In the ever-sarcastic "color me surprised" category, we present the story of a clueless major entertainment studio and its ability to advertise its diverse films with tact and sensitivity.
I don't normally get too worked up over local protests since I rarely know enough about either side of the issue to offer an opinion of my own. In this case, however, I have to side with the protestors.
Paramount has made a film. No big deal, since that's one of Paramount's alleged core competencies. The film is called "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," and it has a decidedly street-violent theme. In fact, nothing I've read about the film so far compels me in any way to go see this one. Having seen some of the advertising for the film I can assure you that neither I nor my family will be subjected to this glorification of gangsta life. But it is the advertising that the protestors are targeting.
Specifically, protestors in South Central Los Angeles - an area especially prone to gangs and their attendant killing lust - are complaining about the presence of a billboard for the movie showing a microphone in one hand and a gun in the other. As I heard it on a local radio report, the billboard is highly visible from a day care center, and in an area where gun-related homicides have occurred recently. The protestors represent those few people still living in South Central who understand all too well that movies like this will do nothing to alleviate the problems they face every hour of every day. They'd like nothing better than to see the gangs go elsewhere, but know they're fighting a seemingly insurmountable evil. The gangs want us to believe that this movie means there's always hope. No one besides the gangs and liberal apologists buys into that argument.
Paramount, being in favor of making money on their projects, has declined to comment thus far on this little hiccup. Needless to say, they see no correllation between the billboard and violence in the streets of Los Angeles. It would only be the tiniest of coincidences that some hood gets tanked up on the substance of the day, sees the billboard, and decides that a shooting spree is just what the doctor ordered to relieve his stress. Yessir, and serves 'em right for being on his turf in the first place. Paramount will argue that the violence is always there, and that in no way was the billboard intended to glorify senseless violence. Except for the fact that the movie fronts the idea that (as most of us have long suspected) many rappers probably get their starts by being gangsta drug pushers before becoming millionaire recording stars, I might agree with them. As it is, I'm not quite convinced in this case.
You see, the movie's appeal will be largely to the hip-hop/rap crowd, not a few of whom seem to find street violence as a perfectly acceptable way to express their inner feelings. Paramount knows that it would be throwing away perfectly good advertising dollars to mount such a billboard in your average conservative community. Any first year marketing student knows that you target your advertising where it's most likely to sell, and the gangstas live in communities like South Central.
That's who's going to see the movie, and that's where I have absolutely no plans to be any time soon. Especially not after this movie opens. In the meantime, I'm hoping Paramount will find some semblance of a clue in the future.
I won't hold my breath.