One senses, in the latest blog post promoting the BlackBerry Priv, that someone called down from the marketing department to the monkeys typing away on content generation to suggest that it might be a good idea to capitalize on the current mania around the new Star Wars film.
And why not? Star Wars is water cooler material, dominating the conversation in a way that makes people who haven’t seen the movie yet feel like a bunch of sheepishly evasive rebel scum.
A few extra clicks cashing in on Star Wars couldn’t hurt.
Unless, of course, a close association is unintentionally made between the Priv and the Imperial Dark Side in the mind of the reader.
Comparing the Priv’s “stylish” “lightweight design” with the sort of “spacefaring vehicles” that represent “the best part of the Star Wars franchise”, BlackBerry’s blog engages in a bit of gear-porn designed to satisfy the spacefaring needs of every geek fanboy who needs reminding that the “satisfying ‘snap'” he experiences upon sliding the keyboard into position isn’t very different from the humming vibrancy of holding a lightsaber or firing a blaster.
The Priv appears to be doing well enough, both critically and in terms of sales, that it doesn’t have to resort to Star Wars.
But it’s a measure of the current climate of boy-man triumphalism, of the sentimental attachment felt by the 40-something dudes who now run our entire culture, that we can’t get through a week’s worth of blog posts without further darkening December’s skies with some extra Imperial Star Destroyers deployed in the name of marketing.
Marketing-wise, you couldn’t really imagine a Star Wars protagonist not working for the Dark Side holding a BlackBerry, rag-tag and decidedly down-market as those characters are.
But you could totally imagine Darth Vader rocking a Priv.
You might even imagine Vader admiring the phone in his private chamber, his breath slowing to a hoarse whisper as he stares at his own reflection in its shiny black surface.
Yes, the sleek black glass fibre woven body of the BlackBerry Priv is a perfect fit… for the Imperial Commander on the go.
Marketing associations in general are tough needles to thread, and become even tougher to untangle when they unintentionally backfire.
“Looking into the boy’s eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode.” – Alec Guinness on meeting a 12-year-old fan
“Like a space shuttle, the BlackBerry PRIV is built to withstand just about any punishment and to look good while doing it,” promises BlackBerry’s blog. “And like any spacecraft, each and every component of the phone is painstakingly-designed, requiring an immense attention to detail, a high degree of skill, and incredible precision such that it can only be created by the most experienced engineers and manufacturing professionals. This attention to quality and durability is what defines not just the PRIV, but BlackBerry as a company.”
With nearly every ad on television right now, and half of all news stories, focusing on Star Wars, the franchise can probably handle a raspberry blown in its direction. So here goes.
It’s bad enough that the Star Wars films, none of them, are particularly good. But that they’ve so totally dominated the imaginations of every tedious junior executive you’re ever going to meet for the rest of your life is about as thorough an indictment of our species as you’re ever going to find.
No single person perceived the “influence” that Star Wars threatened to have on the culture more than Alec Guinness, one of England’s greatest actors, whose legacy in such incredible films as The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Man in the White Suit (probably the funniest film ever made about the folly of technological solutionism), not even to mention his genre-defining turn as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, has been relegated to footnote status because of his reluctant participation in Star Wars.
Although Guinness hated working on the film, and hated even more that his outstanding career threatened to be overshadowed by his role as a robe wearing hippified guru shuffling his way through a hopelessly corny sci-fi B-picture, which he described as “fairy-tale rubbish”, he fulfilled his contract and then, as an afterthought, accepted 2.25% of gross royalties from George Lucas, an agreement that made him and his estate extremely rich towards the end of his life.
Given that Guinness says he “shrivelled up” inside every time Star Wars was mentioned to him, it seems like no amount of money could have bought back the Star Wars-free life he would have liked to reclaim, if only he had a chance to rewind the tape of his life and turn the role down.
In the third and final volume of his autobiography, A Positively Final Appearance, Alec Guinness describes his need to strike back at the Empire he’d participated in building by shattering the dreams of a young fan for the long-term good of his eventual manhood.
“Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun,” writes Guinness. “Then I began to be uneasy at the influence it might be having. The bad penny first dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me proudly that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. His elegant mother nodded with approval. Looking into the boy’s eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode.
“I would love you to do something for me,” I said.
“Anything! Anything!” the boy said rapturously.
“You won’t like what I’m going to ask you to do,” I said.
“Anything, sir, anything!”
“Well,” I said, “do you think you could promise never to see Star Wars again?”
“He burst into tears. His mother drew himself up to an immense height. ‘What a dreadful thing to say to a child!’ she barked, and dragged the poor kid away. Maybe she was right but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.”
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