Something important involving the convergence of commerce and that which entertains us may have happened when FOX decided to back away from a proposed book and TV specials deal involving O.J. Simpson. We don’t know how to interpret the pull-out exactly because while there were strong indications the project would make some money, it might not have been quite enough money to buy everyone involved a clothespin for their nose.
But I say let’s be grateful for small things in this season of Thanksgiving. For any parent besieged by the tsunami of negative media products that encroach on home life and their children, the news that a large corporation was going to pull the plug on a multi-tiered celebration of murder had to be of some small comfort.
Again, we may never know exactly what flipped then flopped the O.J. deal. Certainly, FOX was looking to mitigate the public uproar by offering to share any profit from advertising sales with families of the victims. Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, characterized this charity move as “money to keep our mouth shut.”
While the “content” that was being offered by O.J. may inevitably find its way to the Internet the way that spicy videos do, at least the machinery that validates garbage by stamping a corporate logo onto it was slowed for a moment. Although to characterize anybody as a smut peddler (repentant or otherwise) these days is to miss the more complex big picture, which FOX is well aware of.
For example, Bill O’ Reilly, who along with Rush Limbaugh developed the modern industry of professional hypocrisy, came out against FOX’s O.J. project on his FOX News show. That only helped promote it, as FOX and O’Reilly well know. Win, win. Look deeper into the weave of things and you can even put a price on the publicity FOX received for playing out the O.J. project, both “on” and “off.” Millions of dollars worth of message stating, among other things, here’s a dynamic corporation so aggressive they have to be talked down from the threshold of a death porn project.
The O.J. dealings may have pulled focus away from another situation at FOX, which is the piling on of litigation against the film Borat. With the popular “mockumentary” FOX has successfully introduced deception as a film production technique. The pending litigation all stems from the fact that the filmmakers, in one form or another, lied to the participants in the film who were then made to look like idiots. For our entertainment.
As with the O.J. pull-out, FOX may find that in settling the Borat suits they give away enough domestic theatrical profit to make them think again before manufacturing entertainment by any means necessary. Although having settled those suits, FOX will then enjoy DVD sales of Borat that should more than make it all worthwhile.
So at the end of the day, or the cash register receipt, do we have any impact on media machinations? Did outrage shout down the O.J. project? Yes, but only as it was manifested in possible lost revenue and not in any turn of conscience. Observers of FOX’s O.J. retreat point out that unsold books is nothing compared to having a big noisy TV project that then fails to muster any advertising sales.
When I allege a deeper weave to all these things, consider this: Last week David Letterman agreed to let Jerry Seinfeld insert Michael Richards into Seinfeld’s segment on Letterman. Richards appeared in a satellite hook-up, contrite about his media-viral meltdown at the Laugh Factory. At the core of this event was racism spewed by Richards. Here’s how that racism worked out last week: Letterman had record high ratings for that show, Seinfeld promoted a new DVD release of his old series to that record audience, the Laugh Factory got global free press, and Borat was off the hook for a few days. In the 21st century, that’s entertainment.