If I have one request in this life it is to be a part of something great. I am not a skateboarder, nor was I ever one, but to me what Peralta did - what all the Z-Boys did - is huge. To take something and reinvent it - now that's something. What Stacy did with evolving skateboarding was to transform it from sport to art-form.
From the beginning Peralta was driven. It wasn't enough to have evolved the sport in the backyards of Venice. He had to take his new discoveries on the road. He cheapened it a bit when he did that. One wonders if we would have known about the Z-Boys if not for Peralta (Tony Alva as well), but when he went commercial and became the Tony Hawk of the 1970's skateboarding movement, some of the luster of what he had done was lost. Peralta regained his coolness with the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. There he retold his story in its purest form. The film felt restless and rough - exactly how it should have. In taking his story mainstream, Peralta sacrificed nothing.
But now. Now Peralta has given it all back. He has taken his currency as a respectable documentarian, opened up the window and thrown it out like yesterday's garbage. Recently, Burger King released a public relations stunt called Whopper Virgins where they scoured the earth in search of burger newbies. People in places like Thailand, Romania and Greenland. People who didn't even have a word for hamburger. All of this for the sake of providing consumers an unbiased taste test of The Whopper versus The Big Mac - as if we're all staying up late at night on that one. All of this has been documented by none other than Stacy Peralta.
As a professional in the advertising business, I first and foremost must comment on the merits of this as advertising. And let me say it sucks. As we all know, advertising is not thought highly of. In the minds of consumers it is deceptive, creating needs and wants where there were none before. I only partially subscribe to this notion. If you buy something you don't want or need because an advertisement told you to - what does that say about you? But I digress. In an effort to appeal to a more savvy and skeptical consumer, advertising's goal today is to hit consumers where they aren't expecting it. To not look or feel like advertising. Branded content is the word they use. It means it's still advertising, but it's less information and more entertainment. I am a fan of this. As primarily a broadcast creative, I have always believed and will continue to believe that my primary job is to first entertain. To connect with the consumer on an emotional level. To not think that we are all sitting in front of our televisions, waiting for some corporation to tell us to buy something because it has 10% more of this or that.
The problem with branded content is that it's relatively new in the advertising profession, so there's good, there's bad and then there's Whopper Virgins. An idea that's not only bad, but one that dares to reset the boundaries on how commercial commercialism can be. An idea that capitalizes on the lack of westernization - as if that's the end all be all. These people don't even know how to eat a hamburger. Isn't that funny?
If Whopper Virgins was a goof. If it were done with tongue firmly placed inside cheek, then I might smile a bit. I might say "well, they understand the absurdity of it all." But it's done in all heart-attack seriousness. And none more serious than Stacy. To think for one second that he believes what he is doing is somehow important in the whole scheme of things is laughable. And it's here where Peralta fails as a filmmaker and a human being.
So when I saw this and saw that his name was attached, I couldn't believe it. How did the anti-establishment suddenly become the establishment? Stacy, you used to be so cool. But now you're just grown up and peddling burgers.