Don’t Believe The Hype!
Sigue Sigue Sputnik 1, Metal Gear Solid 2, The Blair Witch Project: three things prematurely hyped beyond belief in an effort to get you to fork over your hard-earned cash.
Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Metal Gear Solid 2, The Blair Witch Project: three things that failed to deliver when they finally did arrive.
We’ve all fallen victim to the hype machine; it’s an elusive creature that takes many forms. And like the human ego, left unchecked it grows out of control with each subsequent cycle. Not that it’s exclusive to our time. I’m sure Godfried de Bouillon would be quite nonplussed that his role in the First Crusade inspired many legends, a comic series, and even a popular type of soup. In the case of Godfried however, this type of legend-making occurred mostly after his death. In modern times it is more common for the legend to precede the event, and thus the hype is born.
I’ve seen a few things hyped up in my time. Luckily I’ve managed to survive their impact largely unscathed. You see, when I was young, still in High School , I was told a very valuable lesson by an angry young black man with sunglasses and an oversized clock.
“Don’t believe the hype!”
It’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart, one I live by to this day. It has served me well. It has allowed me to keep my expectations screwed down to an acceptable level whenever the next big thing comes along. It’s helped me survive the Blur vs. Oasis debate unscathed (the correct answer is Supergrass by the way), it got me over the major disappointment of Holland underperforming –again (and again)—at a major football 2 tournament, and kept my feet on the ground when Obama, thankfully, got elected.
But here’s the funny bit: with the advent of the internet, with its many forums and its blogosphere, hype has not only become easier to build, it has become yet another marketing tool with which the studios push their product; except now it’s not called building hype, it’s called viral marketing. The aforementioned The Blair Witch Project could loosely be credited for starting this trend. It’s a text-book example of building word-of-mouth through the Internet. Before the Internet, a small indie feature like that would have opened on maybe 8 to 10 screens nation-wide, perhaps only in the art-house theatres, and would have likely been pulled after only 3 weeks. But thanks to the Internet, it opened in the most blockbustery of cinema chains to packed screenings.
Meanwhile my reaction to it was summed up by, “That’s it?” But then again, I can count Flavor Flav and Public Enemy among my many teachers.
Yes, the marketing campaign for The Blair Witch Project was brilliant. But there is no audience savvier or more vocal than the wired one. And they learn; they’ve learned to scrutinize everything and anything a studio presents. Studios might think that starting a website 2-years in advance of the scheduled premiere is smart marketing, because it raises awareness for their movie; the hype machine gets fired up early. But it is a strategy that can backfire; and it often does. Nowadays, fans are wont to discuss every single detail to death, right down to the type of car the main character drives, or the particular fabrics used in the making of his costume 3. It’s becoming so bad that when the final product does arrive, it has no chance of living up to fan-built expectations.
It’s a good thing I’ve become inoculated to hype. It’s helped me overcome the Star Wars prequels’ reimagining of Darth Vader as a petulant teenager. It’s helped me deal with Indiana Jones’ introduction of cartoon physics in a live motion-picture when nuking the fridge. It’s helped me to realize that an innately dumb concept such as Snakes on a Plane will not become magically better by adding Samuel L. Jackson and a strategically placed “motherfucker”. It’s helped me enjoy Quantum of Solace as a dumb action movie instead of as the new James ”Bourne Again” Bond, and I hope it will help me tone down my excitement for Guilermo Del Toro’s The Hobbit despite people’s assurance that IT HAS ELVES!!1
Me and Flavor Flav, man. We’re good.
We don’t believe the hype.
Edited by Daniel Davis
- Ask your parents, or maybe an older sibling ↩
- Soccer if you’re American. And wrong. Because it really is called football, you know? ↩
- Guess which sparked the bigger debate: The fact that Brandon Routh was cast as Superman or the fact that the studio (allegedly) digitally altered the size of his codpiece? ↩
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