Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eat Pray Market

Eat Pray Market

Although I had not previously read the book, I jumped in and joined the EPL fray today, joining a new group of women known as the Family of Women to see Julia Roberts take on the fictionalized role of real-life author and memoirist, Elizabeth Gilbert. Earning only a 37% freshness rating on the Rotten Tomatoes "TOMATOMETER," the film has earned $47.1 million since its US opening on August 13. Hypercritical moviegoer that I know myself to be, I decided to go in with an open mind ... knowing as I went that Peter Travers, of Rolling Stone Magazine , had given the movie a single star (out of four possible).

My opinion is that it certainly deserves more than one star - but I'm not sure I'd go as high as two-and-a-half. On my personal Three-Tier Movie Rating System (Must See, Wait for the Video, and Don't Waste Your Money), it's definitely in the WTV category.

Having sold more than 8 million copies and been translated into 30 languages, the book must have done something right, though. And now, it seems that everyone is looking to cash in on the EPL machine.

As Jeannine Stein put it in her August 16 LA Times article,
"This is enough of a paradigm shift that it's not just another Friday-night movie opening," says Peter Sealey, former president of marketing and distribution at Columbia Pictures and now a professor of marketing at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at the Claremont Graduate University. "This movie has a uniquely different approach to generating buzz and marketing."
Eat Pray Love is one of those rare convergences of a chick-lit bestseller set in exotic locales turned into a chick flick starring Julia Roberts. In other words, a marketer's dream.
The question for me is not whether or not lots of people besides Elizabeth Gilbert will make loads of money, but rather, should they? I realize we live in the Land of Entrepreneurs where capitalism still rules the day. Hey - one of the main functions of my job is to help small businesses better market their goods and services to potential clients. And this movie certainly is, as Stein points out, a marketer's dream. But according to an August 11 Arizona Republic article, aptly titled "Eat Pray Shop: Movie Inspires Loads of Products,":

These products' explicit link between "something more" and "personal adornment" has some feeling cynical about the memoir's marketing.
"It's like the medieval practices of buying indulgences so you could get into heaven," said Diana Barnes-Brown, author of the article "Eat, Pray, Spend" in Bitch magazine, a feminist monthly publication.
She objects to the way marketing deftly mixes essential states of being like sanity and wholeness with luxurious products like jewelry and lip gloss.
Barnes-Brown argues that this type of marketing creates the illusion that spirituality and wellness are commodities that are financially inaccessible for most American women.
Yet marketers always attach abstract ideas to products, said Michael Wiles, assistant professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU. Advertisers pitch face creams that increase self confidence (while decreasing wrinkles) and or men's deodorants that elevate masculinity (while masking body odor). "The irony here is that the experience being purchased is anti-consumerism and self-fulfillment," Wiles said.
But movies have been creating merchandising tie-ins for years - so why is this one so bad? Mind you, this is my blog, so it's my opinion - but I think it's precisely because of the alleged spiritual mission and message of the film. How commercially viable would the movie (and all the subsequent tie-in retreats and oils and candles and scarves and beads and bracelets and yoga mats) have been if it'd been done by an indie house, unknown director, and having cast an ordinary, non-household name, rather than the famed Pretty Woman?

Just because you can make money by riding a tidal wave of marketing, does that mean you should? There are, no doubt, those who would argue, "Of course! What a stupid question." But honestly, if you're not really adding something of value to the experience, providing an option, idea, product, or service not already available under some other guise - in short, if you're marketing something simply for the end goal of cashing in - I suspect there may be reasons to back off and let well enough alone. Gordon Gecko's mantra "Greed is good," seems to have no place around this story about a woman's quest for self-identity and purpose.

Have another opinion? Please feel free to share it below in the comments section.

This is Day 32 in the 60-Day Content Challenge. See you tomorrow for the next post!

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