Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Why the Darth Vader Volkswagen Advert is Evil
You might not know this, but that adorable 'Star Wars' advert - the one that sees a cute kid try to use "the force" in the name of selling cars - is evil, damaging and must be stopped.
I'm not just ranting about George Lucas "selling out" here. Sure, it's sad to see the space opera series used in this glaringly commercial way, with John Williams' glorious Imperial March put to such sinister corporate use. But 'Star Wars' has been assaulted in the name of profit since the day it was born and will have to withstand similar attacks forever more.
No, for me the problem with the advert is that 'Star Wars' - at least in the UK - hasn't been used to sell anything other than itself in my lifetime. Toys, video games and whatever else are all part of selling 'the brand' and as such it is in the interest of Hasbro (or whoever) to take some duty of care towards it. Maybe there would have been a Burger King tie-in or a coca-cola promotion in the early part of the last decade, but there were at least new films to sell then.
This ad, however, is happening in 'peacetime'. There is nothing to promote except the car. This is Darth Vader in the service of Volkswagen with no bloody excuse for being there.
This is much worse than the franchise just being milked as a cash-cow. For the sake of a few easy bucks now, Lucas is damaging the series for future generations.
The following argument is mostly sentimental and contains several amorphous references to "the kids" which serve to age me horribly.
I didn't see 'Star Wars' until I was ten years old and I was then living under the previous system - where the characters were not also expected to sell affordable family cars. Hard as this might be to believe, I had no idea what 'Star Wars' was as a ten year-old. I grew up in that 'Star Wars' free bubble that existed between the original franchise finishing and the Special Edition theatrical release some years later. As a result, it was able to take me by surprise and had a tremendous impact on my childhood.
I didn't know anything about it at all. I'd heard the name "Luke Skywalker" and knew of a "Dark Vader", but really I assumed it was just another old film my dad was making me watch. In this environment, I was allowed to hear the Imperial March for the first time within the context of The Empire Strikes Back and I was given the chance to come to "Darth Vader" and "the force" in their original context too.
I'm not saying the Volkswagen ad is especially evil in of itself. Rather it's part of a disturbing trend in which all popular culture is now endlessly re-regurgitated for pay until people hate it. The kids of today who are yet to see 'Star Wars' are experiencing it first through these advertisements and, as a result, they won't care about it as much.
Maybe we're entering an age where viewing a cultural object in isolation is the stuff of fantasy. It's worth remembering that, when I was growing up, there was no You Tube and kids didn't have access to every film/piece of music/TV series on their mobile phones. In fact they didn't have mobile phones at all.
Forget 'Star Wars', maybe future humans will only know of 'Casablanca' or 'Indiana Jones' via bits of 'Family Guy' and three minute web parodies made of LEGO. That is what the Darth Vader Volkswagen ad represents to this embittered and prematurely old man.
For anyone who hasn't been moved to watch 'Star Wars', this is how you were supposed to hear that awesome car advert music for the first time: