Dinner for Schmucks, Porsches For Jerks

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With Inception at number one for the third straight week, Brandcameo has no new number one film on which to report. Instead, we take a look at a this week’s also-ran, Dinner for Schmucks, and what it tells us about how audiences perceive the Porsche brand.[more]

In short, if a character in a film drives a Porsche, there’s a good chance he’s a world-class a**hole. Why?

More specifically, Porsche drivers are selfish males, maybe too arrogant to see their own faults.

The immature bachelor in Failure to Launch, the self-absorbed doctor in 2012, the philandering surgeon in Valentine’s Day and the hot-shot human torch in Fantastic Four are just a few of the onscreen characters who prominently drive Porsches. Not only do they have the car brand in common, but each is also blinded by his own egotism. Coincidence?

Add to that list Dinner for Schmucks. The film’s main character Tim is a rising executive willing to throw anyone under the bus to get ahead in his career. Of course, Tim drives a Porsche (above).

True,  Porsche’s product placements have evolved to become associated with complex, if unlikable, characters. It is no longer the car brand of outright “bad guys,” like Al Pacino’s Tony “Scarface” Montana. Today’s onscreen Porsche drivers may be jerks, but they often travel a character arc that sees them redeemed by the closing credits.

Maybe no character better embodies how filmmakers, and audiences, see the Porsche driver than Alec Baldwin’s Jake Adler from the 2009 film It’s Complicated (above). Adler, a moderately wealthy 50-year-old, struggles with his actions as he cheats on his current wife with his ex-wife, whom he had left for the new wife years ago. Adler’s impulsiveness leaves him chasing his own happiness, while leaving emotional destruction in his wake. Parked at the scene of his every emotional crime? His Porsche.

How did the sweet sports car become the universal symbol for “arrogant bastard”? Is this onscreen shorthand simply mirroring brand characteristics that already exist? Or does Porsche’s onscreen characterization drive our own real-world perceptions of the brand? Who’s zooming who?

On another product placement note, Dinner for Schmucks is just the latest film featuring heavy Apple product placement (above) that just missed finishing first. Though Apple, last year’s overall leader, still leads this year’s Brandcameo count, it also had roles in a slew of almost-number ones, including Sex and the City 2, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Book of Eli, Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Get Him to the Greek, Hot Tub Time Machine, and, of course, Dinner for Schmucks (below).

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