Apple Doesn’t Allow Movie Villains to Use the iPhone

By Chand Bellur

February 26, 2020 at 1:11 p.m. PDT

  • Director Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi and Knives Out) informed Vanity Fair that Apple disallows fictional villains from using the iPhone.
  • Apple claims this is done to protect brand integrity.
  • This form of product placement is highly manipulative, however, perfectly legal.

Apple Blocks Movie Villains from Using the iPhone

Advertising has become more pervasive in Hollywood movies. While there’s nothing wrong with making money, to some, the sheer volume of ads is disturbing, especially as ticket prices escalate at the box office.

Before the actual film begins, viewers are subjected to several minutes of commercials. The previews, which display after product commercials, are advertisements for movies. Then there’s about five minutes of film production credits, which pile on even more ads. If that’s not enough, Hollywood movies are chock full of product placement.

The modern Hollywood movie is like advertisement lasagna. From top to bottom, the experience is riddled with ads. In fact, it’s come to the point that the ad experience controls the actual content.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Hollywood director Rian Johnson reveals a surprising revelation. Apple won’t allow villains to use the iPhone on camera. The Cupertino company feels that their products should never been viewed in a negative light. To this extent, they dictate the content of movies.

Legal, but Fair?

It’s completely legal for Apple and any other company to engage in this practice. Beyond product placement, it appears that if a movie uses an iPhone in a negative way, Apple’s legal team will respond.

The end result is that movie villains must use an Android device. This forms a negative connotation with a wide array of devices — only bad guys use Android smartphones. The reality is that Android is mostly used by lower income, less educated individuals.

The problem is that when villainy is indirectly connected with income and social status, it subliminally enhances class conflict. Lower income people, who can only afford Android devices, are using the villain’s phone of choice. The notion that only good guys use the iPhone may force some to buy a phone that’s beyond their means.

This may seem farfetched, but people are often influenced, if not outright indoctrinated, by Hollywood movies. The polarizing effect of seeing good guys with iPhones and evildoers wielding Android devices will have some impact on the market. That’s the whole point, however, it also puts creative control in the hands of Apple.

What if a screenwriter wants their villain to use the Find My app to stalk people? Apple won’t allow it. Creative professionals must mock up a similar, yet generic, user interface. It makes the content less compelling and more generic.

Apple has every right to control their products’ appearances in media. The heavy-handedness of this endeavor seems extreme.

The practice of manipulating the film and television industry is not new to Apple. The hit TV show 24 was shaped by Apple such that good guys use Macs and bad guys use Windows machines. It’s manipulative, deceptive and limits creative freedom, but is part and parcel of business in Tinseltown.

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