Classic Movies with PR Disasters

Ask any PR pro and they’ll tell you that their career interferes with their personal life. And I’m not talking about the usual things like stress and long hours that people associate with their jobs. No. I’m talking about movies. Ever since I started working in PR, I can’t enjoy movies the way I used to. I scrutinize every character, plot device and event like the movie’s a PR case study of what not to do. Below are two (awesome) movies with plot devices that would’ve caused some massive PR fallout if they took place in reality.

The Breakfast Club – Larry Lester’s Buns

In the movie The Breakfast Club, why was the jock, Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), serving a stint in Saturday school? Sounds like the start to a great joke, but the punchline should haunt any moviegoer’s dreams. During a cathartic tell-all, Clark reveals that he “taped Larry Lester’s buns together.” But the tale of Clark’s favorite extracurricular activity doesn’t end there – he adds, “when they pulled the tape off, most of his hair came off; and some skin, too.”

Thankfully, I’m not 100% clear on what acts constitute sexual assault, but I think it’s safe to assume that Clark crossed some physical boundaries that may have necessitated more stern action from the school’s administration.  The alliterative Larry Lester suffers a physical (not to mention emotional) trauma from which he may never recover and Clark spends a couple extra hours in the school library flirting with Molly Ringwald. In the real world, the PTA is going to catch wind of Larry Lester’s buns and the ensuing PR backlash is going to whip the school district so badly that it’ll be the one that can’t sit for weeks.

The Empire Strikes Back – Vader Kicks it in Cloud City

If you’re adept at depriving yourself of things that rule, you probably know the second installment of the Star Wars trilogy as “that boring one” or “the one with Yoda.” So I’d like to enlighten those of you by outlining this scenario.

Lando Calrissian, space pimp and head honcho in Cloud City, betrays Han Solo and Company by handing them over to Darth Vader. As a result, Solo is turned into a carbonite coffee table, C-3PO get’s dismantled, Luke gets a hand lopped off, etc.

But the real PR problem here is that Lando let Vader crash at his pad in the first place. Cloud City residents would be none too pleased to find out that their leader harbored an intergalactic terrorist who regularly chokes people to death with his mind and explodes entire planets just because he can. This would be like President Obama sneaking Osama Bin Laden into the White House and then letting him take off with the Secretary of State. Sure something gets lost in the translation of Harrison Ford to Hillary Clinton, but you get the idea – Calrissian is going to have a rough re-election year.

When you work in PR, it can be difficult to flip the switch when you clock out for the day. After a while, you just start thinking in PR.  It’s like looking at the green code that trickles down TV screens in The Matrix – stare at it long enough, and eventually you don’t even see the code.


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