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October 5, 2008

"Friends" Don't Let Friends Not Vote

MTV has been telling us that voting is cool for almost two decades. Diddy took it one step further in the last presidential election, threatening bodily harm if we didn't exercise our democratic right. Now the next wave, a seemingly slapped-together push, caked in desperation, has been released upon the masses: A viral plea from some of Tinsel Town's brightest to get your X-box-lovin' tuchus out and vote (preferably, we assume, for the junior senator from Illinois).

The latest incarnation of will.i.am politics was fronted by Leonardo Dicaprio's production outfit, Appian Way, and features Dicaprio himself, Tobey McGuire, and for unknown reasons, Sarah Silverman. It enlists radiant elder statesman Dustin Hoffman, and go-to shill Ashton Kutcher. It is shiny. It has the dark-haired one from Friends doing her best impression of relevance. But most of all, it's unnecessary.

An assemblage of talent this auspicious hasn't been seen since the Lionel Richie/Al Jarreau/Dan Akroyd mash-up for 1985's landmark "We Are The World" (which also features six Jacksons AND Harry Belafonte), or, you know, that "Yes We Can" nonsense earlier this year. Seriously, Jennifer Aniston has wrestled herself out of the dregs of tabloid humanity to be here, alongside an imposingly mute Benicio Del Toro, a generally mean Halle Berry, and a grizzled Giovanni Ribisi, not to mention the familiarly caricatured Jonah Hill berating you in that typecast way he does, saying things like "Darfur? I don't even know what the fuck that is. That sounds like a t-shirt company to me."

About half way through, they drop the charade, all saying they'll wait while you go to the provided Google Maps website to check if your useless, ridiculous self is actually registered. While she's waiting, Sarah Silverman smells her hand and then takes off her bra through her shirt. I can't believe Jimmy Kimmell let her get away. Finally, the clip ends with the actors imploring us to send the link to five friends. It's almost like MTV produced a live-action take on your email spam folder.

The drive of the near five-minute spot is not exactly covert. Here we have all these familiar faces, backhandedly whipping you into a sense of personalized shame and embarrassment for not wanting to vote. Together, they apply the feigned apathy treatment your mother used to give you when you told her you didn't need to go to college, in an SNL Digital Short-styled package of awkward indignation. I won't say it's ineffective, because America has a proven track record of listening to celebrities, but it looks as if the direction for the project was "act like you're sort of angry at your slow cousin for leaving the milk out again."

It's very enjoyable to watch our favorite celebs slum it and talk to us face-to-face like we're developmentally disabled. But it's also a bit superfluous. The likely target audience of the video—or more accurately, the people who will actually see it, understand its delicate irony, and then further infer and agree with the liberal undertones—are also likely already voting Obama. Really, the only way they can appeal to the Right-leaning contingent is to fly down to Florida and convince Bubbe that Sarah Palin hates Jews—or they can put out spots like the one below.

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