the timing of their decision, they made sure it would be next to impossible for a counter organization to raise the funds to pay for a response.  In other words, they could’ve made even more money, but for some reason (read: politics), they chose not to rake in any extra cash.

The NPR story I linked to in the first paragraph drives home the fact that most people do not want to watch any kind of advocacy messages during the big game.  It is the one time of year when people actually enjoy watching commercials, when the ad agencies put forth their most creative work in the hopes of selling more cheese powdered, carbonated goodness.  Clearly, Focus on the Family wants to take advantage of the broad audience and of their great pawn, Tim Tebow.  Many of you know I’m a vocal Florida Gator football fan; my parents met and married at the university.  Even non-fans are aware of Tebow’s missionary zeal, a characteristic well covered in the press.

Until this incident, I supported his unusually mature and seemingly loving devotion off the field.  Of course, I supported his unprecedented performance in the shot gun at the Swamp, too.  How sad for me personally then that the man they dubbed Superman, #15, has aligned himself with one of the most wicked organizations on the planet.  I’m glad Tebow’s mom gave birth to him, as is the rest of Gator Nation no doubt.  I just wish I could be ignorant of this unfortunate detail.  In a sort of reverse Tiger Woods, I long for my sports heroes to keep it on the field.

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Papa Smurf at the Pulpit

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2010 at 9:17 pm

The day after the Golden Globes and I just wish the media elite would give James Cameron a break.  He doesn’t need the break; he’ll be just fine with his awards and billions, yet I am annoyed at what some of the press and other intellectuals do not see in Cameron’s work.  That being said, I do agree with the sentiment so eloquently expressed by David Brooks.  Avatar is another white messianic tale of saving people in the way the white man thinks is best.  This is a time honored, disturbing trend and I do not take it lightly.  However, Cameron’s science fiction masterpiece (yes, I said it) deserves much praise not only for its jaw dropping special effects (a Cameron specialty), but also for its power as a piece of propaganda.

Propaganda is a problematic word more often connoting Nazi Germany in our society than anything else, but I define it differently.  Well, at least I think my definition is different.  I have not studied this type of communication yet, and my sense of humor aside, I never viewed the kind of PR I did for my clients as propaganda.  I see propaganda as a powerful tool of persuasion, an instrument that deftly hides the complexity of various issues to meet the ends of its makers.  Avatar, imperialism aside, is a sort of preaching to the choir, or “good” propaganda.  Most among liberal Hollywood, the press and my personal friend list do not need to be persuaded that putting people and trees before oil interests is a very good thing.  We sing Cameron’s tune here even while we look down our overeducated noses at his gross, overstated script.  We don’t like to be whacked in the head.

The trouble is we listen to our tune with equal thumping from the likes of The Daily Show or other more hip sources all the time.  Stewart and his gang distort as much as the Fox gang, although I believe they go about this distortion in a more ethical, modern journalistic manner.  From screenplays to “fake news,” storytellers make gobs of choices.  The stuff on the cutting room floor (what a quaint cliche´that has become) contains layers of information that someone does not want you to see.  The art house film lovers among us, myself included, yawn at Cameron’s script choices–the static depiction of the military in Avatar, and the predictable plot.  We stomp our feet and hurl blue tinged insults at Cameron.  Yet, we are not normal and we are not special.  Who among us doesn’t break people, States, ideas into red and blue?  Our idealistic melting pot is burning at the bottom, replaced with a dangerous, political game of Red Rover en masse.  I am no better.  I cringe at every person who would impinge upon my right to marry the future person I will love.  Imagine if I actually wanted to wed this person now?  How much more intense would I feel?  My cutting room is already littered with evil “family values” rhetoric that I can’t stomach.  It is pretty simple to me.

My point is that before we take a collective piss on a film that actually has a message of change, unity and hope in the face of certain evil, maybe we should pause and reflect; pick a different tree.  Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to pay my $12 to see Colin Firth get his gay man on in what sounds like a complex, richly rewarding film.  But I’m also going to admire the world Cameron and his cast/crew created with dazzling skill.  Hollywood also begat Mel Gibson, the anti-Cameron.  Maybe we desperately need this kind of Cameron-esque preaching as a counter-measure?  He could be winning hearts and minds to “our” side.  Am I contradicting myself?  Didn’t I just say such simple divisions were destroying us?  Yes and no.

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Before my first screening of Avatar in the tiny rural town of Brooksville, Florida where my grandmother lives, my entire family was treated to a jingoistic, frothy brouhaha of an advertisement for the U.S. military.  The media buyers assume that people are stupid, that the military industrial complex so simplistically portrayed in Cameron’s film could not possibly resemble our own military.  I hope by the power of good old-fashioned American storytelling that the media buyers are wrong and that our propaganda is better than theirs.  It just might take bigger cinematic guns, three dimensions and giant Smurfs.  If Avatar persuaded even one potential recruit not to enlist in a military that too easily trades blood for oil, that too easily sacrifices a disproportionate number of poor people, then I say give Cameron the Oscar, just not for screenwriting ;).

P.S. James, for the love of huge trees, please stop using James Horner to score your films.  I can defend your scripts (see above), but there is no defense for an endless loop of My Heart Will Go On.