The most revolting movie commercial I’ve seen.

“Bones” is a TV show I rather enjoy for the clever banter, the amusing actors, the slick effects, and the humor, But last night’s episode was sickening.

It was one big commercial for Avatar.

The characters discussed their excitement about the movie incessantly.

They stood around and watched the trailer on their big Minority-Report style computer screen.

They got in line with a mob of Avatar fans who were all painted up to look like the blue aliens.

They were wide-eyed and obsessed, and discussed specific plot points, as if this was ten times bigger than The Lord of the Rings.

And the geekiest character of them all got laid with an scantily clad geek girl (who was supposed to be sexy, I guess) in a tent right there in line for the movie while other characters smiled admiringly.

Bleccch. I don’t know that a piece of marketing has ever so effectively killed my interest in a film.

I’ll see it and review it, but I don’t plan to contribute a penny to its box-office. Not that that will matter.

In general, American moviegoers don’t care to question advertising. If they’re told it’s “the greatest adventure of all time” by a commercial, they’ll obediently line up, and anybody who reminds them that the slogan was written by the movie’s marketers, not by anybody who’s actually seen it, is just a snob trying to spoil their fun. (I recently observed some Facebook friends congratulating each other on their refusal to pay any attention to the criticisms of New Moon, and basically resolving that critical thinking is a drag when it gets in the way of having fun.)

They’d climb on the Titanic even if experts could prove to them that the ship was headed for an iceberg.

I’m pretty sure that the process of learning critically has given me greater joys and more profound encounters with movies than I would ever have had if I’d stuck to swallowing what the Machine stuffs down my throat.

But then, that is grace, isn’t it? That wise teachers invested in helping classrooms of students wake up to the pleasures and rewards of concentrating and questioning. I’m grateful.

I’m still a beginner, but I ain’t turnin’ this car around at this point. The journey’s getting more exciting all the time. A meal at McDonald’s shouldn’t be cursed, but you won’t persuade me that it’s a feast — because I’ve eaten at Babette’s. I can still enjoy a Twinkie from time to time, but don’t tell me it’s The Meal of the Year… not when a real feast is right around the corner.

Don’t tell me Up in the Air is the movie of the year without taking the time to consider… oh, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. That rant will have to wait.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet departed the Patheos network in order to escape click-bait advertisements that were offending him and his readers. He will re-launch Looking Closer at soon. He is the author of The Auralia Thread, a four-volume fantasy series that begins with Auralia's Colors, and a memoir of "dangerous moviegoing" called Through a Screen Darkly. He teaches creative writing and film studies; speaks internationally about art and faith; served as Writer-in-Residence at Covenant College; and is employed by Seattle Pacific University as a project manager, copyeditor, and writer.

  • sirwnstn


    “Actually, one of the other characters start off a little envious, but ultimately is convinced by the other that what the geeky guy in the tent has isn’t nearly as good as his own more substantial relationship with his girlfriend. And the guy who gets laid doesn’t even get to see the film. In other words, I think Bones did a decent job undercutting the very issue they were otherwise using to advertise the film.”

    Thanks for bringing that up PRT. I enjoy watching Bones precisely for the sort of thing you mention. The show is known to overtly criticize traditional values (Christmas, heterosexual relationships, monogamy, chastity, and more) but at the end of the show, they always seem to highlight the benefits of traditional values in a very clever way.

    Will I watch Avatar though? Meh, maybe. The story painted be the trailer seems old and tired. Will I cry if I miss it? Nope. But that’s just me.

  • closerlooker

    I’ve seen it. But I’m sworn to review-silence until opening day.

  • Rick Ro.

    Well, if anyone ever comes back here to look at this thread of posts, I’ll offer up this encouraging article.

    We can only hope they’re right.

  • Brett

    I’d have to differ in that the most revolting movie commercial I’ve ever seen was the trailer for “Saw V” that used “Be Thou My Vision” as its music. Probably because I’ve got absolutely nothing invested in watching “Bones” — seen it a couple times, didn’t hate it, but it never stuck with me — or in seeing “Avatar” — everything Cameron’s done for the last 15 years has been over-seasoned with his overstuffed ego.

    But I’ve quite a lot invested in the message of “Be Thou My Vision” ;-)

  • Gaith

    I understand why some feel that Avatar is being over-hyped (not being a TV watcher or frequent cinemagoer, I’ve been able to avoid most of it), but I can’t help but notice that this same film that’s getting such a pounding is also by far the biggest non-franchise (yet, at least) movie of the year. And hasn’t bashing Hollywood over franchise indulgence a national pastime?

    I have a visceral loathing for nine out of ten cop, lawyer or doctor shows, so I wouldn’t dream of watching Bones. But I’m keeping an open if hopeful mind about Avatar. :)

  • closerlooker

    Actually, Anne’s the big fan, and I enjoy watching her favorite shows with her and playing “whodunit.” It’s cheap, formulaic television, mixing easy mysteries with Moonlighting flirtation between the leads. I’m not calling it high art, but I enjoy the cast’s chemistry and banter. Anne likes the characters quite a bit, and she has a brain for puzzles, so shows like this are like crossword puzzles for her — fun but disposable. Still, as TV series go, I think Bones takes the subject of sex far too lightly, even compared to the standard prime-time-crime show.

  • Ross

    Did you just admit to watching, and even liking, Bones? I’ve endured two episodes and have to question where any of those favorable qualities you mention might be hiding. But I’m sure you are right about last night’s episode being sickening.

  • Erin Weaver

    The first I heard of Avatar was through a Yahoo news article. It said that the movie website had to close because so many people were viewing the trailer it had just unveiled. When I finally saw the trailer, I was a little confused about why it was so popular. I feel like this idea has been used before, and is really just a retelling of earth’s actual history of colonialism in blue-alien form. Rich mineral deposits? A too-peaceful-to-be-true indigenous tribe oppressed by greedy outsiders? Men “turning Native” and suddenly fighting against the forces that sent them? I think I just heard about this in class the other day. But unlike District 9, this is a concept that has been worked into Sci-fi before. The makers of Avatar must be paying big bucks to their advertisers.

  • Brandon S.

    I remember back when I was excited about Avatar. Skeptical, sure, but excited – even after the first trailer premiered I was still hesitantly looking forward to it…

    But after seeing the ads plastered everywhere, its basic plagiarizing of Dances With Wolves, and Cameron & Co. going on and on and on about it, I can’t help but thinking, “If it’s really going to be this amazing, why do you guys feel the need to pound it into our heads?”

  • PRT

    I’ve heard rumors that Bones agreed to be the giant ad for Avatar because the pay will allow them to do things later in the season that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. Not that that excuses it…

    However, I do have to quibble about one point: “And the geekiest character of them all got laid with an scantily clad geek girl (who was supposed to be sexy, I guess) in a tent right there in line for the movie while other characters smiled admiringly.” Actually, one of the other characters start off a little envious, but ultimately is convinced by the other that what the geeky guy in the tent has isn’t nearly as good as his own more substantial relationship with his girlfriend. And the guy who gets laid doesn’t even get to see the film. In other words, I think Bones did a decent job undercutting the very issue they were otherwise using to advertise the film.

  • Mark T. Ingham

    Yes, yes, but Avatar is The Greatest Adventure of all Time! That’s what the full page laudatory quote for Avatar in the Seattle Weekly — by Jeff Craig no less — says. So it must be true dammit!

    This reminds me of the characters in the Mike Judge film Idiocracy droning on the catchphrase “Brawndo’s got what plants crave. It’s got electrolytes.”

    I don’t know if it’s because I’m becoming elitist, old, or just plain crotchety, but I’m totally fed up with advertising for and surrounding movies anymore. Even movie trailers are dishonestly crafted to get your butt in the seat opening weekend. Remember the first trailer for The Road that looked like something lifted straight from Jan de Bont’s Twister? I don’t even like to check in over at Apple Film trailers much anymore due to the obviously crass marketing vibe and editing of most trailers.

    Also, wouldn’t it be great to go to a movie in a theater nowadays and not be bombarded with the pre-screening walk-in slideshow advertising for merchants at the local mall? The joy of not being sold anything… I’d love to see a return to cartoons or shorts before movies.

    Humbug I say! =D

  • Chad

    To paraphrase “Thank You for Smoking,” everyone has a mortgage to pay.

  • Joseph Hollies

    I remember watching Bride Wars on DVD to see how terrible it is (I do that sometimes) and in one scene, Anne Hathaway is talking to someone and smack in the background is a yellow DHL van.

  • Jason

    That’s sad. While not certainly the pinnacle of TV programming, “Bones” is certainly better than *that*. I wonder what the actors thought about the promotion. Or perhaps the healthy influx of marketing dollars was enough to assuage them.

  • Chris

    I think 20th Century Fox is reaaalllly nervous about “Avatar” taking a nose-dive at the box office–which, given the response to the trailers and Internet promotions, seems like a possibility. It’s odd…before they released a single trailer, I was intrigued. I’ve wanted to see Cameron–one of our great action filmmakers–return to narrative filmmaking and thrill me just like he did with Aliens, T2, the Abyss and (yes) Titanic. I loved just hearing speculation about what the film would be and getting little hints of it through production art. But once they released the trailer and we’ve been bombarded over and again with ads, my interest has waned. Not because I don’t think the movie looks good–I’d be silly to judge a movie based on its trailer, especially one that is 3-hours long and designed for the biggest possible screen–but because I feel it being shoved down my throat, as if the success of this film were preordained. And I think Fox shot themselves in the foot by giving fan boys so much ammunition…so much so that even South Park was poking fun at the movie a few weeks ago (although “Dances with Smurfs” is funny).

  • closerlooker

    Yeah, I noticed that too. Although, they admitted as much by giving the characters names similar to the real people.

  • Joel M

    Yeah, they were less than subtle with the “Avatar” hype. Plus the plot to last night’s episode was more or less stolen from “The King of Kong.” Double fail.