Whatever the content of a film, the marketing leading up to its release will be the first impression the audience gets of it. If done incorrectly, it can lead to viewers not understanding what a tale is about and perhaps dismissing a film. Many movies have this problem, especially when their trailers don’t correctly present the movie’s valid message or narrative line.
The forthcoming film Don’t Worry Darling, directed by Olivia Wilde, has recently sparked debate on this subject. Florence Pugh, one of the film’s actresses, has even attacked the way the film has been advertised, leading some to believe that the promotion contradicts the topics the film is attempting to explore. So much of the rise has been centered on the guys and sex in the picture that many people aren’t even aware of the tale the film is attempting to portray in the first place.
This is because the first trailer generated much interest for incorporating excerpts of intimate sex scenes between Pugh and Styles’ characters, quickly dominating the film’s discourse. Despite their efforts to make it obvious what the movie was about, the bawdy moments with Harry Styles were the primary topic of the cultural speech. People who hadn’t seen the complete trailer and had just seen portions of the sex scenes online got a false impression of the film and were surprised to realize that Don’t Worry Darling is a harsh societal critique.
Pugh commented on this in a recent Harper’s Bazaar interview, stating, “It’s not why we do it when it’s down to your sex scenes or seeing the most famous man in the world go down on someone. It’s not why I’m in this business… You’ll have talks like that when you hire the world’s most renowned pop artist. That’s not what I will talk about because [this film] is larger and greater than that. And the individuals who created it are much larger and better.” While the hedonism of the 1950s and sex are aspects of the film, they should not be the entire – or even the primary – focus of media attention when the project is about so much more.
So much of the discussion around Don’t Worry. Darling has centered on the controversy surrounding those engaged in its production, notably Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles’ supposed (but never officially acknowledged) romance behind the scenes. The connection and subsequent media coverage of it have been more prominent in most people’s thoughts than the film itself, reinforcing Pugh’s thesis that public interest in the film is driven more by Styles’ involvement than anything else, given that he is one of the world’s greatest pop singers right now. The film, primarily about male dominance over women, is overshadowed by a single man who happens to be in it.
This isn’t Styles’ fault, of course, but it is the fault of a culture that is more interested in him than in the film, and marketing contributes to that. The trailers and various promotions for the film never fail to remind viewers that Harry Styles is one of the film’s stars. Including footage from the sex scene between him and Pugh in the trailer raises curiosity by creating shock and awe (since most people aren’t expecting to see something like that in a teaser). Still, it gives the impression that the film is only about sex when it is so much more.
It wouldn’t be an issue if the picture were only about sex, but it irritates Pugh and others. They have been expecting the film that a narrative with such feminist ideas has been reduced to simply “the movie where Florence Pugh and Harry Styles have sex,” when that’s only one small component of it. So many people were unaware that the picture was a thriller, demonstrating that the marketing was not focused on the proper elements. They’d apparently want to draw attention to the image by leveraging Styles’ celebrity. Still, a more significant issue must be addressed when it overshadows everything else and even contradicts the film’s purpose.
Maybe it’s all a clever ploy to start a conversation about how society is more interested in the actions of men than any of the women around them, which would fit with Don’t Worry Darling about. Still, it’s more likely that it’s just a tone-deaf misstep on the marketing team’s part. It’s similar to how The Hunger Games became such a major cultural event and spectacle, even though the tale is a critique of capitalism’s use of pain and suffering as a show. That is sometimes the way of things in the entertainment industry, as they become the same notion they attempted to eradicate in the first place.