“Holy shit, we’re being overrun by electronic terrorists from the moon!”
This is not a post about the upcoming Transformers movie (only 152 days to go!). On Wednesday, the city of Boston shut down the subways, tunnels, waterways, and bridges because a whole bunch of light boxes were placed around the city in a guerrilla advertising campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It’s one of the best cartoons ever – if I could be a cartoon character, it’d probably be Frylock – but not that many people know about it because it’s on cable late at night. The “devices” were in place for three weeks in ten cities around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, and New York, and yet Boston was the only city that went ape and called in the bomb squads.
So the city now stands divided. Half the people are laughing, and half are crying foul. It’s an age gap. The average pop-culture-saturated college kid has a good shot of knowing about the show, if not the specific characters that the light boxes portrayed. The average forty-five year old, well… not so much. The big question, and one that will be debated for a long time to come, is did Boston overreact? In my opinion, you bet. Even in a city where the population swells by well over 100,000 students during the school year and where the average age hovers near 40, there are still a whole lot of folks who don’t know ATHF, don’t get the joke, and might genuinely be freaked out by a mildly profane light box. I’d venture that most of the adults in any city have never heard of
the show, much less know the Mooninites, who only appear in a few episodes.
Nevertheless, our elected officials didn't bother to go through the normal channels of investigation that one might think would be appropriate: Check with other cities to see if anything else had gone down, run the image by the press and see if they could match it with anything, and perhaps look at ONE device rather than bring the city to a standstill while trying to tackle all 38 of them. Mayor Tom Menino wants about $750,000 from Boston to compensate for the inconveniences of shutting down the city for a few hours and activating the bomb squad, and I think that his comment that “It is outrageous that, in a post-9/11 world, a company would use this type of marketing scheme” is not appropriate. His reaction was unbalanced and rash, and therefore irresponsible. He is fearmongering and playing on people's fears of terrorism, and that ain't right.
I’d also like to add a few words to the end of his comment: “Without informing the city first.” I can’t help but be a little pissed at Turner Broadcasting too. One phone call on their part, and I have a feeling that the city of Boston would’ve bent over backwards (that’s legal here!) to help out the marketing campaign. Hell, if the city had been in on the joke, it would have been awesome
. Think of all those students who would subscribe to cable, or buy ATHF merch, or help the campaign out in some way or another. It was definitely a bad idea to not inform the city officials. There have to be one or two of ‘em who are secretly laughing on the inside. So yes, foul on Turner Broadcasting. That said, does it make sense for people to get all up in arms about a bunch of Lite-Brite boxes? Of course not! With every news report about this incident that I hear on TV or the radio, I laugh harder and harder. I think the entire shitstorm is absolutely hysterical.
But in the long run, this isn’t going to hurt Turner – sure, they’ll wind up shelling out 750 large to apologize to Menino et al, but the nationwide news networks haven’t stopped talking about this for days. That’s publicity, and I guarantee that there are thousands of 18-to-30-year-olds out there who are going to start watching the show and buying the t-shirts. Hell, some guy in Georgia made a replica – a frickin’ replica
! – of one of the electronic Mooninites and offered it on eBay with a starting bid of $15. He sold it for nine hundred and fifty dollars
. That’s why I love this country. And the whole campaign, no matter how brilliant or ill-conceived, will definitely bring the curious and the newly converted to the ATHF movie. That’s right, the campaign was originally intended to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres
(shades of Borat, hm?), the full-length cartoon movie due out in March. And guess what? Thanks to this whole debacle, it'll rake in much more cash than expected.
And by the way, the only people who should be punished are these two
. They’re the ones hired by Turner to place the electronic Mooninites around Boston. I don’t think their actions are deplorable, but Christ, look at them! One should go to prison for the hair alone. That very photo (or similar ones taken around the same time) graced the covers of today's papers, and I think it was the Herald that gave the headline "Bad Hair Day."