Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A high-octane, adrenaline-fuelled thrill-ride!!!

Earlier this week I was indulging in a spot of channel-surfing (which the Chambers Dictionary delightfully defines as “to switch rapidly between different television channels in a forlorn attempt to find anything of interest”) and settled on one of the myriad reality programmes, in this case following a local police force on the beat. The synopsis proclaimed it as high-octane, which didn’t seem the best choice of adjective for footage of slightly over-weight police officers trying to chase teenage drug-dealers down the high street. But it got me thinking about this kind of muscular language that often gets bandied around when trying to engage with lad culture.

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen it in the tag lines of blockbuster action films. You’ve seen it on the side of buses, in snippets of reviews for said films, usually directly followed by a ★★★★★ rating from a lad mag. It’s a school of film marketing that seems entirely based around convincing you that going to see this movie will provide the least comfortable two hours of your life. Words and phrases like relentless, mind-snapping, pulse-pounding, heart-thumping and breathless are more akin to post-traumatic stress than an average Friday night at the local Cineplex. One review of wrestler-slash-actor John Cena’s latest cinematic offering 12 Rounds warns “you’ll be picking shrapnel out of your eyeballs for weeks”. Great! A quick survey of reviews for the films of the genre’s poster boys, like Vin Diesel and Jason Statham, reveals a significant increase in usage for terms like adrenaline, steroids, explosive, raw and blistering.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that this is all figurative, and I’m not expecting any movie-goers to emerge from Crank 2 with third-degree burns or whiplash. It makes perfect sense that promotion of such material should reflect the content - many of these descriptions indeed being the adjectival equivalent of a six car motorway pile-up, or a beer-soaked bar fight spilling into an all-out street brawl. In fact, it’s probably a better indicator of what to expect from a film than the warnings issued by the British Board of Film Classification, my personal favourite being “Contains scenes of extended peril”. I can definitely see why the marketing department have opted for more colourful language to help them corral the demographic.

The Chambers Dictionary defines high-octane as “(of petrol) of high octane number and so of high efficiency”. If the intended result was for me to change channels as quickly as possible, then “Cops with Cameras” was most certainly efficient, and perhaps the description was fitting after all.

David Wark

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whispers of beauty said...


Steve said...

haha this is brilliant - i feel i deserve an honourable mention for my shared dislike for such terminology!

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