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Wednesday April 11, 2001

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'Blow' this

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By Maggie Burnett

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Film industry sending wrong message with negative promotions

Try to remember the days when posters and trailers were all it took to draw audiences to movies.

Hard to do, isn't it?

These days, catchy consumerism seems to be the only way to get ahead in the movie industry. Although movies are given ratings so that children are not allowed to be influenced by negative images, movie advertisements are not.

Thus asserts the fine line between the movie industry and the form of promotions used to popularize it.

Take, for example, the new Johnny Depp movie, "Blow" - the intellectually driven story of the collapse of a real-life cocaine empire in the 1970s. Promoters for "Blow" distributed small mirrors to various people hanging out in bars and at sporting events.

Critics claim the mirrors, stereotypically used as cutting boards for cocaine, promote the use of harmful drugs.


Even though the movie is intentionally rated "R" because it contains pervasive drug content and language, some violence and sexuality, the form of advertising used to promote the movie - in this case, psuedo-drug paraphernalia - is not rated. There is nothing which prevents a child (or a grade-A idiot, for that matter) from drawing the wrong conclusion about the form of promotions used to advertise "Blow."

Come on, people - the movie is about the trafficking of illegal substances, a.k.a. cocaine. It's not like the movie promoters decided to hand out mirrors so people could check out their hair.

And then there's the recent release of the movie "Tomcats," a film about a group of friends that made a bet to give the last bachelor in the group a ton of money.

The promoters are selling this one using the tag line, "Last man standing gets the kitty."

Right - and the word "kitty" isn't associated with a certain part of the female anatomy that might just rhyme with "wussy."

And as if the tag line wasn't enough to drive the promotion home, the people at "Tomcats" distributed boxer briefs with the same tag line written across the elastic waistband of the shorts.

What kind of a message is this sending to children? Mommy and Daddy might not allow their kids to go see "Tomcats" in the theater, but there sure as hell isn't anything that prevents the kids from seeing the promotional boxers and posing the question, "Mommy, do I get to have a 'kitty' too?"

OK - so maybe it can't necessarily be argued that the distribution of boxer briefs promotes sexual activity, but distributing mirrors for a movie about coke? Gimme a break.

"Blow" movie promoters claim the public is intelligent enough to understand the difference between a witty advertisement and a blatant promotion for drug use.

"Anyone who sees 'Blow' recognizes that this highly acclaimed film does not promote or glorify the use of drugs," said Steve Elzer, senior vice president of New Line's corporate communications.

I beg to differ.

Skirting the issue, Elzer says nothing about the movie's distribution of mirrors to promote the film, or to what audiences these promotions are being directed toward.

Instead, he focuses on the content of the "highly acclaimed" movie, asserting that intelligent viewers will understand that it is just a film.

Whoever said the majority of the viewing audience was intelligent, or of legal age, for that matter?

There is a reason why films are previewed and given a rating. So why aren't advertisements given a rating as well? Who's to say the people receiving "Blow" mirrors at the bars aren't going to take that mirror home to their curious little kids?

I can just see it now - "Mommy, why does that mirror say 'Blow' on it? What do they use it for?"

To snort cocaine, honey.

Just because the movies are rated as indecent for children does not mean that promotional material could not slip into the hands of these same kids. Although the movie industry has attempted to produce movies of an intellectual and informative nature, the advertising used to promote these films is influencing the public in a negative manner.