By now you've probably heard about this Hamilton High valedictorian who got paid $1,800 by a movie studio to plug a film in her speech. But the fallout over it is pretty interesting. The Wall Street Journal ran a scathing front page story on the ploy yesterday called "Fellow Graduates, Before We Greet The Future, a Word From My Sponsor."
The LA Times response to that was Patrick Goldstein's story "Fox nabbed by its own newspaper in lame "Beth Cooper" viral scam." Is this the real story here ... that Rupert Murdoch's empire is so big that it actually is a healthy universe of checks and balances? That his Wall Street Journal could call out his studio execs and give them a public, front-page spanking? Goldstein writes:
"Any worries that the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal would go easy on its sister company, 20th Century Fox, were erased today by the paper's hilarious front-page scoop detailing how the dunderheads in Fox's marketing department had failed, quite spectacularly, in their efforts to stage a fake event to create viral buzz for the studio's recent comedy "I Love You, Beth Cooper," one of the summer's leading box-office duds."
If you haven't seen the YouTube video, you're not alone. The thing didn't go viral; after a month it only had 2,000 views and even now, on day two after it was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, it's only up to about 10,000. The idea was to have the class valedictorian sort of re-create a scene from the movie "I Love You, Beth Cooper" by screaming out "I love you, Jake Minor!" to one of her own classmates, and when it was posted on YouTube, it would become a viral video hit and create buzz (read: free promotion) for the film.
It wasn't home video, and, as blogger Goldstein continues in his piece today:
"..to add insult to injury, Mejia, the valedictorian, admitted that she hadn't bothered to see the movie either. Fox clearly wasn't happy when the intrepid Journal reporters called, asking for an explanation. A studio spokesman offered this terse statement: "We hired an outside company to look for viral opportunities for this movie, and this is one of the opportunities they found." In other words, the studio feels no need to apologize, since apparently no one seems to think it did anything wrong. When it comes to Web buzz, at least in terms of the moral choices at today's media conglomerates, it's clearly a case of buyer beware."
"Here's the actual incriminating clip" Goldstein writes, and adds my favorite line; "complete with fake home-video-style camera jiggles:"
I put the "real" movie version of the scene just below it so you can see what this whole thing was supposed to be about.
Granted, if this had been real, it would have been kind of sweet. The girl is clearly having a case of the nerves, which gives it the impression of being a real true-love confession for a classmate (who then stands up as everyone cheers.)
The nervousness was probably because she knew this wasn't the best idea, but what kid going off to college could pass up a check from a studio for $1,800 for just doing a silly thing at graduation? This IS high school.
The Defamer gave this prank, and the studio, a scathing review; pointing out all the above that we've already gotten to (the movie bombed, the school district is mad, Mejia never even SAW the movie, the video didn't go viral, bla bla bla) -- the thing would have been bad enough if at least the confession were a little bit real. Even just a tiny bit. According to the Defamer:
"This "Jake Minor" character that Kenya called out as her crush is not even her boyfriend. Although her boyfriend supposedly "endorsed it," hopefully for a hefty cut of the check. Furthermore, Jake Minor has a girlfriend of his own. His assessment of Kenya: "She's pretty quiet." Love connection fail.
The Wall Street Journal story says:
"Ms. Mejia, who describes herself as "like, the biggest introvert ever," says she still can't quite believe she participated in the stunt. "I really don't know what I was thinking," she says by telephone from Cambridge, Mass., where she's already taking summer classes at MIT in physics, chemistry, calculus and humanities in preparation for her freshman year."
Comments have been all over the map.
"So? $1800, that's good money," writes Andy L, "If that girl can't decide whether or not she wants to be filmed as advertisement for a movie then she should just give up. I had Got Milk ads and all those crappy corporate sponsorships all over my high school. We were poor, what else could we have done."
Joseph MZ writes, "Sad. I'm not far removed from this generation, but it seems like certain moments should not be put up for sale. Imagine all of the hard work this girl must have put in to be valedictorian of her high school class and the honor of giving the speech. Hopefully she learns the value of self respect and dignity at MIT."
"Really? For $1,800 cash money? That's a lot of money to most people," writes J.L., "let alone a high school student. I say good for her, she understands that selling out is part of life."
Then, my favorite, from Julius Tavarnaro: "Makes me wonder if this article is also a viral marketing ploy."
Front page of the Wall Street Journal certainly does trump YouTube. Nicely played, Mr. Murdoch.
Editor's Note: So that viral video effort fell mortarboard flat, but here are some that didn't, according to Yahoo! or Microhoo! or Yahoosoft! or whatever it's called now.