Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Woody Allen, Maroon 5 and Theming As Brand Strategy

Last night my computer crashed. The wireless connection on the backup crawled.

Frustrated, I decided to finish watching Woody Allen's "Another Woman" on Netflix. It has been more than twenty years.

My daughter was nice enough to watch with me. All of it was new so I explained the plot. In the process I realized that many elements in Woody Allen movies are similar:

- A woman who is intellectual, neurotic, tormented vs. one who is warm, nurturing, and uninterested in intellectual matters. Generally the contrast between abstract, snobbish intellectualism (bad) and being in touch emotionally (good)

- A man who is passionately in love with an unattainable woman

- Missed opportunities to connect, to follow our dreams, and the lifelong misery of "selling out"

- A man who compulsively cheats on his wife, is still "committed" to her, and does not feel guilty; a woman who cheats emotionally, and does

- Couples who are always with other couples, friends, and family - emotional drama before the crowd

- A self-deceiving character who takes long walks to find out what is bothering them, and/or has a dream/fantasy experience to help them resolve their emotions

- The psychiatrist as a cold, all-knowing God figure

My daughter said, "It's a very 'you' movie." Meaning, "not me."

There is a reason I will automatically prefer a movie labeled "Woody Allen" over an unknown: The characters and setting may change but the theme and plot are always the same.

It's always about coming to terms with the self behind the mask.

It's the same with Maroon 5's music. On the Internet the debate rages: Is Adam Levine a misogynist? (They use a cruder term.) In every song/video we see a woman beat him, cheat on him, reject him, leave him.

In addition the women are always like mannequins - caricatures of women - almost doll-like, beautiful in a cartoonish way.

My daughter thinks it's the producers who came up with that common theme but I don't think so.

It's not just the sound of the songs that is similar. It is what is being sung about - the narrative. A fascinating glimpse into the unconscious of the singer.

Woody Allen and Adam Levine seem to have in common the compulsive need to explore a contained area of emotional pain through art.

The result is not what some would think of as artistic genius, because of the repetitive nature.

But as a consumer who finds those themes interesting, they create a brand that works.

I don't think the choice to theme a certain way is intentional. But in a way it makes the work resonate all the more, because it's real.