Have you seen posters for the movie “The Watch”? It’s the movie with Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn as suburban neighborhood watch guys, and it comes out at the end of the month. I think they’ve just started the marketing campaign for it, because posters just started going up all over LA.
I am very cynical. I’ve been that way since the 3rd grade, when I discovered I had to wear glasses all the time and my already-unglamorous life become even more so. So, choosing to work in the entertainment industry was probably not the best idea for me, since I tend to look down on most things as dumb (True story: When I was leaving Boston for LA, one of the guys I worked with said, “I don’t think you’ll like LA; you’re very ‘Boston’ in the sense that…you think everything is stupid.”). Working in the business side of entertainment, you tend to scrutinize things pretty harshly. I try to remain human about it, but you would most likely be horrified at the superficial way we look at things and people. I suppose we sort of have to – if a movie poster or commercial doesn’t look good, you’ve probably already lost half your potential audience. Most people have the attention span of a retarded fly, so there is no reason to assume that people are interested if you haven’t hooked them with something in the first .2 seconds they see your stuff. But it starts to permeate how you view the world, and it’s not a very kind way to live.
Earlier this year, George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin for reasons most of us still don’t understand. Truly, it seemed like a senseless act with the end result of a young life cut tragically short. Zimmerman was the “self appointed head of the Neighborhood Watch” in the Florida community where they both lived. To the outside world, Zimmerman seems like some kind of wanna-be police officer (and probably a racist) with a paranoid personality who shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun.
The original title of “The Watch” was actually “Neighborhood Watch.” You have to know for a fact that, as soon as news broke about poor 17-year-old Trayvon Martin getting shot by a Neighborhood Watch guy, some executive somewhere in Hollywood said, “Oh, shit” (or worse) and started making phone calls. Hence the name change to “The Watch.” No one putting out a comedic summertime movie wants to be associated with a controversial media event, much less a teenager getting killed.
The bigger thing that struck me about the movie poster, however, is proof to me that I am doing poorly at keeping my cynicism at bay and my profession is only validating and encouraging this unflattering personality trait. The poster features the four lead actors – Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn, and Richard Ayoade. Wait, who? Exactly. I’ve never heard of Richard Ayoade before. A cursory look at his IMDB page shows that he seems to be a respected to comedic actor in his home country of England. I am a total dork for British comedy, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt here. He must be very funny to hold his own with the other three lead actors, or he wouldn’t have been cast. However, regardless of how great you are in a movie, unless you are a “name” and a proven box-office draw, you don’t make the movie poster. However, Ayoade is half Nigerian. I can’t help but think, in an effort to truly distance themselves from the idea of racist neighborhood watch crazies, the studio and marketing department deliberately included him on the poster with three men who are surely much more famous than he is. In the industry in which I work, I believe this is what passes for “logic.”
Regardless of whether he wanted it or not, Richard Ayoade will now be much more famous in the US than he probably could have imagined. I can’t help but think that if Trayvon Martin hadn’t been killed, that might not be the case.