Friday, January 23, 2009

Thinking Outside the Inbox

The PR Firm E-mail of the Week:

Dear Chez,

Lights, camera…smile! Want to get in on the buzz and let your readers know about one of the most anticipated movie premieres of 2009? Crest Whitestrips is proud to announce its partnership with the soon-to-be-blockbuster, "He’s Just Not That Into You." New Crest Whitestrips Advanced Seal, the most advanced innovation in teeth whitening technology, is making its debut at the He’s Just Not That Into You world premiere and after-party taking place on Monday, February 2nd in Los Angeles.

Apart from making a special guest appearance in the film, Crest Whitestrips is also the platinum sponsor of the not-to-be-missed movie premiere and official after-party, which will be complete with a star-studded red carpet including the A-list cast of "He’s Just Not That Into You": Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connolley, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bradley Cooper and many more! All of the guests will be walking away with new Crest Whitestrips Advanced Seal to keep their smiles dazzling white.

Upon request, we can provide you with exclusive photos to share with your readers from the premiere and after-party immediately following the event.

Crest Whitestrips is also conducting a national online contest where your readers can enter to win a private screening of the romantic comedy for all of their friends and family at their local theater. Three first prize winners will receive an autographed movie poster and every day for the duration of the contest, three entrants will be selected to receive a soundtrack CD or movie poster. To enter, readers can log on to

Please let me know if you need additional information or have any questions.

I look forward to hearing from you soon!



My Response:

Dearest Katie,

How did you know it was my birthday a few weeks ago?!?! As I'm sure you're aware, I and my readers LOVED the bestselling book He's Just Not That Into You, especially after Oprah drooled all over a copy of it on her show. We also in no way think that the book's author, ex-stand up comedian and lone heterosexual male Sex and the City writer Greg Behrendt, is in any way the world's biggest douche. But the icing on the cake? PRODUCT PLACEMENT! I can't tell you the kind of joy I and my readers get trying to pick out every product forcibly stuffed into a modern blockbuster until the result is one giant, distracting advertisement for an assortment of crap that hits you over the head like a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew™. So I guess the only thing left to say, Katie, is THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! (By the way, you misspelled "Connelly.")



Now, just for the hell of it, a repost of a piece that ran way back in September of 2006 that deals with consumerism, He's Just Not That Into You, and its Ultimate Douche author, Greg Behrendt.

"Return of the Attack of the Attack of the Creepy Surrealism"

Last week I brought up a phenomenon which just about everyone has become aware of at one point or another, and which Washington Post columnist Joel Achenbach termed "Creeping Surrealism." (Sign O' the Times/9.12.06) It's the strange and overwhelming feeling that nothing is real anymore -- that information manipulation has become so virtuoso as to render the artificial completely indistinguishable from the genuine.

An inevitable by-product of this is that even if Americans can tell the real from the fake, they no longer think the distinction matters and therefore don't even bother to try to anymore.

One of my favorite examples he cites is the curious case of Pepperidge Farms "Homestyle" Cookies, which are literally designed to look as if they've been lovingly spooned onto a cookie sheet one by one, no doubt by Grandma's frail, caring hand -- the engineered imperfections doubtless proof of this fact. Achenbach posits that we all fully understand the reality -- that the Pepperidge Farms company has created a mold which cranks out cookies meant to look as if they weren't created by a mold -- but choose to ignore it.

We just accept the fact that we're being royally bullshitted.

A second example he offers is the strange and somewhat unnerving predilection many in this country have toward trusting the people on television, simply because they're on television. Achenbach reminds us that long before reality TV created a vast expanse of gray area between honesty and nonsense, a significant portion of the American population saw nothing unusual in writing letters to Robert Young -- TV's Marcus Welby M.D. -- requesting medical advice. Only the most delusional among them actually believed that Young was, in fact, the wise and kindly doctor he portrayed on TV; the rest simply assumed that anyone who played the part so well had to be familiar with the subject -- which is frightening in and of itself, particularly when that subject is medicine.

I've seen dozens of examples of this phenomenon throughout my career: for every one television news anchor who truly understood the material that was going into his or her head and subsequently coming out of his or her mouth -- or took part in the assembly of that material for that matter -- there were five who didn't have a goddamned clue what was going on in the world, or in their own newsroom, that wasn't placed in their teleprompter by a 22-year-old, six-dollar-an-hour writer. Yet, when the queries and suggestions from the audience came, they came addressed to the face on the screen rather than the people who were actually responsible for the gathering and dissemination of the information in question.

No matter how cynical we believe we've become throughout the years, to this day millions of us still trust the talking head on the mysterious glowing box in the living room.

The difference these days however, is that the recipients of all of that misplaced trust have finally learned to fully exploit and capitalize on the public's lack of discrimination when it comes to on-screen persona versus off-screen reality -- and they're now doing it in profoundly inventive ways. To put it another way, they're taking the advice that Guns N' Roses offered fifteen years ago: Use Your Illusion.

Enter Greg Behrendt.

For much of the early 90s, Behrendt made the rounds as a somewhat substandard comic -- basing a good portion of his stand-up material on the supposed inherent irony in being a "Rock n' Roll Guy" (spiked hair, earrings, tattoos, affinity for wallet-chains with low-slung jeans), while at the same time being a "Metrosexual-type Guy" (hair wax, sterling silver earrings, skin cleanser, affinity for wallet-chains with low-slung Diesel jeans). Despite the fact that in reality these two extremes are nothing more than opposite ends of the same spectrum of vacuity, Behrendt's routine eventually caught the eye of HBO, which put him on television -- and that's where things really took off; he landed a somewhat surprising new gig, which simultaneously made him the poster-child for Creeping Surrealism.

Behrendt was hired as a "consultant" on Sex & The City; he was brought on board to correct the writing staff of women and gay men whenever they were about to make one of the show's straight male characters do something that a real straight man would never do -- such as get anywhere near a woman who essentially looks like the four-legged half of a Tijuana donkey show. The only real requirements in the job description were that Behrendt be heterosexual and be at least as funny as the writers themselves, which judging by their output was about as funny as prison rape.

But here's the thing, Behrendt's stint on Sex & The City was by no means the end of his career -- far from it in fact; what he did next was parlay the "experience" he gained on the show into a best-selling book on -- in Creepily Surreal fashion -- relationships.

Perhaps you've heard of it -- it was called He's Just Not That Into You.

To recap: A relatively unfunny stand-up comedian took a gig on a show about women who sleep with the Manhattan phone book but can't make any of their relationships work, and used it to write a self-help book for the kind of vapid women who watch the show regularly and can't make any of their relationships work.

Now comes the latest twist: Behrendt has used the success of that book and his follow-up, the Oprah-ready monikered It's Called a Break-Up Because it's Broken, to land himself his own talk show, which debuts this week. What does the show focus on? If you guessed relationships, you win yourself some hair wax. In the commercial for the syndicated show, which debuts this week on various channels around the country, Behrendt walks purposefully while saying -- without so much as a hint of a knowing smile or a tip of the hat to irony -- that he's going to help people get more out of their "relationships -- all kinds of relationships."

And needless to say, no one is more qualified to take on this seemingly gargantuan task than a guy who consulted for a show about casual sex and who once briefly dated Janeane Garofalo before she had her sense of humor surgically removed and began a new career as a pissed-off quasi-lesbian.

The Behrendt Love Gravy Train isn't the only one to have departed from the Sex & The City station. Awhile back, Kim Cattrall either became the toast of the method-acting community by forgetting completely where her character ended and where she began, or simply hoped to exploit the public's alleged fascination with her on-screen reputation by writing two books on -- can you see it coming? (pun completely intended) -- female sexuality. Her advertising campaign may as well have been a new twist on a well-known catchphrase: "I'm not a whore, but I play one on TV." Once again the idea seemed to be that no one is in a better position to lecture the American public on a given subject than someone who's portrayed an expert on that subject on television.

There's a part of me that would love to chalk all of this narcissistic presumptuousness up to Hollywood in general and its well-worn cadre of Yes Men; it's probably the only place in the world where a rambling, coke-fueled idea tossed out at four in the morning is met not with a healthy level of friendly skepticism, but rather with a chorus of giddy approval and six business cards.

Regardless of who's behind the selling of this crap though, one thing is for certain -- we're still happily buying it.

And that's as Creepily Surreal as it gets.


Anonymous said...

yet, by writing this article, you are still giving the movie, the book, and even Crest whitestrips the attention they want! (negative attention is better than no attention at all.)

Dave said...

Hilarious evidence confirming Behrendt's status as a douche.

burke said...

Chez, I think YOU need to be the next talk show host. The format of show would be you calling these people out on a weekly basis. Now, THAT would be a reality show. "Creepily Surreal" would be an appropriate name. Or, better yet, "What The FUCK Is Wrong With You People?"

Good stuff, man.

chenry said...

I can't even get past the use of the phrase "special guest appearance in the film". When Don Knots appears out of nowhere, that's a special guest appearance.

Watching Jennifer Aniston wedge a piece of shit into her mouth is not special.

Jesus Hyphen Christ, talk about soft language.

Deacon Blue said...

Wow, more proof that my profession and its related professions are going down the tube...they're not even trying anymore to hire people with any kind of journalism-style training to do press releases.

The enthusiasm of that news release was so overwhelming in it sugary ebullience that my teeth have rotted out of my head and the need for Crest Whitestrips is compeletely nil now.

Dave B. said...

You're awesome, Chez.

Excellent response.

Cpt Clown said...

Anyone who doesn't believe that Greg Behrendt isn't THE premiere social commentator and funniest comedian of our generation hasn't seen his bit on Cadbury eggs.

Anonymous said...

Good job on fisking Behrendt, but spare a thought for poor Katie. She is just trying to earn a living at her P.R. agency, making less money than a Starbucks barista as a "junior account manager". Crest is the client, so off she goes to make her media pitches. Eventually, Katie will have to go to her angry boss, who probably promised the client all kinds of pick up, and explain why it is that no one is interested. Katie will, of course, then be told that she just wasn't persistent enough.

/Once worked in a P.R. agency, and still suffers flashbacks

Anonymous said...

How about a contest where you can win a role as the star victim in Saw VI, where, unlike the previous five installments, it's an actual snuff film, and you'll be giddily tortured in the most horrific manner ever imagined. Ironically, the method of torture involves attending a movie screening with Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connolley, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bradley Cooper.

slouchmonkey said...

You get any response from Katie or others?

Peach said...

"...a woman who essentially looks like the four-legged half of a Tijuana donkey show" He wrote.

Thus Diet Coke came out of my nose at the Court of Appeals. And 3 Judges, they did laugh.


Lily's Mommy said...

You fucking slay me.

See You Next Tuesday said...

Chez, the way you respond to these letters provides me a kind of pure joy I simply cannot describe.

Crude invective is likely the easiest and most tempting response, yet you consistently go the extra mile. I wonder if any of these marketing bots manage to fire enough synapses to feel properly insulted by your little thank you notes. I certainly hope so.

Joshua said...

Do you actually reply, or just post your responses on DXM?

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to disagree with part of your premise...prison rape can be pretty damn funny.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the repost Chez. I just discovered you in early 2008, so it was new to me. Also, thanks for the intelligent, sarcastic wit. I run a home day-care and checking your site for some interesting read helps me remember I have a brain.

Jeremy said...

So, now we know why he's just not that into you... its because you have yucky teeth.
Brush them things bitches!

And don't forget to floss while you're at it.

The Army Wife said...

Cpt Clown, the cadbury egg bit was funny, but not THAT funny! :) He's still a mediocre commedian. (who, by the way, has a new show on TLC "fixing" couples relationships ... cuz you know, he's the pro.)

Anonymous said...

You also have to feel sorry for her in that she gets to be one of countless thousands of young women in their 20s named, "Katie", there apparently having been no other names to pick for baby girls in the early to mid 80s.

Brian said...

Realize that Hollywood is an ever changing landscape.

Yes, Whitestrips has signed a 3 picture deal with WB. As everyone should be aware by now, Whitestrips has been keeping company with many of the Hollywood elite .

However, there is no truth to the rumors Whitstrips has begun practicing Scientology.
Whitestrips has been a member of the Church of Odontology for many years, and has no plans to change faiths.

Ben Affleck is on the A-list again?

Hold on, wait. Just got a memo. Ops, he's off again. What was it this time, 5 days? It must be really tough to keep it all straight. One week it's: “Hey, good to see you, now this party can get started. Make sure you try the firecracker beef rolls they're almost as hot as your movie. I'll catch up with you later."

To: “I'm sorry Mr. Butcher I don't have...”
“That's Kutcher, Ash..."
“I don't have that on the list either. You're going to have to step to the side sir.”

So here's a question: Tom Cruise is an undisputed A-lister. His current, -I want to marry her so I'll put her in one of my movies,- wife is a confirmed B-lister.

Is she by virtue of being Tom's wife now an A-lister? Or is it like she just got an All Access laminate and nobody better fuck with the lead singer's chick.