Google Presents ‘The Internship’: Summer Flick Fun or Picture-Perfect Propaganda?


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It’s everywhere. It can drive your car, it runs your phone, it’s even staring at you, right now, from the top-right corner of your computer screen. It can’t be held yet it defines the world. Soon it will literally change what people see. It’s a word, an idea, a network, and an unavoidable component of contemporary life.

It’s Google. And it’s pairing up with the only other organization that can match its global influence: Hollywood.

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s most recent comedy, “The Internship”, may not mention the search engine on its poster as it does in the trailer, but only because it didn’t have to; if the cursor doesn’t give it away, the title’s fun colours and simple font against a white background certainly does. The graphic designs of the megacorporation are instantly recognizable, and in the latest box-office blockbuster movie-goers will once again have the opportunity to see just how Google likes to represent itself.

“To have an entire film tent-poled around one company takes product placement to a whole new level,” says film professor and critic Wheeler Winston Dixon in an article by the Los Angeles Times. The film will help maintain Google’s positive public image of do-no-evil while the company expands its horizons and does its best to avoid criticism from government regulators and privacy watchdogs.

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On the flip side, the movie was entirely conceived by Vaughn, who came up with the premise – two out-of-work salesmen compete for a job at Google – after many of Vaughn’s friends lost jobs during the recession. Vaughn contacted Google in 2011, and the company has cooperated with Vaughn and director Shawn Levy to help create the film; however, Google did not contribute at all to the film’s budget, nor did they have a final cut. Regardless of the obvious promotional aspects of the film, Vaughn’s primary intention for the movie is to entertain audiences in a light-hearted, not-so-Bernaysian manner.

Of course, despite not having a final cut, Google did have some influence over its on-screen representation in exchange for allowing two free production days on-site, helping construct a set of the company’s campus, and of course providing those colourful propeller hats for interns.

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Vaughn and Levy promised to only cast Google the way it sees itself, and the company objected to a scene where Google’s driverless cars lose control and crash. The charm and antics of  Vaughn and  Wilson would have only gone so far without cooperation from Google in a movie about Google.

The topic of conversation for critical viewers is whether the film is meant to be well-intentioned, manipulative, or merely as malicious as your typical Hollywood movie is expected to be. Google co-founder Larry Page claims that the company’s motivations are purely good-hearted. “The reason we got involved with the movie ‘The Internship’ is that computer science has a marketing problem,” says Page, who hopes to encourage children to pursue math, science, and technology.

Presumably the free publicity of a Google-centric blockbuster film also helped persuade executives to cooperate, saving them the hassle of maintaining their positive public image for the time being. An LA Times article goes into more detail, but readers will have to go see the film themselves to judge whether the movie is full of well-intentioned humour or corporate propaganda.Make no mistake about “The Internship”; though Vaughn and Wilson may receive top billing, the real star is Google.

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Kevin Chao is a TV junkie, chocoholic, and the OPENWIDE Vol. 14 World Editor. In his spare time he likes to write, play sports, and weep over the most recent Game of Thrones episode.

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