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June 1, 2005

Showing Some Ruffles Around The Edges

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It’s surprising how many people wrote me about the controversial commercial Arnold Schwarzenegger just released.  If you haven’t heard about it, the acting Gov is being slammed for an ad he did filled with product placements on behalf of his largest financial backers.

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As someone who earned his earliest press notice from Adbusters, I have a a big problem with product placement on t.v. and in movies, let alone in political ads.  This story has more going for it than just commercialism and conflict of interest, however.  At the BAG, where the parsing of the news is more of a visual issue, these stills lead to a different take on this story.

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The thing is, Arnold Schwarzenegger is well known for meticulousness in planning, staging, shooting and editing every scene in which he appears.  But if that’s true, how can we account for the frighteningly kitschy lunch room setting, the abominable framing, the awkward looks and poses and the half-eaten food?

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Apparently, the Gov was so desperate for a concept that could simultaneously accommodate Ruffles, Sun Chips, Cheetos, SoBe, Pepsi and Arrowhead, he completely caved on the aesthetics.  Which is too bad.  Because once contradictions creep into his look, it exposes the fact that there’s not much more beyond it. 

For my money, I think people will look back and realize Schwarzenegger hit bottom when he started shooting in fluorescent light.

(images: joinarnold.com)

  • mugatea

    In the 3rd/last frame Ahnold’s hair looks 10 years younger than his face.
    A good friend dyed her hair well into her sixties, she was lonely and looking for love/partnership. No one came knockin’. At some point she made the decision to stop with the dye and she converted to a natural head of white hair very quickly. Within months of that she had a boyfriend and now they’re moving in together.
    Presenting yourself for who you really are is much more appealing than trying to pretend to be someone you are not.

  • prufrock

    SO BIZARRE. Arnold trying to be “real?” Was his publicist asleep? I guess he’s trying to identify with the common man (“those fat cats in Sacramento” stuff), but the idea that he’s one of the people is laughable, considering his size, plasticine face, weird grimace and — let’s face it — his accent. He seems to have gotten elected on his screen persona, and now he’s switching personas.
    I think the intended symbolism has to do with the supposed anger of the working class, which is becoming more and more conservative (or so they say). The sordid cafeteria, men without ties, thoughtfully angry people clearly not enjoying their lunch — I think it’s reaching out to the angry poor guy and offering a scapegoat (the legislature, controlled by Democrats and probably up for election before he is). But it is so badly done. I mean, what possibly believable context could this meeting have? Does the governor lunch out at cheap cafeterias often?
    Or maybe we have it backward — maybe the Pepsi people approached them, and they came up with an ad to fit the product placement.

  • renato

    christ, der Gropenfuhrer has had enough botox injections to make his face a WMD site.
    That is not a natural-looking face! About as plastic as Paris Hilton.

  • http://truebluevalues.blogspot.com theorajones

    Ohmygosh, this is funny! Inexcusable for an ex-film professional who wants to be Governor of the state that includes Hollywood!
    And I’d like to point out the ghost behind the ficus in the first still. What the hell IS that?

  • David

    For someone who’s so visually attuned I’m amazed to see the author double space after periods. Notice how your commentors don’t? Notice how books don’t? Newspapers? Other blogs?
    Typewriters are so over.
    L O V E the BAG, though…

  • poprenaissance

    anyone notice how all the trays are blue, but arnie’s is red? subtle…clever…
    this combined with the “dig a pothole for me, caltrans, so i can fill it in for the cameras” story exposes him for the fraud that he is. i’d be laughing my ass off if i didn’t fucking live in the damn state.

  • spook

    Is that Cherie Blairs mom in the fourth still behind the plastic Arnie?? comments on a postcard please to Tony Blair 10 Downing street London

  • http://tommywonk.blogspot.com/ tommywonk

    Artlessness itself can be a kind of pose.

  • Jim David

    Wow – you really dropped the ball on this analyis.
    This story is about product placement. The unprofessional look is also intentional.

  • pjr

    What’s that line from Broadcast News about evil masquerading as attractive but empty banality?
    Aaron Altman: What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I’m semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing… he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance… Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he’ll get all the great women.
    ….well, Maria notwithstanding, it fits Ahnald and his wealthy, ultra-conservative cronies to a tee.

  • Ian Blackford

    Frito-Lay bags on the rack behind Arnie’s head, another Pepsi line of snack goodness.
    Was this a set or a real cafeteria? If it was on a set then the placement issue is settled, if it was a real cafeteria there must have been some obvious swapping out of product when they prepped for the shoot, unless of course they shot it in a Pepsi Co office building. That would be classic.
    Either way, pretty dismal stuff. You’d think they would have tightened things up after the pot hole episode.
    Anyone know anyone in the ad/film production biz or would this have been a “lackey only” work site? It would be great to hear a behind the scenes on this shoot.

  • bob crane

    I agree with Jim David that the unprofessional look is intentional but I think that’s apparent. It’s just done too sloppily. I imagine what Schwarzenegger was really aiming for was Mike Leigh direction looking like Lars von Trier with alot of product placement (see… I do understand what your life’s like).
    …you got to be a really good producer to pull that one off (I guess the California govn’t couldn’t afford it.)
    David’s right about the double spaces by the way.

  • hauksdottir

    Some of us prefer to double space after periods because it makes sentences much easier to read… especially in an era when urls and other dotted clutter fill the paragraphs. I hate it when some applet automatically reformats my typing. I type for human eyes, not some machine! The single space “rule” is quite possibly due to the Modern Language Association, or some other officious body, changing the rules of grammar and punctuation every few years in a pitiful effort to be relevant.
    As to this ad? It is set up so that the other people are just as much props as the half-eaten snack food and plastic plants. Whether they are cut-off or obscured or leaning strangely doesn’t matter. The gropinator himself is crisp and fresh in blinding white shirt and dark tie so the eye will keep returning, perhaps seeking relief from the visual noise.
    It is a lovely contrast between social classes. Not one of the employees is wearing white? Blues and browns are poor working class, typical of uniforms, and he is so obviously an executive… slumming it for an afternoon.
    I do suspect that these are actors. Real people seem to be awed by his “star quality”. Even congressmen and reporters gawk, slobber, and ask for signatures.
    Carolly

  • Diane

    I’m most interested in the dyed hair and botox, which I didn’t notice, but is right on. I think that’s the most important thing. The product placement is just “business as usual” with him: I’m sure this junkfood flows ahead of him and behind him without being sought out, or thought out. I think this was a “quickie” shoot, and that means that the man is getting too tired to keep up the image except for his hair/botox appointments. I predict an amusingly angry public outburst soon, followed by Maria-induced vacation on Marthas Vinyard.

  • KevinNYC

    The artless look is definitely intentional. This is a international, movie-star governor. He has to work extra hard to seem like a regular guy. This is a guy who has thought about his image every day of life for how long, the last 30-40 years? He doesn’t care about his image now? No, he is just the kind of guy who drop by your cafeteria and have lunch. Notice that he didn’t just drop by and say his 30 sec spiel, oh NO. He sat down and had his full lunch before lauching into his message. I mean look at all the empty soda bottles and potato chip bags, he must have been there the whole lunch hour listening to their concerns.
    Also notice that Arnold is so much of a regular guy, that other folks are calmly waiting in the register line and not caring that The Terminator is shooting a commercial five feet away.
    The whole thing is intended to look like a documentary, like they filmed the whole lunch and just took these parts of it.
    Arnold’s site has taken this ad down. You can still see it here
    http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/archives/001627.html
    However on Arnold’s site, you can see an amazing ad, where Arnold just drives around town waving from a Hummer that has a REFORM1 logo on it. There is just music playing, and there is no text, words, dialogue, voiceover, etc. No logic,reason or argument at all. It’s 100% sensation. If you vote for Arnold’s Reform1, you can drive around in a HUMMER smiling at people while pleasant music plays.

  • chris

    Is that the Official Schwarzenegger site featuring information, games, photos, memorabilia, auctions and an
    online souvenir store?

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