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Farmed and Dangerous? Could Be a Slick Trick
By: Ron Romanik
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Chipotle debuted the first episode of its four-part “Farmed and Dangerous” miniseries on Hulu today, building on the success of its viral videos “Back to the Start” and “Scarecrow.” While those two animated videos portrayed straightforward hero journeys, the new series is a satirical sendup of an exaggerated dystopian present.

Trying to elevate marketing to a form of beneficent propaganda, Chipotle hopes “Farmed and Dangerous” will also elevate the debate about sustainable farming practices (and sell more burritos, obviously). The first show introduces the premise that big oil and big farming are in cahoots, shoving new industrial farming methods down our throats (pun intended), while trying to keep down resurgent sustainable farmers.

A New Yorker article last Friday puts the campaign into historical perspective, citing several precedents, even as early as 1947 and the “Kraft Television Hour.” And anyone interested in whether movies or TV can actually move the needle might want to read a recent study called “Moving Pictures? Experimental Evidence of Cinematic Influence on Political Attitudes,” co-authored by Todd Adkins and Jeremiah Castle of the University of Notre Dame. Slate.com expanded on the study's thesis, explaining how at least seven movies have actually changed the beliefs or views of moviegoers through before-and-after surveys.

“Farmed and Dangerous” may succeed in showing how dystopian our current industrial farming is only if it continues to surprise viewers with levels of satire and irony. The first episode took its time laying out the premise, which is not all that revolutionary in and of itself, but it will need to continue to surprise to really drive the message home.

The success of a film like The Matrix, on top of all of its many levels of meaning and craft, benefits partly from the ingenious plot construction that keeps first-time viewers in the dark and leads to bigger and deeper surprises. The first big surprise comes a full 30% into the movie, where the entire premise of the movie is first revealed, and what seemed real in the opening scenes was only a construct of a dystopian future.

So much has been written about Apple’s 1984 Macintosh commercial that I would do well not to claim a blinding new insight here. However clever it is, it is not merely the cleverness and its metaphorical message that it contains that might have changed people’s perspective. Its profundity lies in the premise that computer users were already well into a dystopian future that they had scant hope of escaping — until, ironically, 1984 came, and with it, the Macintosh.

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About the Author
Ron Romanik is principal of Romanik Communications, a brand consultancy outside Philadelphia founded with a mantra of “Authentic Stories. Resonant Tones. Sustainable Brands.”
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