Product Placement in Movies: Too Far or Helps the Realism?

One of the main reasons people go to the movies is to get a much needed break from the real world. Viewers get to live vicariously through their favourite characters, doing and seeing things they’d never get to experience in the ‘real world.’ However, there are some times when a producer’s placement of currently trending products within the screenplay can take away from the underlying plot, that sense of realism that makes the movie believable.

Let’s examine two elements of the current hit series Gotham as it has elements that lend to realism and those that are totally out of the realm of believability in many viewers’ eyes.

The Setting

Before looking at certain elements of Gotham, it might be good to understand the basis of the show. Set back in the days before Batman, this made-for-TV series sets the stage for how Bruce Wayne evolved into Batman and the how central role Detective James Gordon figures into the ongoing plot. Although originally a comic from the early – very early – 1900’s, most of the show assumes that viewers have seen other series and major films of the past several decades.

It is safe to assume that the screenwriters and producers are envisioning what the world looked like before Batman morphed into a superhero. Consequently, any props, any products used within this context need to be analysed as to whether or not they add to, or distract from, that sense of realism. (Even so, it is hard to imagine a real-life Batman, so it’s quite possible anything can be real in Gotham!)

Batmobile and Other Key Vehicles

Many viewers commenting on the series believe that the cars are the most ‘believable’ of the props used throughout the series, including the feature length episode. They state that those vehicles appear to be circa 1970’s when Batman reached his highest level of popularity and the Batman most of us remember. Even younger generations have had the pleasure to watch reruns of the American made television series and this is how most of us ‘know’ Batman. Therefore, Jeeps and other vehicles, including the Batmobile, do tend to add to the show’s authenticity.

Let’s Get Real Now, Mobile Phones?

On one message board those who have seen Gotham wonder how the cars can seem so real but the characters are communicating with mobile phones. Some commenting on this issue state that at least they were on first generation mobile phones and not today’s high tech smart phones. Unfortunately, there is a point to be made here. Why keep the automobiles true to a common view of Batman’s world and then mess it up with a technology that wasn’t current to those times?

Although Gotham is a fantasy/sci fi city, viewers need to be drawn in to that world. Those products that can fit seamlessly into the reality being created work well. Other props such as mobile phones totally distract from the overall authenticity of the plot. When you need to stop and wonder about it, like viewers do with the mobile phones, you miss something along the way. In the end, some products work well in certain scripts whilst others are a distraction. Producers really need to work on this if they expect you to ‘get into’ their reality.

He's an avid gadget geek and spends most of his time reading or writing.

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