I was right. You were wrong.
YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH
Going, going, you’re gone.
It’s too late; it’s too soon.
Or is it… tick tick tick BOOM!
What a curious mantra for a media futurity—or is it? “The Future is Blu” has the peculiar task of promoting one platform through another and answering—or at least reckoning with—the question: What are we buying when we buy Blu-Ray? Is it resolution? If so, perhaps we should ask in what sense, given the apocalyptic tenor of the ad’s soundtrack and imagery. In choosing the Swedish garage rock revival band The Hives for the soundtrack of their 2008 promotion, the Blu-Ray Disc Association emphasizes both the adrenalized affect they wish to associate with their platform and an uncanny eternal present implicit in digital video, one that unseats progress as the founding myth of new media. So although the Hives’ song at first appears to contradict the promo’s promise of digital futurity, in fact the contradictory temporality of its lyrics elucidates the peculiar temporality of the promo’s phantasmatic media space.
“The Future is Blu” begins with an homage to filmic self-awareness—including the typical extreme close-up of a Caucasian eye—to inaugurate a knowing montage of clips from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Horton Hears a Who, Casino Royal, and over a dozen other recent films, videos, and computer games. In this regard, its approach to platform promotion is nothing revolutionary; most of us probably remember uncannily similar pitches for DVD, Laserdisc, VHS, and Betamax (and they’re all still available on YouTube, if you don’t). However, “The Future is Blu” offers a particularly useful case study for thinking though the fantasies invoked by new media formats because its soundtrack and its digital animation foreground the temporal illusions employed to sell a medium.
Unlike its precedents, “The Future is Blu” never depicts that future; that is, it never shows its viewer a Blu-Ray disc. In contrast, the “This is DVD” campaign of the late 1990s used figural representations of its medium to produce an uninhabited utopian space in which the consumer—as invoked by cutaways to that omnipresent Caucasian eye—could imagine himself mastering the almost futuristic technology. In “The Future Is Blu” renders the future scene of media consumption as a world of screens gliding through white urban spaces—mobile media, but on a theatrical scale. This blending of cinematic proportions with the interactivity associated with handheld platforms sells Blu-Ray as both a tribute to the glory of cinema and a cutting-edge digital technology—but a technology no one uses in a place no one can go.
In that regard, the ad implicitly acknowledges Blu-Ray’s particular ontological problems as a medium. Because Blu-Ray needs to differentiate itself from DVD, it cannot show itself, lest the viewer remember that it looks like and is making the same promises as its parent technology. Instead “The Future is Blu” produces resolution as apocalypse and reveals the fantasy of cyclical platform promotion (i.e. progress) as a future without us: i.e., the death drive of new media.