As you might know (or maybe you donâ€™t because you donâ€™t care) the Screen Actorâ€™s Guild is currently in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (â€œAMPTPâ€) for our Television and Theatrical contracts. These agreements represent over 1 billion dollars in annual earnings and cover all SAG television and theatrical motion pictures.
As a proud, card-carrying SAG member, Iâ€™ve been reading up on the emails that SAG sends out, but admittedly, I donâ€™t pay too much attention. All I know is that the producers want to gyp the actors out of money in the new media. But a while back, I gave a cursory glance at Alan Rosenbergâ€™s (heâ€™s the president of SAG) List of SAG Priorities for the negotiations, and one bullet point jumped out at me:
â€¢ We [SAG] will address the alarming trend of â€œforced endorsementâ€ which has taken product placement to the next level by requiring members to do uncompensated commercials embedded in scripted content.
In simple terms, this means that an actor shows up on set for his TV show and is handed his script. He turns to page five and rehearses his scene that involves some dramatic turn, like he learns his sister is a robot; or maybe he finds out his wife is cheating on him. But then he skims toward the bottom of the page and reads the action lines: â€œJED picks up a Coca-Cola bottle, twists off the cap to a refreshing shzzzzz and pop! Then drinks and says, â€œNothing refreshes like a cold Coke.â€ Jed then turns to his friend and says, â€œDid I tell you Susanâ€™s a robot? Yeah, I just found out yesterday. So weird.â€
I rarely watch TV. No moral reason for this, itâ€™s really just a matter of taste. Most of whatâ€™s on is crap. So I didnâ€™t notice this trend of forced product placement into TV scripts that was outlined in the SAG List of Priorities.
But then my wife and I went to the Cinerama dome last night and saw IRON MAN. And guess what? About the middle of the way through act 1, our hero JOHN STARK is found in the desert, after escaping from the Afghan terrorists. Two U.S. helicopters hover above him as he collapses to his knees, thankful to be saved. Starkâ€™s best buddy jumps out of the helicopter, runs over and delivers a sappy line. Next CUT-TO Stark walking off a huge military cargo plane back in the U.S. Stark turns to his assistant and says he wants two things: â€œa press conference and a classic American cheeseburger.â€
A classic American Cheeseburger.
In the next scene, Stark gets out of his limousine wiping his mouth (because he just ate a classic American Cheeseburger) and then he holds his press conference. At the start of the press conference, he takes out another cheeseburger (I think he pulls it out of his jacket pocket), and now you clearly see from the wrapping that John Starkâ€™s classic American cheeseburger of choice is Burger King.
I watched Robert Downey Jr. sell Burger King smack dab in the middle of IRON MAN.
This is a big deal. This really gets me pissed. Regardless whether or not Iâ€™m in SAG, Iâ€™m speaking now just as a film lover, someone who considers going to the movies an important part of his life. And now Iâ€™m being subjected to commercials during my movie?!
Remember the old days when they first introduced commercials before the film played, and remember how everybody was up in arms? Theyâ€™re forcing commercials on us, we said. They have no right, we said. We are here precisely because weâ€™re sick of all the commercials on TV, we said. Someone just farted, we said. Or maybe I just said that when I was at JAW 3 and there were a lot of old people in the theater.
Itâ€™s fist-shaking time. I hereby declare that with every opportunity I am boycotting Burger King. As a film-goer, Burger King ruined my movie experience by making John Stark wolf down their cheeseburger. As a member of SAG, Burger King ruined my movie-going experience because they made Robert Downey Jr.- a great, great actor whoâ€™s working his way back to us, babe- Burger King made him eat their damn cheeseburger. They made him film a commercial while filming the movie. I wish I could have seen Robert Downey Jr.â€™s face when he turned to that page of the script and read: â€œStark PULLS out delicious cheeseburger from jacket pocket and takes savory bite.â€ But whatâ€™s Downey to do? The guyâ€™s career is just swinging back into motion, heâ€™s not going to ruffle feathers. At least not yet. Letâ€™s hope now that he has some mojo going, he throws a good, old-school hissy-fit next time they try to force him to peddle fast food thatâ€™s responsible for this countryâ€™s obesity epidemic, which is exponentially increasing the cases of type 2 juvenile diabetes.
Boycott Burger King. Talk about this affront, this travesty and this slap in your face. Hate Burger King for grabbing you by the throat and saying, â€œWhat are you going to do, peon? We have the big bucks, not you. If we want you to watch Iron Man eat one of our hoof/ear/tongue and tail burgers, then thatâ€™s whatâ€™s gonna happen. Now sit back, watch your movie and shut up.â€
Hate Burger King for their stupid-ass King mascot, who is just plain creepy. Remember the commercial where the King is in some guyâ€™s bed? The regular Joe wakes up and thereâ€™s the King, sitting next to him, with his big, goofy and creepy perma-smile. And then the King offers him a nasty morning crud-croissant filled with lard and burger boogers. Every time I watched that commercial I desperately wanted the regular Joe to suddenly cold cock the King and start whooping on him while screaming, â€œWho the f*ck are you and what the f*ck are you doing in my bed?!â€ And just pulverize the King. Because, really, wouldnâ€™t any normal person react that way if he woke up to some weird-looking, plastic-faced â€œKingâ€ sitting in bed next to him? A) Howâ€™d he get into my home; B) Whyâ€™s he wearing that ridiculous costume; C) What the hell does he want from me? Beat his ass down.
Iâ€™m starting my own campaign of action. I call it: â€œNegative Response Reactionâ€
NEGATIVE RESPONSE REACTION– A forced commercialâ€™s purpose is the same as any regular commercial: Place product, drive consumer buying. A NEGATIVE RESPONSE REACTION is the unintended consequence of a forced commercial. In a NRR, a negative emotion is evoked in the consumer, typically anger/hatred. This negative emotion creates in the consumer a sudden need to strike out against the product he was forced to view. The consumer employs grass-roots action in order to demote the product. The corporation is soon forced to take its King mascot to the backyard, shoot and bury.
Have you seen examples of forced product placement on TV shows? If so, tell me. Iâ€™d like to hear. And please, start practicing NRR freely and often!