This past Wednesday, I went to see the new James Bond film, Skyfall, in a theatre. 30-second review: It was nonsensical, which was to be expected, but it was also excruciatingly boring, which is inexcusable. When the cold open is the most exciting part of the movie, you know that something has gone horribly wrong.
But enough about Skyfall. Instead, I want to talk about the previews that played before the actual film, one of which was a trailer for the upcoming Red Dawn remake.
Yup, that’s a real trailer. For a real movie. Yikes.
I haven’t seen the original Red Dawn, so I don’t want to comment on how this movie looks in comparison to the original. Certainly, there’s a conversation to be had about how this remake seems to be playing into Americans’ fear of some sort of “yellow menace,” but I don’t feel comfortable wading into those waters. What I want to focus on is the trailer itself – specifically, the song playing in the background: Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot.”
Look, I have an idea of how these things work: somebody in the promo department at Sony Pictures wants a totally bitchin’ hard rock track to go with the trailer, some intern picks a song that sounds badass, and nobody really thinks twice about the whole thing. The problem is that “Hey Man, Nice Shot” isn’t just some vague, generic aggro-metal song about “the pain” or whatever; its subject matter is very specific.
Ever heard of R. Budd Dwyer? He was the Pennsylvania state treasurer from 1981 until his death in 1987. During his final couple of years in office, he became embroiled in a scandal where he was accused of bribery. He maintained his innocence, but he was fighting a losing battle against the legal system. Finally, on January 22, 1987, at a televised press conference, he stunned America by taking his own life with a gunshot.
“Hey Man, Nice Shot” is about that act of suicide and the guts and determination it would take to go through with it. It is not a song about celebrating a “nice shot” during a gun battle. In fact, it has nothing to do with war at all. So why use it in a trailer promoting a movie about a bunch of American teenagers rising up to defeat a North Korean invasion?
This isn’t the first time that “Hey Man, Nice Shot” has been misused. According to Songfacts, it was played during the movie Driven, and it was also played in the TV shows The X-Files and Supernatural. Heck, it was even used as the theme for National Rugby League broadcasts on Channel Nine in Australia.
Look, I have nothing against needle drops or using existing songs in promotional material. But when a song with very specific subject matter is used to promote a wholly irrelevant work, it devalues both the promoted work and the song itself. Anyone who knows the meaning behind “Hey Man, Nice Shot” and sees the trailer for Red Dawn is going to find the juxtaposition cringeworthy: a tale of a man’s suicide superimposed upon images of explosions and automatic weapon fire. There are plenty of other alt-metal tracks out there that would have worked just as well in the trailer. I can only attribute the song selection here to sheer carelessness, because I’d rather not believe that some promo guy at Sony would exhibit such casual disrespect for both the song and the event that inspired it.