"I get where you're coming from..."

Daniel Dennett's "intentional stance*" is a great way to get inside someone's brain. I use it a lot, especially for deconstructing advertising.

Consider for instance the following conversation between ad agency executive and hollywood producer about promoting the upcoming release of the third in a series of movies.

Black ponytail: "Our market research suggests the target demographic really likes XYZ in the role, but they don't want him looking stupid, they want a bit of a storyline, something real, something that builds on I and II. They want a reason why III needed to be made."

Suit and sunglasses: "The reason why III needed to be made is that we needed to make some fucking money, so we can pay XYZ his thirty fucking million dollars, and keep the wolf from the door. Storyline? Same as I and II, with bigger hair, more tits and ass, freakier bad guys. Don't tell me about real. Don't tell me about building on I and II. It's a tired stale franchise with not much left to offer, and we need to milk it dry. I hit the spot; it was new, different. II was OK, it had its moments. III is a real dog. Formulaic. Rehash of a rehash. The hero died. Finis. Kaput. Now he's back, surprise surprise. How you tart that up is what we pay you for."

Black ponytail: "Understand. You got it. And we just know you'll appreciate what we've come up with. Judo. Turning weakness into strength. Threat into opportunity. See, we acknowledge the issue. We don't hide, we don't run. We take it on the chin…"

Suit and sunglasses: "Yeah like, uh, 'son of godzilla returns to strike back harder part 49…"

Black ponytail (mirthless chuckle): "In the ballpark, but tighter, much tighter. We come right out and say it's been done before. We borrow the good vibes from I, we steal the past to shore up the future. So what if III can't stand on its own. So what if the plot sucks. It's all about context. Positioning…"

Suit and sunglasses: "I haven't got all day…"

Black ponytail: "A clear and simple proposition: "Everything has led to this!"

*"Here is how it works: first you decide to treat the object whose behavior is to be predicted as a rational agent; then you figure out what beliefs that agent ought to have, given its place in the world and its purpose. Then you figure out what desires it ought to have, on the same considerations, and finally you predict that this rational agent will act to further its goals in the light of its beliefs. A little practical reasoning from the chosen set of beliefs and desires will in most instances yield a decision about what the agent ought to do; that's what you predict the agent will do." (Daniel Dennett, The Intentional Stance, p. 17)

Words, images and audio copyright © S R Schwarz 2007. All rights reserved.

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