Saturday, July 01, 2006


Super-Patriotism vs. Uber-Capitalism?

We discussed the issue a little bit in the update to the Superman Returns review below.

But now it is a full-fledged
controversy to which the movie writers admit helping anticipating:
We were always hesitant to include the term 'American way' because the meaning of that today is somewhat uncertain," Ohio native [co-writer Michael] Dougherty explains. "The ideal hasn't changed. I think when people say 'American way,' they're actually talking about what the 'American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic."

While audiences in Dubuque might bristle at Superman's newfound global agenda, patrons in Dubai likely will find the DC Comics protagonist more palatable. And with the increasing importance of the overseas boxoffice -- as evidenced by summer tentpoles like "The Da Vinci Code" -- foreign sensibilities can no longer be ignored.

"So, you play the movie in a foreign country, and you say, 'What does he stand for? -- truth, justice and the American way.' I think a lot of people's opinions of what the American way means outside of this country are different from what the line actually means (in Superman lore) because they are not the same anymore," [co-writer Dan] Harris says. "And (using that line) would taint the meaning of what he is saying."
So, now Superman stands for "Truth, Justice &...all that stuff."

As mentioned previously, this is quite a dramatic sea-change in American pop-culture in just a few years. The difference between two multi-million dollar productions is stunning: In 2002, Spider-Man stands proudly on the American flagpole; in 2006, a 20th century icon like Superman eschews the "...and the American Way" slogan to which he has been attached since at least the early 1950s.

Dougherty and Harris seem to be suggesting that Brand America doesn't "sell" quite as well overseas as it once did and a global company like Time Warner has to worry about all of its audiences.

However, has TW been too cute by half?

As long-time contributor ERA notes, "The only places finding Brand America a hard sell are those marketing overseas first and American second. This decision will be to Superman Return's domestic gross detriment. Granted, Warner Bros. probably doesn't care -- just so it does well overseas."

I'm not sure about that (if Warner Bros. cares or not). This could turn out to be a major embarrassment given that Warner made a specific marketing choice to release this movie around the Fourth of July. That implicitly suggests a desire to tap into American patriotic sentiment. Yet now, days before America's Independence Day, the movie writers are admitting they intentionally played down "the American Way"?

They may be correct from an international marketing perspective -- but it is absolutely stupid to say that right before America's birthday. If the movie ultimately underperforms over the extended holiday weekend, this could turn out to be a major faux pas.

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