By Logan Schurr
Instead of commercial breaks, films use a unique type of advertising. By placing specific products in the camera’s view, the film serves that brand. Whether it be good or bad depends on how the film uses the product.
Dallas Buyers Club takes place in Dallas, Texas in the year 1985. This movie is about HIV/AIDS so a lot of the product placement had to do with the medicine and organizations involved in the struggle to control the disease. Though not always positive advertisement, the film commits to the brand name and uses it as a tool in Dallas Buyers Club. The movie chiefly features brands such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Zidovudine (AZT), and Ray-Bans.
This film is unique in its product placement because it doesn’t really advertise most of the products in it in a positive way. Because it is based on a true story, it puts the FDA, FBI, and the HIV medicine, AZT, in a bad light. The FDA is portrayed as oblivious, prejudiced, and rude due to the way Ron Woodruff, the protagonist, is depicted a hero. As the FDA keeps increasing requirements to sell drugs and changes the rules about how to do it, the organization creates more obstacles for our protagonist to do his job and to survive. The businessman who sells the AZT trial to the Dallas Mercy Hospital is portrayed as a greedy, ignorant, cruel businessman, ignoring the harmful effects that the drug may potentially cause patients. Therefore, the act of using the real FDA creates a negative view of the organization.
Furthermore, the FBI is the one who mercilessly enforces the new FDA rules and laws. Each time the FBI comes knocking on Rayon and Ron’s door, they are portrayed as villains, confiscating the drugs/products for the Dallas Buyers Club. Again, because Ron is the protagonist, when he fights the FBI it compels the audience to side with Ron; inherently standing against the FBI.
The AZT drug, which is an antiretroviral, is given in a controlled study at the hospital in Dallas Buyers Club. A doctor mentions at the beginning of the film that the doses were too strong for people to take, even to the point of toxicity. After Ron’s poor reaction to the drug, he, and many of the other infected characters refer to AZT as “toxic” and Ron even rips out his IV in a later scene to demonstrate his protest. Ron repeatedly demands his clients to stop taking the medication because it will “kill them quicker.” By giving the AZT drug a negative connotation, it creates an anti-American, government conspiracy (Washington Post, par. 8). It suggests that the government intentionally distributed a dangerously high dose of the drug.
One of the only legit products advertised positively in this film is Ray-Ban sunglasses. The second scene of the film shows Ron’s Ray-Ban glasses. The recognizable logo appears on the top right corner of the glasses. As these are first seen and worn most often at the beginning of the film, it shows how cool the brand is. Ron is considered the “cool guy” in town at the beginning of the film. He knows everyone, he is friends with everyone, he gets all the ladies, and he is a smart resource at work. By wearing these Ray-Ban glasses, he represents the ideal life a consumer could have if they invested in a pair of glasses.
Most films either gain permission from or are paid by the specific company to advertise their product. In Dallas Buyer’s Club, it is quite clear very little permission was given because of the mostly negative light the film sheds on several of the brands shown. Ray-Ban sunglasses are positively advertised, but the FDA, FBI, and the AZT drug are all forms of negative product placement in Dallas Buyers Club.
I am giving this film a 3 nacho rating because of the lack of product placement. There was so littler advertisement it was difficult for the film to market anything. However, the things that it did advertise, the FDA, FBI, and AZT, though negatively branded, the film did so very convincingly. The argument against these organizations and drugs was strong within the film.
Matthews, Dylan. "What ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ Got Wrong about the AIDS Crisis." The Washington
Post. WP Company, 10 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.