Commentary

Gwyneth And Peyton Give Brand Video A Whirl

Celebrities: They’re just like us! They eat sandwiches! They renew driver’s licenses! Why, if it weren’t for the fame and the money and the luminousness of their teeth and the carpets (red at work, shag at home) and the superior access to restaurant tables, airport lounges, plutocrat-grade pharmaceuticals and cult-appointed messiahs, you’d think we occupied the same earthly realm.

I don’t know where I’d be without the advice dispensed by celebrities - at no price to me, yet another Obamacare orphan - about urgent health matters. Similarly, my personal style  would be diminished to the point of irrelevance were it not for their lead-by-example approach to hat-like headgear.

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So whenever I see a celebrity-centric brand video, I don’t just watch it. I luxuriate in it. I take detailed notes. I OMG the dickens out of it via my 12 social-media feeds.

That, sadly, is where the fun ends. As it turns out, people have very strong opinions about celebrities. Some people even dislike certain celebrities. I know, right? That’s like being anti-pillow, or anti-sunshine (no disrespect intended, Mr. Depp!).

And wouldn’t you know it: Today’s two brand videos feature two celebrities with very different likability quotients, at least as far as Internet superfans/meaniepies are concerned. In one corner, prom king/cap’n superstar Peyton Manning. In the other, 2-perfect-4-U purveyor of expensive crap nobody needs Gwyneth Paltrow.

Remind me again: Why am I supposed to hate Gwyneth Paltrow? Did she tweet something untoward about Vin Scully? Did she spit a wad of chaw in Emma Watson’s hair? I can’t remember, nor probably can 97.5 percent of the adult US population. Somehow she’s become a punching bag for a certain subset of Internet commenters, which seems unfair. But hey, nobody forced her to do Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. She knew the risks.

In any event, I sure dig her in “TOUS - Tender Stories No 4” (I can’t get the “o” to elevate, as TOUS does on its YouTube page; if you feel the need to register your disgust by unsubscribing to this newsletter, I will understand). Why? Because in the history of brand video, no performer has ever given less of a crap about his or her performance than Paltrow does in this clip.

In “Tender Stories,” she portrays Alice, a dressmaker who goes about her business to the soundtrack of a man providing running commentary. The disembodied voice comments on the weather, her mother’s birthday and her wardrobe. He riffs on her horoscope and he directs her to little presents he has hidden around their apartment. Is he dead? Is he a figment of her imagination? No! He’s an astronaut, who has left her a single chatty cassette tape for every day he’s up in orbit. I am not making this up.

In response to her partner’s tenderness, Paltrow smiles. She also smiles when she pulls open the shades, when she gets dressed and when she fiddles with her hair. It’s not a one-note performance so much as a no-note performance. Her absolute refusal to engage with the material is incredibly appealing. It feels like a small protest against something (the absence of Greek yogurt in most vending machines?). Anyway, I like Gwyneth Paltrow again.

Peyton Manning has even less to do with the “Dear Peyton” tribute video that debuted in advance of tonight’s NFL Draft. Using words and phrases from letters he sent to teammates (Jeff Saturday), relatives (Dad Archie and li’l bro/two-time world champion Eli), coaches (Tony Dungy), media members (Chris Mortensen), peers in other sports (Derek Jeter) and others, Gatorade crafts a thank-you missive of sorts to Peyton. Among the money phrases: “It has been an honor to have called you a teammate,” “it has been a privilege to watch you play over your career” and “it was an honor to play with you in Indy and again in Denver.”

Holy crap - somebody get Svetlana Alexievich on the horn and tell her that her Nobel Prize has retroactively been re-awarded to Peyton Manning. “I wish you all the best in the next chapter of your life”… Can the guy turn a phrase, or what?

The big problem I have with “Dear Peyton” is that it conflates basic decency with heroic uber-humanity. The letters he sends don’t make Manning a legend among men with personalized stationary; they make him a considerate guy/friend/son, which is all fine and good but hardly humankind-hall-of-fame material. Hell, I wrote an email to my friend Louis the other day. It was about the New York Rangers. Where’s my blippin’ Gatorade ad?

I’ll say this, though: It’s wonderful to see Chris Mortensen, a longtime ESPN pundit who’s off the air while receiving treatment for cancer, for the first time in a while. So hey, it’s not like “Dear Peyton” lacks for inspiring figures altogether.

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