Monday, May 16, 2005

Next, the Trix Rabbit plays Jabba the Hut

"Star Wars" characters have been licensed since 1977, and over the years they have appeared on everything from toothbrushes to iPod covers.

But with this last scheduled movie in the series, George Lucas has for the first time permitted the use of the characters outside of their own "galaxy far, far away." Darth Vader appears on commercials for Cheerios and Yoda is pushing Diet Pepsi. It's sad to see these characters diminished from mythic figures on a scale with Frodo and Robin Hood to walking logos like the the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Energizer bunny.

As the Washington Post's Frank Ahrens says in this article, "Darth Vader, the manifestation of evil in the films, is getting plenty of work in the "Sith" promotion, in a way that's oddly counter to his 'don't-cross-me-or-I'll-telepathically-strangle-you' character. There he is, holding a huge bag of M&M's. There he is, trying to con someone out of a burger in a Burger King commercial. It's almost enough to make one feel sorry for the lord of the Dark Side, reduced to a heavy-breathing pitchman."

Even more disturbing is the marketing of the movie through Burger King "kids' meals" to very young children, even though the movie is rated PG-13.

My essay on the marketing of the new Star Wars movie appears on the Common Sense Media website.

Update on May 19 from the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, objecting to "Star Wars" sixtreen different food promotions for twnety-five different foods, every one of them of little or no nutritional value. "Ten Star Wars food products have 35 or more grams of sugar per serving; another seven have more than 20 grams of sugar. Many Star Wars foods are also high in fat and full of empty calories. A two-ounce serving of Limited Edition Star Wars Frito Lay Cheetos contains 20 grams of fat and 320 calories. Two Lava Berry Pop Tarts contain 400 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 38 grams of sugar. The smallest size Star Wars collectible M&M package contains 440 calories, 19 grams of fat, and 56.5 grams of sugar."

CCFC also notes that the promotions are directed at children too young to see the movie. Furthermore, "Star Wars Promotions Encourage Repeated Purchases of Junk Food:
The Skittles website encourages Star Wars fans to collect all 48 collectible Star Wars Skittles wrappers. It fails to mention that fans will need to purchase eighteen pounds of Skittles in order to complete their collection. This figure pales in comparison, however, to the forty-five pounds of M&M’s (containing more than 10,000 grams of sugar) kids need to buy to collect all seventy-two M&M Star Wars wrappers. To collect all thirty-one Star Wars Super D toys “for free,” kids will need to buy more than five Burger King children’s meals (690 calories, 28 grams of fat, and 35 grams of sugar) per week during the six-week promotion."

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