Positive Cynicism – The movie is beside the point

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

Okay, now, bear with me here, because I’m going to be discussing Disney’s Camp Rock.

Two years ago, Disney Channel had a surprise hit with a pretty bad movie called Camp Rock, in which Demi Lovato and her bad acting charmed Joe Jonas and his bad hair at a lame summer camp for wannabe musicians, all while bad musical numbers went on around them. Kids ate it up, and Disney immediately built sitcoms around Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers and set up plans to make 2010 the year of Camp Rock 2: Let’s Milk This Cash Cow Until It Squirts Blood.

It started earlier this year when Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas got together and started dating, in a relationship that invited a humanity-will-be-ashamed-of-this-when-the-archaeologists-of-the-year-2525-write-the-book level of embarrassing scrutiny and preoccupation on our teenager-infected Internet. Many called it a sham for publicity. Others, ignoring the fact that Coca-Cola, one of the oldest and most recognized soda brands still extant, spends millions in advertising every year, naively argued that Disney doesn’t need publicity, because they have enough. Not that I care if it was real or not — any more than you may care who the hell Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas are — I just thought this argument was shockingly unsophisticated. It reminds of those Ayn Rand acolytes who think an unregulated free market will correct itself because corporations really care about their reputations.

By the way, they cap that oil leak yet?

Anyway, back to Camp Rock 2: Give Us All Your Money, Brats, We’ve Got Gold Toilets on Back Order. It’s that kind of willful ignorance, this strange belief in the idea that everything celebrities do is genuine, that makes these kinds of cash cows grow and thrive like a baseball player lying to Congress about being on steroids.

Back in April, just in time for Earth Day, Disney had Joe and Demi record “Make a Wave,” a chintzy ballad with a truly ludicrous romantic video that became the flagship song of Disney Channel’s ongoing eco-awareness effort, Friends for Change, but really to promote their film Oceans, the latest culling together of scenes from the exquisite BBC documentary Planet Earth. Then, just as Disney Channel was transforming the two stars’ sitcoms (Sonny with a Chance and Jonas) from surprisingly funny half-hours to silly, overwrought teen romance soaps, there was a big, publicized breakup. And lo, the children Tweeted.

On the 25th of that same month, the first single from the soundtrack, “Can’t Back Down” was released, and Disney Channel declared that this summer would be the summer of Camp Rock 2. Then, just a couple of weeks later, a second single called “It’s On” followed, and Disney Channel began airing commercials for summer programming featuring the song and bearing the slogan “This Summer on Disney Channel: It’s On.”

Then a flood of segments began airing, a microseries called The Road to Camp Rock 2, which were five minutes of behind the scenes talk-up to promote the coming movie. The music videos for the songs played constantly. Three more singles followed on June 25, July 23 and August 22. This was all accompanied by a concert tour featuring Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers and so many guest stars (mostly from the movie) jam-packed into the proceedings that you’d be forgiven for believing that Ringo Starr was the impresario behind it. The tour kicked off back on the sixth and continues until mid-November.

Go to any store that sells children’s clothing or school supplies or party supplies, and you will see Demi Lovato and her fake tan staring at you from Camp Rock 2 shirts, posters, napkins, backpacks and notebooks. Go anywhere inside of Walmart and you’ll see Joe Jonas and his vacant, unengaged eyes following you from the toy aisle to electronics. The soundtrack was released on the 10th; lots of places are playing it in stereo demos.

Oh, wait … did I mention that the movie hasn’t even aired yet?

Yes, this entire marketing blitz to whip tweens into a foaming frenzy has all been about a Disney Channel TV movie that hasn’t even premiered. It doesn’t air until this Friday.

Because what better time to watch a movie about the friendships forged in the fires of shitty pop music and the endless possibilities of summer fun and romance than when summer’s already over and you’ve already gone back to school?

Part of my lifelong Disney fandom is watching the Disney Channel, so it feels like I’ve been exposed to Camp Rock 2: Screw Quality, We Need Cash for most of my life. Jeez, they had teaser trailers on Disney DVDs as far back as last December. Endless interviews, making-ofs, music videos, commercials, appearances, concerts, possible fake relationships … all of it, for the entire year so far, and this movie hasn’t even so much as graced a television.

My experience with Disney Channel tells me that Camp Rock 2: Your Kids Are Our ATMs is going to really suck. The first movie — which, trivia time, was actually co-written by Julie Brown — was pretty bad, and in this one, Disney’s really trying too hard to up the stakes. (Well, the marketing stakes.) But let me ask you: does it actually matter what the quality of the damn thing is? Disney’s probably already made millions in advertising, merchandising, soundtrack sales and concert tickets.

The actual movie this is all based around is so far beside the point that the Jonas Brothers could club baby seals and sodomize their corpses in the middle of act two and it wouldn’t matter. (And it might also make it a better movie, provided the scene wasn’t accompanied by yet another song about doing your best to prove a point.)

Except that, of course, the actual movie does hold some value … as an advertisement for the DVD! I saw a commercial on another channel entirely today, and the DVD of Camp Rock 2: The Vast Audience Hold-Up is coming out on Tuesday. Talk about expedient; movie out on Friday, DVD out five days later. And, just in case you were foolishly thinking of withholding another twenty bucks from Disney, it’s an extended edition, with two new songs and two new scenes. So, there’s still so much more Camp Rock 2 excitement to pay for.

Which, I guess, is a relief for those Jemi fans (yes, they do call themselves that) and those Disney execs who have the same mutual interest: never letting Camp Rock stop being something you can purchase.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

  1. Darius Whiteplume August 31, 2010
  2. Rachelle August 31, 2010

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