The "Avatar" Subplot: The Ugly Future of Product Placement

I enjoy mysteries solved through science, albeit sensationalized and heavily fictionalized representations of science, in the shows CSI, CSI: New York, House, Criminal Minds, and Bones. These are the shows that captivate my imagination, and my desire to one day save someone, be a hero, using my mind.  The characters give me hope by providing heroic archetypes mostly devoid of social skills, beauty, and brawn, while instead learnedness is unmockingly valued.

Perhaps I’m making too much out of nothing, but in Bones: “The Gamer in the Grease.” Season 5: Ep. 9, which I just finished watching on Hulu with left over at my desk, product placement was elevated from quick mostly benign references to surgery sodas and sports’ drinks to a subplot: the future release of James Cameron’s movie, “Avatar.” Dr. Jack Hodgins, Dr. Lance Sweets, and Colin Fisher (the Goth intern) are all excited to see the upcoming movie (as admitting am I). Fisher played the odds, won three tickets to an advance screening of “Avatar,” and invited both Hodgins and Sweets; but there is a catch.

Our three fanboys need to compete with other expectant fans for seats by waiting in one of those oh-God-I-have-to-have-it-first lines. They devise an elaborate system of watches, where one will hold their place in line while the other two are at work covering for the line holder. Like all true fans of anything, the waiting is all consuming, so the two who are at work find ways to participate by extension: using Angela Montenegro’s high-tech workstation to watch the trailer. The expected happens: they are caught, by Angela who kicks them out of her lab, even after Sweets attempts to justify their fanboy antics by weakly analyzing the film’s use of highly rendered and realistic animation.

After being caught, our fanboys attempt to better separate work and recreation, so the subplot must also shift. While Sweets is taking his shift holding their place in line, he is confronted by a sultry tattooed sex fend who lifts up her shirt and asks, “Would you like to see my tattoos?” However, Sweets is in a committed relationship and eventually resists her aggressive and over-the-top feminine whiles. Enter Fisher who has no relational commitments and you have get sex in a tent in a fanboy line (literally, a dream come true). What this tells me is that if I’m excited about “Avatar” and wait in line all day that there is a good chance that I will get to score with a sultry tattooed sex fend (or more likely, I would simply be surrounded by above average female eye candy).

If this it is starting to sound like the “Bones: Ep. 9” plot was solely focused on “Avatar,” it is because the subplot was so distracting to main plot, solving a murder, that it was difficult to focus on maintaining my suspension of disbelief. The heavy handed sales pitch, GO SEE “AVATAR” NOW, was so jarring that I was unable to enjoy the fiction, the story, the dream that only narrative can provide. It is my sincere, but diluted hope, that this type of intrusive, almost anachronistic form of marketing does not gain momentum or a foot hold in the TV industry. Sorry to say, I’m going to have to log this under: one more reason to never watch TV again.

1 comment:

Todd Wardrope said...

Hate to tell you, but for the time-being this kind of marketing is the "future".