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article imageMedia Hypocrisy: The Release of a Commercial Featuring a Deceased Actor

By Nikki Weingartner     Oct 30, 2008 in Entertainment
Commercials. They use creative twists and turns to grab certain chunks of the market in an attempt to sway viewers to opt for a certain product or service over another competing brand. But one such commercial is receiving some harsh feedback.
As if it were a living, breathing entity, mainstream media is constantly under attack for its presumable leaning, lack of filters and expert ability to violate personal boundaries and respect. People like "paparazzi" who utilize extreme tactics to capture that "million dollar smile" prove that its all about the money.
Advertising campaigns are no exception. Designers use underage and nearly naked, sometimes anorexic looking models to portray their clothing and Bob, well he's always apt to make the entire universe of women smile with his plumped up member.
So when DirecTV jumped on the circa 80s bandwagon and released its advertising campaign using bits from old movies, was it any surprise that one the most famous TV scenes of all times is under attack by critics?
The 1982 hit, Poltergeist is remembered today for the little girl, Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) and her ability to see them through the fuzzy screen of the television. "Their here" and "their back" were two of her famous lines. DirecTV has taken a scene from the movie and used it as part of their ad campaign to promote digital service.
The controversy comes in because child actress, O'Rourke, died back in 1988 at the age of 12 from cardiac arrest during emergency surgery for a congenital acute bowel obstruction that been complicated by septic shock.
According to ScrippsNews, critics are up in arms and find this "exploitative", with people making some pretty harsh statements:
And on, Jim wrote: "I found it inappropriate. ... It's one thing if the actor in question died of natural causes as an adult, but if you're aware of Heather O'Rourke's tragedy, it overwhelms the message. Will Dominique Dunne be in the next spot?" She's the young actor strangled by her former boyfriend right before Poltergeist was released.
A report on AOL money/finance revealed that Heather O'Rourke's mom found the spot to be "a wonderful tribute to her daughter." A link on the same article showing the ad left the following message to those who wanted to take a peek:
We're sorry!
We cannot locate the page you were looking for.
Please check the address and try again, or go to the Main PageError Code:80070002
Report ID:1137-r01-20051105-005816
However, DirectTV had said it had no plans to pull the add.
Other commercials in the campaign include a scene with Sigourney Weaver from the original Aliens, A Terminator 2 helicopter scene involving the T-1000, the famous clock scene from Back to the Future and the newest one being aired has Christi Brinkley and Chevy Chase during their attempt at pool infidelity in National Lampoon's Vacation.
Remember how much criticism the media took for releasing footage of the crumbling towers following September 11? They are images; snapshots in time to show, good or bad, things that have happened. Is it bad taste to show clips from old movies that feature stars who are deceased?
There are several who capitalized on the shooting death of Rebecca Shaeffer back in 1986. Rebecca was shot at the front door of her own home by a psychotic fan, Robert John Bardo. She was most known for her role in 80s sitcom, My Sister Sam.
Dana Plato, child star, died in 1999 from a reported drug induced suicide after her life had gone downhill. Shall there be no episodes of Different Strokes aired again? Or should we turn off our tubes to avoid exploiting the young River Phoenix, who died at the age of 23? Of course, with that acting phenom from movie greats such as Stand By Me, Little Nakita and his Oscar nominated role in National Board of Review, to not bring forth the memory for which he was known would be more of a disgrace than to remember his death.
River Phoenix died from drugs nearly two hours after midnight on Halloween of 1993.
When children meet the world of high-speed stardom, the negative risks are part of the game as is the ever present media attention long after they are gone. For little Heather, who would be in her thirties today, the tragedy that struck her family was not of her own doing. Maybe it was a divine means of intervention to prevent issues like those with Drew Barrymore, Lindsay Lohan or Brittany Spears. No one will ever know....
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