For sheer surreality you gotta love Hollywood. And I’m not even talking about the films. Two PR-worthy Hollywood moments to remark upon today. First, the imminent arrival of the needless remake of cold war teen action flick Red Dawn has finally caught the attention of the Chinese press. Western media are reporting that the chest-thumping Global Times has published not one but two editorials slamming the movie:
“U.S. reshoots Cold War movie to demonize China” and “American movie plants hostile seeds against China,” read the Monday and Tuesday editorials in the Beijing-based Global Times, whose daily circulation, in Chinese and English editions, is about 1.5 million.
Coming on the heels of secretary of state Hilary Clinton’s China visit, the commentaries said the $42 million film, directed by Dan Bradley and starring Connor Cruise (son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman), “is deeply rooted in Americans’ fear of China’s rise.”
“Despite the world’s focus on U.S.-China relations in the strategic and economic dialogue and their increasing economic connections, China can still feel U.S. distrust and fear, especially among its people. Americans’ suspicions about China are the best ground for the hawks to disseminate fear and doubt, which is the biggest concern with the movie ‘Red Dawn,’” one commentary said.
Well, maybe. Imagethief prefers to think that the remake of Red Dawn is rooted less in Americans’ “fear of China’s rise” than in Hollywood’s lack of imagination and desire to make a buck. But there may be some relationship between the two. I also understand the knee jerk instinct to issue fierce denunciations of the film in the interest of national pride, global harmony, etc. And considering that there was some chatter about this film here in China last March I’m actually kind of surprised it took this long.
Nevertheless, once again the best PR advice in this situation would have been to shut up. From Hollywood’s point of view, having the nationalist cousin of the People’s Daily rail against the film is better marketing than getting a picture of Connor Cruise with an assault rifle and one of those tractor-pull girls stamped on the forehead of every teenage boy in America. The US press is bound to report on it and it will do nothing but stoke the buzz of the movie back home. This is yet another classic example of “PRing the problem”. Even assuming the objective is to show domestic audiences that the powers-that-be are appropriately outraged, it’s counterproductive on some level.
But Imagethief isn’t just here to criticize. Like all good consultants (or, former consultants), I come bearing solutions! There is a far, far better way for the Chinese to combat these kinds of silly, sinophobic movies. A way that would make Sun Tzu himself stroke his beard in appreciation. That is for the Chinese to seed their spies throughout Hollywood, use blackmail and honey-traps to build influence in the great Hollywood talent agencies and, whenever they get word that a project they don’t like is going into develop, use their leverage to ensure that Kevin Costner gets attached to it. Problem solved.
Speaking of Kevin Coster, who has apparently invested heavily in the development of a technology for helping to clean up oil spills, that brings us to our next topic: The great oil spill. (Imagethief is good for artful segues, if little else.) For some reason, this spill has been bringing the Hollywood technologists out of the woodwork. James Cameron, director of a relentless string of uber-hits and serial inventor of motion picture technologies, recently offered his expertise to BP, who are currently wrestling with a small problem at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, BP’s string of recent failure is something like the mirror-world reflection of Cameron’s own success. From the New York Times:
“Over the last few weeks I’ve watched, as we all have, with growing horror and heartache, watching what’s happening in the Gulf and thinking those morons don’t know what they’re doing,” Cameron said at the All Things Digital technology conference.
Cameron, the director of “Avatar” and “Titanic,” has worked extensively with robot submarines and is considered an expert in undersea filming. He did not say explicitly who he meant when he referred to “those morons.”
His comments came a day after he participated in a meeting at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington to “brainstorm” solutions to the oil spill.
Cameron said he has offered to help the government and BP in dealing with the spill. He said he was “graciously” turned away by the British energy giant.
Well, after calling them “morons”, he’s not likely to be invited back. Nevertheless, as the article points out, Cameron’s involvement is not as totally ridiculous as it appears at first 3D look. The guy has backed a lot of underwater R&D. Arguably, investing in the development of remotely operated vehicles for filming is not quite the same as remotely operated vehicles for capping runaway oil wells, but nevertheless it wasn’t totally zany. If you think of him as an “underwater documentarian” it all makes much more sense than if you think of him as “director of Avatar“. Forgive me, but I’m a PR man. This is how my mind works.
I can, however, understand why BP turned the guy down. This is Jim Cameron we’re talking about, after all. Whatever you think about his movies, the guy is a force of nature. I mean, what if he actually fixed it? Headline: Hollywood director rescues flailing oil firm. BP would be finished. Forever.
The ocean be damned, that was a PR risk they just couldn’t take.