Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I don't get it.

My three-year-old daughter has been extraordinarily good lately, so my wife and I told her she could choose a treat. She dedided she wanted to see a movie in a theater. She wanted to see 'The Green Man' ('Shrek 3').

I was hesitant. After all, isn't Shrek a little mature for a three-year-old?

The movie's rated PG, which didn't assuage my reluctance, but on the way to the theater, we passed by a McDonald's, where all the Happy Meals feature the lovable green ogre.

Well, there it is. Happy Meals are made for kids. I know that because I used to shoot tons of Happy Meals commercials. So what if they're increasingly marketing tie-ins with movies? My feeling was that having their imprimatur conferred legitimacy on the film as something genuinely for kids.

The film itself was pretty benign. My daughter got a little scared toward the end, but she didn't cry or scream or even avert her gaze, so I guess we did okay. But one thing about the film struck me as odd. 

The soundtrack.

The music –– almost all of it –– was from the 1970s. One of the songs was 'Top of the World'. The original version. The one sung by Karen Carpenter.

'Top of the World' was a Billboard #1 hit in 1973, which means if you remember that song at all, you're not just way too old to be eating Happy Meals, but your children are probably too old to be eating Happy Meals. 1973 was 37 years ago. The fact that I remember the song is anomalous. I was young when it came out, and super old when I started having kids. 

If you were 17 in 1973, you're 54 now. If Happy Meals are meant for kids 12 and under, you gave birth when you were between 42 and 54. So what gives?

The way I see it, there are four possible explanations.

1) 'Shrek 3' is meant to have a dual appeal, to kids and their parents, specifically older parents.
2) 'Shrek 3' is meant to have a dual appeal, to kids and their parents, and nobody bothered to figure out that most kids don't have parents that are more than 42 years older than they are.
3)  'Shrek 3' is designed to occupy a really narrow niche –– appealing to grandparents who take their grandkids to the movies.
4) Everybody making the critical creative decisions on 'Shrek 3' is an old guy –– between 54 and 70. And is completely oblivious to the fact that their musical tastes are antiquated.

I'm going to go with #4. But only because I know that it's possible. I've seen Hollywood egos up close and for every executive who tries to manufacture a product to appeal to a demographic, there's another executive who doesn't give a crap about demographics and does what he knows is best. 

When Mr. Demographic has the power, you end up with a rap song being played over the end credits of a film in which it would be otherwise utterly inappropriate in order to broaden the appeal of the soundtrack and presumably, the film. When Mr. Ego has the power, you end up with 37-year-old songs being used in films that are targeted at people who have little frame of reference to appreciate them.

But I could be wrong. There could be another explanation. 

Anybody got one?