...But you just can't make a good outcast like you used to.
Remember “third-party endorsements?" Getting influential people to pronounce their approve of a client was once thought to be the absolute brass ring in the PR biz. No more. Nowadays, if a junior account executive comes into your office with a scheme to get a client endorsed by some notable, well forget it. You've got no choice. It's obvious they're hopelessly clueless and you've got to let them go.
“You just don’t get it Jennifer. We're paid to get our clients market attention. No one gives a damn about Bambi anymore, Sweet Cheeks. Look at Paris Hilton! Look at Lindsay Lohan! Look at the Dixie Chicks for Christ's sake. It's all about creating controversy. Sex sells!!”
Today, the Dixie Chicks are more famous for being despised than they are for their songs. Given their new rep as brave and vocal soldiers of the First Amendment, the Chicks’ music is curiously pedestrian. Excuse me but they're more Dolly Parton than Marilyn Manson. But when country-music DJs and Republican politicians denounced them for dising President Bush, the Chicks immediately became one of the hottest acts in the country.
This was all recently documented by acclaimed filmmaker Barbara Kopple in her latest, "Shut Up and Sing." Kopple, who's won an Oscar portraying the downtrodden coalminers of Harlan County, Ky., knows virtuous martyrs when she sees them, even quadruple-platinum-record ones.
Unfortunately for the movie distributors, the Dixie Chicks’ CONTROVERSY was way back in 2003. Somehow, in the intervening three years, the gals have curiously avoided deportation and imprisonment. They weren't even reduced to playing seedy nightclubs or doing parking-lot tricks for 2 bits a throw. Nothing. Well today, hugely mundane turns out to be a huge PR problem.
So to get people to buy tickets in 2006, the producers needed to find a way to reignite the country hullabaloo. The Chicks needed to sin again. If this low budget film was gonna fly, they needed to be publicly punished again.
So, according to the New York Times, they produced an ad for the movie that just begged to be censored. As the Times describes it, in the ads, “the singer Natalie Maines refers to President Bush with an expletive and as ‘dumb.’” Sure enough, NBC and the CW Television Networks took the bait. They rejected the ads. Well, that's what the movie's distributor, The Weinstein Company, claims. And to be censored is almost as good as being hung by your thumbs at Abu Graibh. We're talkin' ink, ink, ink... boatloads for free publicity.
Harvey Weinstein immediately released a statement: "It's a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America. The idea that anyone should be penalized for criticizing the president is sad and profoundly un-American."
Well, not so fast. You just can't make a good outcast like you used to. According to Mark Urman of ThinkFilm, “I’m finding that a lot less of this is working,” he said. “The last film that was successfully sold with controversy at the root of its campaign was ‘Passion of the Christ,’ a film accused of anti-Semitism and then sold to a very large Christian population as ‘this film Jews don’t want you to see.’ It worked in a stunning way, by making it appear to be a beleaguered.”
Meanwhile, the Times reports that some filmmakers are bemoaning born-again Christian groups’ refusal to react as planned to their films. What's this world coming to?
Magnolia films had hoped to market “Jesus Camp” both to liberals who would be appalled by its seeming brainwashing of the Christian young, and to conservatives who would be proud. But an important Christian has quiety snubbed the film. The result was neither the support nor the vocal opposition the distributor was hoping for. Damn.
ThinkFilm is now distributing “Shortbus,” an unrated movie with hard-core sex. Urman says he has been shocked by the lack of resistance to it from the religious right. “They see you coming,” he said. “Conservatives don’t want to be used. And liberals are no more motivated to see something because conservatives are against it.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: PRSA BLACKLISTS CHAPEL, A NAKED STRUMPETTE REACTS
PR industry watchdog Amanda Chapel today released the following statement: “It’s a sad commentary about the level of fear in the PR industry that a blog written by a group of courageous industry insiders exercising their rights of free speech is now being blacklisted by the PRSA. The idea that anyone should be penalized for criticizing the CEOs of major PR firms and their blogging acolytes is sad and profoundly un-American.”
Damit, I am serious this time. I am sitting here totally naked! Hello!! Just what the hell does a bad girl have to do?!