MerchanTainment

04/26/2006 12:00 AM |

It used to be my job to show up at the Union Square multiplex at 9am, buy tickets to four movies, and not watch any of them. I got paid to evaluate something called The 2wenty, a preview thingy you may know from your recent trip to see the gymnastics movie Stick It on opening day. (I myself am boycotting this film on the grounds that every major studio in the country turned down my wrenching cinematic gymnastics memoir, I’ll Never Get Boobs, in which I am played by Charlize Theron, who bravely stumpified her legs for the role. And no, I can’t do the splits anymore.)  

In case you spend all of your cinema time at Film Forum trying to get laid and you aren’t familiar with it, The 2wenty consists of “2wenty m1nut3s” of the most simpering, idiotic and insidious MerchanTainment (or, if you prefer, InfoTizing) the world has ever created, and to make sure of this, its creators exhumed and reanimated Theodor Adorno, and showed him The 2wenty until he re-killed himself. The 2wenty’s genius lies in its complete eschewal of “actual content” in favor of large advertisements disguised as features, themselves punctuated by smaller “regular” commercials designed to fool you into thinking the other parts aren’t a commercial. This is a technique cribbed from the last great American art form, the infomercial, in which the “program” involves Cindy Crawford flying to Paris and having a big cry with her dermatologist and the “commercials” involve “commercials” for Cindy Crawford’s beauty products, and then the “program” comes back on as if the commercial that came in the middle of it was for something else and thus acts to legitimize it as something “other” than a commercial. Adorno’s reanimated corpse gave a fascinating lecture about infomercials before it re-died — plus it got a great deal on an air purification system, an Ab Lounge, some Space Bags, Turbo Jam and five Magic Bullets.

You would think the massive subsidies the movie theaters earn forcing aggressive marketing on an already-captive audience would help lower the price of your ticket, but this is America, where we pay for the privilege of advertising for rich companies (if you don’t believe me, check out the logos all over the person sitting across from you on the subway, and think for a second that even NASCAR drivers have the sense to get other people to pay them to be human billboards).

The goal of The 2wenty is to offer such high-budget, flawlessly produced fake content that viewers feel lucky to see rad commercials (sort of like megachurches with attached mega-Christian-chain-bookstores, where congregants feel blessed to shell out non-discount prices for Jesus Wants You To Finance That Hummer… and, of course, to obliterate completely the line between MerchanTainment and alleged actual “entertainment,” so that the “real picture” you paid advertisers to make is actually a two-hour “preview” for Coke-flavored Coors.  
Of course, there is a way to avoid all of this, which is to download Stick It illegally from the internet until movie studios go out of business, and spend your $10 at the Angelika, where you also might score some action. The problem with this is that according to some advertisements during The 2wenty, every time you illegally download Stick It a puppy gets decapitated, and plus, all the snooty movies they play at indie theaters aren’t in English (or, worse, have ugly people in them). So all that’s left to do is stop watching movies altogether, stay home, and stick with the pure art of infomercials — because look, the TempurPedic mattress can withstand the MerchanTainment Apocalypse, and you’ll learn how you can get your own risk free, right after this commercial breaks for a commercial — for MerchanTainment Apocalypse, coming soon to a theater near you.