I was excited as the next Star Wars fan to get a sneak peek this week of the new “The Dog Strikes Back” Volkswagen ad that’s set to debut at the Super Bowl. Like the big hit of last year, “The Force,” a clever ad that featured a Darth Vader-dressed kid frustrated when his Dark Side powers don’t work (until Dad makes his day by starting up the family’s VW Passat with his remote), I was thrilled to see how my beloved Star Wars franchise might be subtly referenced this year.
So when I watched till the end of 2012′s entry (and yes, you have to watch till the end), to the moment where the pumped-up-dog-chasing-the-car commercial suddenly cuts to a replica Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, I chuckled to myself at the whole world-warping, reality-fantasy meta-joke Madison Avenue is playing on us. “Oh, those funny ad folks,” I thought to myself. “Oh, that George Lucas (or, minions of George Lucas).” I felt that surge of geeky glee that only a fan can feel when all of his or her buttons are being pushed, tweaked and twiddled.
But then I thought, “No. Wait a minute. This is horrible.”
George Lucas, I didn’t think you could sell out any further. But you did. For while a mash-up can be fun, playful and ironic, the idea of erecting billboards inside our cinematic fantasies goes too far. Get your stinking paws off my memories, you damned dirty Mad Men!
I know. I overreact. But here’s the thing. I don’t generally object to companies merchandizing the heck out of every Lego, Halloween costume and Happy (or Sad) Meal. Go to town, I say. Clone away. Even if it’s clear that Lucas will try anything to suck every gazillion from his seemingly bottomless IP, I liked the kid-as-Darth-Vader ad. Harmless, right? I liked the new “teaser” ad featuring dogs barking out the tune of the Imperial Death March, aka “the Bark Side.” (Yes, it’s ridiculous that we now have ads that tease ads that are going to be featured at the Super Bowl – a fact made more ironic when, in fact, the ads are leaked a week in advance, so the whole point of watching the Super Bowl to see new ads has become moot. But I digress.) And I’m even cool with the recent cartoon ad of Yoda and Darth Maul shilling for Brisk iced tea. So cute!
I don’t even mind (too much) that Volkswagens and iced tea have absolutely nothing to do with anything in the Star Wars universe. Sure, if there was a real beverage company like Pepsi that wanted to market, say, that weird blue-green liquid, “Bantha milk,” that Luke, Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen are drinking in Episode IV, then a cute commercial with Darth Maul and Yoda battling next to a giant soda machine and Bantha Milk spilling all over poor Darth Maul would make more sense. Not like that’s going to happen. (“Hello Lucasfilm? I’ve got this great new idea for a sports drink. It’s got caffeine. And ginkgo biloba. And BLUE MILK … Hello? Hello?”)
Back to the VW ad. Here’s my gripe. It’s one thing to see a cute kid dressed like Vader trying out his evil powers in the real world. Or a choir of dogs barking Star Wars theme music in the real world. But what is not cool is to remake a scene from a beloved movie – down to every eerie detail and character – and have those characters and scenes and places exist fully in the fantasy world – in this case, the cantina – in order to sell us a real-world product. A flipping car.
Certain lines should not be crossed.
Check out this new commercial. The dog chasing the car ends, and we pull back from that “real world” to see that, in fact, we’ve been watching the ad on a TV screen in a “fantasy world,” in the Mos Eisely cantina (which, if you recall, unlike every drinking establishment in America, did not have TV screens above the bar). You see the weird guy with the deformed face, the same one who antagonizes Luke with the line “I don’t like you,” and brags that he has a “death sentence on twelve systems.” (Turns out his character’s name is Doctor Cornelius Evazan. I love the Internet.) There’s the “Walrusman” (aka Ponda Baba), whose face looks half-fly, half-baboon butt. We see old “Hammerhead” (remember him?), and the white-furred, yeti-like “Muftak” with the straw-like probosis, and a other key favorite cantina-dwellers. We even get a glimpse of those big-brained, swinging alien band mates, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, and hear their musical “cantina theme” number. The production values are as good, if not better, than the 1977 original. Cool … or creepy?
Then, Doctor Cornelius Evazan and the generic pilot guy next to him argue over which ad is better, the Vader kid or the dog. “Danger, danger,” you think.
“The dog is funnier than the Vader kid.” Vader disagrees.
Then enters Darth Vader, into the cantina (where, incidentally, in the real Star Wars, he never once set foot). Not a fake Darth Vader. Not a kid dressed up like Darth Vader. Not a cartoon Vader. For all intents and purposes, he IS Darth Vader. Real. He’s even got the heavy scuba-like breathing. And he’s in the “real” cantina. It’s yourcantina, remember, as much as it is Lucas’s.
Vader’s makes his psionic choke move on the Doctor. All is quiet except the gurgling sound of him gasping. The music stops. The argument ends, and Vader releases the Doctor from his death grip. Then we get the happy Volkswagen logo, and the cantina returns to normal.
Mr. Lucas, you’ve disappointed me for the last time. Once again.
Don’t get me wrong. I love fan films. Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager is wonderful, as is the recent crowd-sourced Star Wars remake project. These are homages. Love letters. Testimonials. They are fun, and making fun, as a way to honor how much Star Wars and the Lucas creation has influenced and warped and informed us all. But they aren’t ads. They don’t exist to sell a product. And they don’t attempt to recreate, and then wreck, a sacred memory of a place we’ve all seen in a movie and inhabited in our imaginations and now see in our mind’s eyes. What I call “memory-places.”
Yes, I know these are fantasy places, but they are real places in many of our hearts and minds. Is there nothing sacred anymore? Must everything be reduced to selling things?
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially when the lesson of Star Wars always was that material things did not matter? That the Force, that belief and hope mattered, not new automobiles?
I object to this travesty, in the same way I would object to a car ad for a Range Rover featuring Elijah Wood and Sean Astin driving across New Zealand in hobbit regalia to destroy the Ring of Power. In the same way I would draw the line at a commercial showing a perfect replica of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, only so that Kirk, McCoy and Spock could hawk the benefits of a laxative or anti-depressant. Or how about an ad chock with every beloved actor from the Harry Potter movies – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, etc. – all dancing and singing to promote Glee? Or insert your favorite world and fictional characters selling any ridiculous consumer product. You get my point.
(Even more insidious? When Greenpeace made a spoof of Volkswagen’s Darth Vader ad last year, using Star Wars characters to call into question Volkswagen’s environmental credentials, Lucasfilm tried to quash the film and get it pulled from YouTube. Talk about hypocrisy. You can still see the ad. Check out the Death Star emblazoned with the VW logo.)
Marketers, you’re my only hope. It’s OK to wink at, nod to, and reference your lucrative IPs. I’ll give you that. But a little goes a long way. Please don’t trick us. Please don’t reproduce our realms, our imagination, our memory-places, for the sole purpose of setting up a kiosk and selling your products in them. Please don’t painstakingly re-create the lands I inhabited so you can drive your VW Passats across them. So you can toss Happy Meal tchotchkes from the windows as you speed across Tatooine, The Shire and all the memory-places in between. Please, keep your paws off my fantasy worlds.
Note: Please check out Matt Blum’s counterpoint to this article.
This article originally appeared on Geekdad. Republished with permission.
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When my kids were still at the “trick-or-treating” age, I started a costume swap in our school district. I was tired of seeing outsized costumes in boxes in my basement and I thought they’d be better served by making other kids a “Darth Vader” or a “Ninja”. So muscling my weight around a little as a PTA board member, I started a costume recycling program where parents can bring their kids costumes to swap. Cool, right?
Well, surprisingly, the kids didn’t think it was cool. They were whining, “so-and-so wore this last year and I don’t want to wear it.” Oy. Kids don’t remember what homework they had the day before but they remember who wore what costume last year!
My kids? They wore whatever I made or picked up from the costume swap. They were just happy that they didn’t have to go as a Ninja again.
thredUP Costume Swap Box
If you don’t know thredUP, it’s a kids clothing swap program where you pay just $5 for a box (Medium USPS Priority box) plus the cost of flat shipping for a box of clothes that you pick. It’s the ultimate recycling program.
And they are having a Halloween Costume Swap, just the same way as their regular clothing swap.
More than 2,000 costumes were swapped last year through thredUP. This year’s program started on September 13 and it ends on October 22, just in time for Halloween.
This is what you have to do.
- Remember, the costume swap will run from September 13 through October 22.
- Build and list a box containing an outgrown Halloween Costume – be sure to flag it as a “Specialty Halloween Box”
- When someone picks your box, send it free of charge (thredUP sends you empty flat rate boxes at registration even schedules home pick-up!)
- To find a costume for your child, browse boxes of kids clothes flagged as “Halloween Boxes” – pick one you’d like to receive. Pay only $5 plus shipping and the box is sent right to your doorstep.
So what are you waiting for? Go to threUP and sign up today! Maybe you can pick up a cool Darth Vader costumes. Or Princess Leia’s!
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Now that you are planning a stress-free Halloween by starting early, let me throw you a curve ball (or not) and tell you about some extreme Halloween costume ideas.
If you start planning now, you can make any of these costumes that’ll “wow” any costume contest judge.
1. Optimus Prime Costume – if you saw the movie, “Transformers”, then, you know Optimus Prime – the almighty leader of the Autobots. Well, here is an awesome tutorial on making this “Optimus Prime” costume for just $40-$50.
2. I am a huge Star Wars fan. Who isn’t? Making Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker costumes are a cinch but making real-looking light sabers is a problem. But now, I can make a lightsaber, as real as the one Luke used to fight Lord Vader following these instructions.
3. Out of all the super heroes, I think Captain America has the coolest look. It’s patriotic red, white and blue. What is there not to like? Here is a simple way to make the mask and the scale top . These instruction use deer skin or suede but you can use fabric instead.
4. Talking about super heroes, how about being Iron Man this Halloween? These relatively simple instructions show how to make an Iron Man costume with t-shirts and pants you already have!
5. OK. This might not be a tutorial for an entire costume but this R2D2 bike helmet tutorial will put you ahead of the game. This is Jenn of “Clever Girl” blog. She has an awesome tutorial on how to make this R2D2 helmet from a bike helmet. There is no guarantee that the helmet will be ‘safe’ for riding again afterwards but wouldn’t it be cool to wear this helmet as part of your R2D2 costume?
So what do you think? What character will you be this year?
SAN FRANCISCO — A steady stream of Darth Vaders, Princess Leias, Boba Fetts and, of course, Stormtroopers descended on ATT Park here Sunday as the world-champion San Francisco Giants played host to the Empire for Star Wars Day.
In a city known for its geek fascinations, seeing Jedi mix with hard-core baseball fans is not an uncommon occurrence, but the Giants‘ game against the Arizona Diamondbacks was the first-ever Star Wars Day for the franchise.
And the team went all-out. Fans got a pre-game costume contest, a post-game screening of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back in the stadium, Stormtroopers guarding the field during the “Star-Spangled Banner,” giveaway statues of Giants closing pitcher Brian Wilson — frozen in carbonite, Han Solo-style — and the opportunity to generally geek out throughout the game.
“We don’t even know what the score is,” said 33-year-old Ryan Flores, above right, who came in a Giants bounty hunter uniform. Flores told Wired.com that he and his Boba-Fett-meets-Giants-costumed friend, Robin Lopez, 31 (above left), were distracted from the game’s play-by-play due to fans wanting pictures with the pair.
Not that Flores minded. He noted that he and Lopez had been happy to take pictures, making them each a Star for the day.
“I’m a geek and if I can make a little kid smile, that makes my day,” Flores said.
During the game, Giants players were shown in Jedi garb in their photos on the stadium’s giant screen. Between innings, the park showed Star Wars clips, including one featuring the team’s mascot, Lou Seal, inserted into key scenes from the film franchise — changes that went over better with fans than last week’s addition of Darth Vader screaming “No!” in the upcoming Blu-ray version of Return of the Jedi.
In the end, though, the Force was stronger with Star Wars fans than with the Giants, who lost to the Diamondbacks 4-1 after an 8th-inning rally by the Arizona team.
Click through the gallery above to get a taste of San Francisco baseball’s geekiest day, and, as one fan’s sign said, “May the SForce be with you.”
Anita Herren and her two boys weren’t the first to arrive for Thursday night’s “Star Wars” back-to-school program at Southaven’s M.R. Davis Public Library, yet 6-year-old Hayes and 5-year-old Mac wore costumes that were easily the most recognizable.
In anticipation of a visit by three members from the 501st Legion, the world’s definitive imperial costuming organization, Hayes was Boba Fett, while Mac dressed up like Darth Vader.
“We had one from Halloween,” said Herren, an Olive Branch resident, “and then Hayes put his Boba Fett costume together on his own. He knew what the colors should look like and he created his own from there.
“He was excited. He’s an enthusiast.”
In all, 182 children and adults attended the event, highlighted by appearances by Darth Vader (Olive Branch’s Kevin Avant), a Stormtrooper (Olive Branch’s Justin Bryant) and an imperial guard (Millington’s Dave Royer), all characters from the “Star Wars” universe.
“It’s funny,” said Avant, “you don’t realize the impact until you put the helmet on and walk out in public — the kids’ faces just light up. That’s really why we do it.
“Of course, we’re all kind of geeks and nerds, and it’s our hobby and passion too, but it’s our way of giving back and enjoying ‘Star Wars’.”
Avant, Bryant and Royer did their part to emphasize the importance of reading.
“I want the children to know that we’re here to help them with school and to offer them good books to read so they develop their skills,” Southaven youth specialist Nettie Moore said.
“We try to develop those programs between us and the school so that the kids are interested in being in the library. Once they find out that we’re a friendly place to be, then they’ll come and enjoy the books.”
Before signing autographs and posing for pictures, the 501st Legion trio selected winners of a costume contest. Garnering two prizes were 8-year-old Andrew and 2-year-old Olivia, the children of Southaven resident Tina James. Andrew came as an ARF Trooper. Olivia, though, stole the show dressing like Princess Leia.
“It’s her Halloween costume, and when Andrew found out about this, he insisted I drag it out,” James said. “She loves being a princess, and Princess Leia is right up her alley.”
– Chris Van Tuyl: (901) 333-2018
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