Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Controversy as marketing?

John Scalzi thinks that the producer's dismay at the lack of response from US distributors to Creation, his film based on the life of Charles Darwin, might just be a marketing ploy:
The “oh, it’s too controversial for Americans” comment is, I suspect, a bit of face-saving rationalization from a producer flummoxed that such an obvious bit of Oscar-trollery such as this film has been to date widely ignored by the people he assumed would fall over themselves to have such a thing. Or, if the producer is actually smart rather than whiny, it could also be a clever spot of positioning. A bit of controversy would actually be lovely for this film; it’ll get it talked about, which means lots of press and so on, and more awareness of the film in the movie industry.
Hmm, perhaps. I live close enough to South Carolina* to know that the producer is absolutely correct that it will be controversial in some parts, but I don't suppose the Confederate South's a major part of the market he's shooting for. And maybe stirring up a controversy is a good way to perk up the ears of distributors. I certainly hope he succeeds; there are screens in Asheville for it, no doubt, and I became a fan of 19th century costume dramas before the heyday of Merchant-Ivory, so I'll be there popcorn in hand.

On the other hand, I'm afraid I'd skip it altogether if the producer decided to remake it in the form Scalzi thinks American distributors would find more attractive:
Maybe if Charles Darwin were played by Will Smith, was a gun-toting robot sent back from the future to learn how to love, and to kill the crap out of the alien baby eaters cleverly disguised as Galapagos tortoises, and then some way were contrived for Jennifer Connelly to expose her breasts to RoboDarwin two-thirds of the way through the film, and there were explosions and lasers and stunt men flying 150 feet into the air, then we might be talking wide-release from a modern major studio.
Hmm, Jennifer Connelly ... He might have a point. Well, maybe I'd watch it when it came out on DVD, anyway, so I could skip through the scenes robotic mayhem and explosions.

(via John Hawkes)

* It's Mo Dowd, but when she's right, she's right.

And just in case her op-ed should disappear into the Times archive with a different link, here's the gist of what she had to say:

For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.

The state that fired the first shot of the Civil War has now given us this: Senator Jim DeMint exhorted conservatives to “break” the president by upending his health care plan. Rusty DePass, a G.O.P. activist, said that a gorilla that escaped from a zoo was “just one of Michelle’s ancestors.” Lovelorn Mark Sanford tried to refuse the president’s stimulus money. And now Joe Wilson.

“A good many people in South Carolina really reject the notion that we’re part of the union,” said Don Fowler, the former Democratic Party chief who teaches politics at the University of South Carolina. He observed that when slavery was destroyed by outside forces and segregation was undone by civil rights leaders and Congress, it bred xenophobia.

“We have a lot of people who really think that the world’s against us,” Fowler said, “so when things don’t happen the way we like them to, we blame outsiders.” He said a state legislator not long ago tried to pass a bill to nullify any federal legislation with which South Carolinians didn’t agree. Shades of John C. Calhoun!
Not to pick too much on a neighbor, but South Carolina is one of those states where the teaching of evolution remains under constant attack.

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