Are you one of the few people who lead lives free of corporate influence, whose memories are full of genuine personal experiences that are not, in fact, cleverly staged for the benefit of advertising? Then you, sir or madam, are a sucker. Someday, when you’re lying on your nursing home bed, gurgling to some phantom apparition of your loved ones who went home hours ago about all the things you’ve seen and done in your time on this earth, and waxing nostalgic about your laughably minor, un-televised accomplishments, what will you have to be proud of as you face that final curtain? That it was a unique existence, wholly and completely yours—that you lived a life that was full, traveled each and every highway, and much more than this, you did it your way? Well, eat this up and spit it out, gramps: We only get one turn on this big spinning ball, and you just blew your chance to turn all those “precious memories” into thinly veiled advertisements for long-forgotten products. Way to go, loser!
These days, anyone who’s not a selfish prick or America-hating socialist has discovered the joy of turning all their boring, pointless triumphs and travails into fleeting Internet fame or even cash money by participating in “viral marketing.” After all, our lives are just so much sands through the hourglass, right? Why shouldn’t every grain of sand be imprinted with the name of TNT’s exciting lineup of fall dramas like Raising The Bar? Why can’t the hourglass be in the shape of a can of Monster Energy Drink? Why do you have to hoard all that sand for yourself like some big, stupid baby trying to build a big, stupid sandcastle on the beach, which is only going to get washed away in the tide anyway? Are you a big, stupid baby on a beach? No? Then pony up, asshole: Advertisers are handing out checks right and left to people who know how to play the game, and meanwhile you’re just sitting on the sidelines “living your life” like an ordinary moron. See this? We’re slapping our hand against our chest and making “durr! durr!” sounds. Because that’s you. That’s what you sound like.
Take a cue from real visionaries like L.A. high school student Kenya Mejia, who last month had an epiphany: Sure, she could have just delivered a regular old valediction to her fellow high school students, commemorating the 12 years of arduous academic achievement she endured just to be accorded that honor, and offering a memorable farewell to all the many people she’d grown up with and would soon be leaving behind. But instead, Mejia played it smart and allowed Twentieth Century Fox to pay her $1,800 for ending her speech with a plug for I Love You, Beth Cooper, mock-proclaiming her love for a guy she barely knew named Jake Minor in a nod to a film that hadn’t even been released yet. Synergy! According to the Wall Street Journal:
Fox and its consultants hatched the ruse to recreate the scene at a real high school before the film's July 10 opening, say people familiar with the matter, in hopes of creating online chatter about the way the movie supposedly inspired copycats… A few weeks before the June graduation season, an employee of the Intelligence Group asked members of a focus group to help find valedictorians. The company, a unit of Creative Artists Agency, regularly polls thousands of teens to identify consumer trends. One panelist was a friend of Ms. Mejia and approached her with the company's proposition: It would pay her $1,000 to $1,500 if she would mention the movie by name and say its trailer inspired her to make her own confession of love… Fox hired another firm to videotape the episode in a style that emulated a home movie. The company then posted it on YouTube.
Yes, and no doubt you kids have all been chattering on your FaceSpacer boxes this whole summer long about the sudden rash of graduation speeches interrupted by bold declarations of crushes—all while on your way to catch your second or third screening of that smash comedy hit Beth Cooper, laugh-riot emblem of the 2009 zeitgeist! Oh, except Beth Cooper was a bomb that not even the promises of Hayden Panettiere’s half-naked, oddly compact body could save, let alone the “buzz” created by a self-professed “introvert” who forever linked her one moment of glory to what is essentially this generation’s Mystery Date. (The kicker: “Even Ms. Mejia hasn’t seen it.”)
But hey, that’s a small price to pay for Mejia finally having an excuse to reveal her secret crush, right? Oh, except that she already had a boyfriend, and she and her crush—who already had a girlfriend, thanks—had apparently never even really spoken before this mess. (“I had no idea that she liked me,” he said. “She’s pretty quiet.”) But, uh, at least it tore up the YouTubes, generating enough hits to justify this kind of stunt in the future, right? Oops, except that it had barely generated 2,000 hits even two weeks into the film’s release—which is shocking, because who doesn’t sit around randomly searching for “graduation speeches” to pass the time between "chattering" with their friends about the hot movies that they enjoy? (It’s since vaulted to nearly 11,000 plays, mostly thanks to its appearance in this story.) So actually, the video never went “viral" (unless you count the attendant nausea), the movie still failed, no one fell in love, Mejia’s parents were understandably “shocked that [she] was willing to do it,” and now the school district is “horrified” at the revelation that someone planted a paid advertisement in the middle of a school ceremony. But hey, at least Mejia got a check! That should buy her some extra textbooks to hide behind when everyone starts calling her “Beth Cooper” at college! And also, the memories! The increasingly shameful, marginally profitable memories…