Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Trouble with False Advertising

by Sariah S. Wilson

This is a ranting blog. You have been warned.

So, last weekend we went to see "Bridge to Terabithia" with our boys.

Admittedly, it has been many, many years since I read the book and I had no recollection of the plot at all.

We all wanted to go based solely on the trailer. Have you seen it? It's the one where it looks like a boy and girl enter a mythical magical land. Sort of like a Chronicles of Narnia (or for you "Lazy Sunday" fans the Chronic-WHAT-Culs of Narnia) type movie.

We went to the movie and I waited. And waited. And waited for the hero and heroine to get into the fairy world. It easily took over an hour just for the first magical type thing to happen.

I will tell you this - if you've seen the trailer you have seen every single "other world" scene the movie has.

Because this movie isn't about fluffy puppies and leprechauns. It's about someone dying.

It's very, very depressing. And someone dies.

And did I mention there's a death?

People around me were sobbing and my 4-year-old and 7-year-old were completely confused.

I walked out of there feeling totally cheated and robbed. Disney had publicized this movie as a family flick. Its trailer deliberately sets out to make you think that this is about a magical land with magical creatures, but there's less than 15 minutes total in the entire movie of those sorts of scenes.

It made it so that I will very carefully research the next Disney "family" movie that I take my children to see.

Disney tricked me as a customer, and it's not something I'll forget.

I think as writers, we need to be aware of the same sort of thing happening with our books. We don't want to present ourselves (or have our publishers present us) one way when our books are actually something else.

A lot of times this isn't the publisher's fault. Sometimes books are a hodge-podge mixture of different literary and genre elements and the poor cover artists just do the best they can in trying to create a cover.

But it was important to me to talk frankly with my editor in how I envisioned myself in the LDS market. I told him that I didn't want to be just "a Book of Mormon author." I didn't want to pigeonhole myself, because I wanted to be able to write romances in all sorts of different settings. I consider myself to be primarily a romance writer.

So that's how my publisher is positioning me, and hopefully once I shift from Book of Mormon romances to a romance set in another time period any readers that I've gained will follow.

I know that there's nothing that's going to irritate someone more than seeing an advertisement for a book that makes it sound like a suspense thriller, when in actuality it's a fantasy romance. You don't want to "Bridge to Terabithia" your potential readers.

What about you? Have you ever been sucked in and upset by something you considered to be false advertising?


At 2/24/2007 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The previews of Kangaroo Jack gave a false impression about what the movie was about, using images from a brief dream that was a very minor part of the story.

At 2/25/2007 3:36 AM, Blogger Matthew Buckley said...

Actually that makes me want to see the movie. I read the book and didn't recall any of the 'fantasy' aspect of what they showed in the trailer. It looked to me like the movie had gone way off track, but maybe not. And I did like the book...

At 2/25/2007 6:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the movie Bridge to Terabithia. I will admit that it was a little misleading to those taking young children, but I thought it was fantastic. I was actually worried that they were going to take out the part where the character dies, to make it more true to a Disney standard movie. I thought it was good and I was happy that it did follow the book.

At 2/25/2007 7:11 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

I agree with Matthew, I pegged Bridge to be a movie I definitely wouldn't see because that fantasy stuff has nothing to do with the book. Now I might actually bother to see it, though as I remember the book, I liked it, but I didn't feel comfortable with the way the death was handled.

At 2/25/2007 7:39 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

But for those of us who have not read/didn't remember the plot of the book, I thought the trailer was highly misleading. It gives the audience the understanding that this is a family friendly film about a magical place, not a coming of age story with death in it.

At 2/26/2007 9:02 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

I'd like to say that while I did read the book (and therefore was not tricked by the advertising) I really, really hated the book. Then again, I hated every book I was forced to read in school. I remember very vividly having to read stupid Bridge to Terabithia while my family was on Spring Break vacation in California--they were playing on the beach and I was sitting in the car reading a stupid book.

At 2/26/2007 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a note to mention that "Bridge" was not made by Disney Studios, but rather a three partner group of men---at least one of whom is LDS---. The same threesome behind Narnia, Winn Dixie, Holes and the just-released Amazing Grace (one that I can't wait to see because it actually shows a man of faith in a favorable light rather than as a failed, morally corupt character hiding behind the robes of religious virtue).

You may be interested in this article about Walden Media---a new studio committed to films of great books---regardless if Robison Wells gives his approval or not---that are considered to be, well, just that, great books. Looks like Audience Alliance, the brain-child of Keith Merrill, will have a competitor in their midst.

Sorry Sariah if you're children weren't entertained, but you may want to remind yourself what CS Lewis said about that:

Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias . His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can't bear to think of.

Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil.

If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the …atomic bomb. Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.

Here is the link:

At 2/26/2007 4:33 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

I don't think Sariah was commenting on whether the movie was good or bad. Or even on whether is is appropriate for children to be challenged by a movie.

her point--which I agree with--is that Disney went out of their way to fasley position their movie as a fantasy. Had I taken my younger children to BOT based on the trailer, I would have asked for my money back.

Why did they position the trailer this way? Clearly they felt that it would sell more tickets than a movie about a child's death. However, that trick only works once.

Mislead me into seeing a movie, reading a book, attending a play, by misrepresenting it, and I will never trust you on a movie again.

I think they would have been far better served to show the movie for what it was, including both the fantastic and real elements.

The book was read and enjoyed by many people--Rob not withstanding--who wanted to see a moview version of the book. Many of them are actually choosing not to see the movie based on what they think is a significantly different story line.

Bad move--in my opinion.

At 2/26/2007 4:56 PM, Blogger Brian Giles said...

Thanks for the heads up Sariah. I have never read the book and was interested simply because of the trailer which made it appear to be very much like Narnia. I can watch the best movie ever but if it wasn't what it was advertised to be it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

At 2/26/2007 4:59 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Jeff's right - this has nothing to do with whether or not I thought the movie was good or not (although I didn't enjoy it) but that Disney deliberately presented it one way and made it seem as if it were a certain type of movie - one with fantastical elements - and it is, instead, a heavy-handed coming of age story.

It was also a heavy, dark character-intensive movie for my young boys who much prefer bright happy things and talking animals. It wasn't about trying to "guard" them per se, but rather that they were immensely bored and I was upset that I had lost that time and money on a movie that was not how Disney portrayed it.

At 2/27/2007 2:16 AM, Anonymous Mystifyer said...

I agree with Sariah, although admittedly I have not seen the movie. I have no desire to see the movie, since I didn't love the book. (I, too, had to read it in the fourth grade which was about 20 years ago. I remembered two things about the was depressing and "someone" died.) I saw the trailer for the movie last night, and my reaction was to inform my roommate, who has not read the book, that the story was much more serious than the trailer implied, and that I didn't remember there being that much fantasy in the book.

At 2/27/2007 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I saw the trailer, I was surprised because it seemed so out of line with the book. I confess, though, I didn't read the whole book because I didn't like the language. In fact, I threw it away.

At 2/27/2007 5:34 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

Okey-dokey, so I just watched the trailer and yikes! Not so much Chronicles but more junior LOTR. Maybe it was the scary music.

Since I do remember the book I vote with Saraiah--the trailer was not representative of the story.

If it were a book report I would give it a C.

At 2/27/2007 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought "Bridge to Terabithia" was a great movie. Who cares if there wasn't a bunch of fantasy scenes? It taught lessons that all kids need to learn and know. Fantasy is fantasy; it isn't real! But kids really do get picked on at school, people really die, parents get mad and kids and kids get mad at parents. I could go on but I think you get the point.

It also teachs kids to be who they want and that they should be creative. It also teachs kids to "Close your eyes, but keep you mind wide open." Which could mean all sorts of things.

You aren't going to walk into a forest and be in a magical land, though. If you want that, go watch "Narnia". If you want to learn life lessons check out "Bridge to Terabithia".

At 2/27/2007 8:10 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

I don't know. I enter a magical land every time I walk into a forrest. I'm willing to bet most kids do too.

At 2/28/2007 12:35 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Before I make my sweeping statement, I'll admit right up front that different people have different tastes.

However: In regards to the most recent anonymous comment, it seems to me that most people who love the book are adults. The only life lesson that book ever taught me (reading it as a kid) was that I hate being told what to read. While I completely support intelligent assigned reading, forcing kids to read sentimental, heavy Message Books during elementary school might only teach kids to hate reading.

Matthew Buckley wrote a great post on this subject on his blog: Chickens Don't Have Armpits.


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