“Stadium Seating” is a weekly film column that will be run over the remainder of the summer
There’s something to be said about the over-reactionary newscasters and newswriters who have stirred the David Manning episode into a veritable whirlwind scandal. We’re talking about Hollywood here folks, not Watergate. If this were a movie, you wouldn’t cast Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffmann, rather Bronson Pinchot and Tom Arnold and you would run it on TNT, at three in the morning.
In case you’re not up to date on the gritty details, it was revealed last week that Sony/Columbia Pictures ran complimentary quotes from David Manning of the Ridgefield Press on posters for the summer movies “A Knight’s Tale” and “The Animal.” Not following? There is a joke that goes: The Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, a smart blonde and David Manning are all in a room and someone drops a dollar bill on the floor. Who gets to the dollar first?
You get the point — David Manning is about as real as Keyser Soze. He was dreamt up by Matthew Cramer, a director of creative advertising for Sony/Columbia Pictures, as an in-joke shout-out to a college friend, and a rather unfunny one at that — he could of at least let the rest of us in on the joke. Nonetheless, an investigation revealed that Sony/Columbia had been using the ads and Cramer received a mild slap-on-the-hand suspension.
The real tragedy, however, has been the reaction this week to the so-called news that two Sony/Columbia Pictures employees had acted in a testimonial commercial for the Mel Gibson vehicle, “The Patriot.” You know, the ones where jolly couples, brimming with joy from their amazing experience, stroll out of a movie theater and advise the world to run out and see whatever movie it be. The response from not only the media, but the public as well, has been a resounding jaw-dropping — the kind you would expect if you were to tell a room full of four-year-olds that Santa Claus wasn’t real.
The hypocritical entertainment industry has lambasted the perpetrators and taken a defensive “how could they ever?” stance. Entertainment writers and studio heads have acted nothing short of appalled.
In Florida, a couple is suing on the grounds that they were tricked by Manning’s glowing review into seeing “The Animal.” There is a class-action suit in progress by Los Angeles filmgoers, the Connecticut attorney general is investigating and the Federal Trade Commission is debating action. You might be thinking the FTC must have something slightly more important to be doing, but apparently you’re wrong.
Knowing there was something inherently wrong about attacking Sony/Columbia for its actions, it took a late-night Mickey Rooney infomercial for Value Guard Life Insurance to find my focus on the situation. In bold and surprisingly visible letters at the bottom of the screen was a note that Rooney was, indeed, a “compensated endorser.” Well, now that’s where Sony slipped up. They should have let us know. Right?
Wrong. Are we not, after what seems like eons of television, familiar with the concept of advertising and endorsements yet? Do we really believe that any commercial actor is really as enthusiastic about a product as he or she acts? Do we believe that Michael Jordan munches only Wheaties for breakfast, prefers McDonald’s for lunch and always washes it down with a bottle of Gatorade? Chances are Jordan didn’t eat a single Big Mac in his entire playing career.
The reality of it is, Jordan was and is an employee of McDonalds, Nike, BallPark Franks, Gatorade and so on. He made quite a considerable amount more from his endorsements than he ever did playing ball in Chicago.
So, why can Michael Jordan get away with faking an orgasm over a Big Mac, but Sony/Columbia Pictures can’t pay its employees to say how great their movies are? Some will argue that the Sony testimonial commercials were especially deceptive in that they never make mention of their “movie viewers” actually being paid employees. Well, for every pair of $150 Air Jordans that I ever bought, I scarcely recollect any commercial that drew my attention to the fact that his Airness was being paid quite handsomely for tricking me into buying the damn things.
So, in response to the handful of opportunistic leaches who have dropped lawsuits on Sony/Columbia Pictures in the past week, I thought it might be productive to make an inventory of all the companies I will be suing when I get around to it.
For one, I am pretty sure I can prove Rosie O’Donnell doesn’t enjoy shopping at K-Mart quite as much as she says she does, so I’ll start with her. Eventually, I plan to attack Brittney Spears, who really convinced me that Pepsi was the best soft drink, and then maybe I’ll get on the backs of all those intelligent sounding actors who do voice-overs for luxury cars and investment banking companies. Watch out.