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.
Fantastic post, Caetlin. I'm very interested in your formulation of the technology's ontological hysteria. Your suggestion that the DVD appears as a spectre, a he-who-shall-not-be-named, seems particularly apt. Though, this death drive is phantasmatic, right? Because the "20 companies" actually DO want to sell Blu Ray technology and whatever they devise to outdate it next.
I'd be happy if the eternal present were the reality as regards platform format. Our local Barnes and Noble has stopped purchasing DVDs and now only replaces their stock with Blu Ray discs, which play in no one I know's equipment. Maybe this is the apocalyptic future the Blu Ray developers have in mind?
Thanks for your post Caetlin. I was struck by how the commercial posits the platform wars as a cinematic war with recognizable action sequences (car chases, explosions, natural disasters, etc.) from contemporary big-budget films edited together as a “trailer” for the ongoing DVD v. Blu-Ray war. With “over 170 companies joining forces” against an unnamed adversary, we see these corporations as invincible action heroes. The revelation of their corporate logos in the middle of the commercial leads to the very long credit sequence in which we read the corporate copyright information for all of the films featured in the commercial. Blu-Ray lures new viewers not only with Spider Man but also with Sony. Are corporations the stars of the Blu future?
"like you've never seen it"
Sorry for this delayed response! I was grateful for your introduction to this platform - I'd pretty much ignored Blu Ray until now.
I was taken by the written text in the Future is Blu as it occurs at two principle moments toward the end of the piece. In one way, the text underscores Caetlin's point that Blu Ray is never / cannot be seen. Trite language is used to entice a broad consumer base: "Picture / like you've never seen it"; "Sound / like you've never heard it"' "Gaming / like you've never played it". It begs the question, are we seeing it/ hearing it/ playing it now? It seems another moment of "peculiar temporality" as Caetlin describes it.
But the print that follows seems to be for a different or differentiated audince. It provides the specs for the platform, very clearly and concretely (for those who understand specs): "picture in picture"; interactivity"; "BD live"; "1080 P High Def";"up to 7.1 surround sound".
It's the only moment in the Future is Blu when I get a sense of what the future looks like - but I'd be better informed if I knew what to compare these specs to.
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