06 April, 2009

Quit Victoria. And quit yer bitchin', too

If you haven't seen the Quit Victoria ad yet, take a moment to watch and then keep reading.

It's causing a big stink amongst people who care to get miffed about this sort of thing. Oddly though, their issue doesn't lie with the messaging. And how could it? The ad communicates pretty solidly that, for a child, a parent's death is far worse than their temporary misplacement in a crowd. As far as anti-smoking messages go, this one is probably one of the most effective I've ever seen.

No. Everybody has their panties in a twist, not over the message, but over the perceived treatment of the kid in the ad. Some comments I've seen have likened the spot to child abuse.

Child abuse?


First of all, these critics have no idea what happened on set during filming. The kid could be...acting. That's what paid actors of any age generally do once the cameras come on. He could just be very talented, and not provoked to cry by some unseen mistreatment. We'll know for sure when he turns up a few years from now playing Harry Potter's son in "Hogwarts: The Next Class."

Yes, it's possible that someone told little Nigel his real mommy hated him and was never coming back for him...ever, and then shouted "Action!" It's possible. But that seems unlikely. The producers could have cast any kid in the role if all they planned to do was kick him in the shins, steal his candy and tell him daddy left because he was born. No. More likely, as in any commercial, casting people spent weeks combing through child actors, looking for that one special kid who could cry, convincingly, on command. That's not child abuse. Enabling a child's acting career which will, statistically speaking, spiral horribly out of control in a vortex of drug and alcohol abuse, ending in either death, obscurity or parody could be, but that's a different topic.

But let's just say this kid was smacked around a bit and called a poop head in order to get his tears streaming. If that's what it takes to produce an ad which could potentially save thousands of lives, it's worth it. Without question fifteen seconds of perceived mental anguish for thousands of lifetimes lived fully is an easy trade-off. The kid won't remember it the next day anyway. He'll be back home, blissfully munching his Mr. T cereal, dreaming of kid things, unaware of the trail of bickering and complaining he left in his wake.

UPDATE: It's been brought to my attention that Fiona Sharkie, executive director of Quit Victoria, in an interview with the Today Show revealed that little Alastaire's tears were real. He apparently lost sight of his mother amidst the crowd of 150 talent and crew members, and lost his #$%&. There was only one take, and five cameras were rolling during Reginald's breakdown, so the abandonment was most likely intentional.

Regardless I stand by my earlier statement. The potential good this spot can do far outweighs any short term distress little Leslie may have suffered, and will have already forgotten.

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