Thursday, December 08, 2011

Quintessentials: Terry Tate Office Linebacker

Terry Tate Office Linebacker

Dir. Rawson Marshall Thurber

United States, 2003, 3 Minutes

Throughout the course of the semester, our class has continually attempted to try and define what is and isn’t and short film. And although it can generally be stated that MOST youtube videos are not shorts, and MOST TV shows are not shorts, and MOST music videos are not necessarily short films (although this one is a little tougher), commercials like Terry Tate Office Linebacker are what make these sweeping generalizations a very subjective and partially inaccurate statements.

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, the Reebok commercial documents in mockumentary style the hiring of an office ‘enforcer’ named Terry Tate (an enormous ex-NFL linebacker played by Lester Speight) to increase productivity and eliminate minor problems. Throughout the short, Tate roams the office, solving stereotypical office problems, including drinking the last coffee from the coffee pot, taking too long on breaks, not recycling, etc. He acclimates to the office environment, making office friends, and giving presentations during meetings. Although the commercial doesn’t necessarily provide anything but a snapshot of this strange office reality (the classic short film ‘slice of life formula’), the short is not only a fantastic advertisement, but it served as a precursor for the rise of the hilarious digital short.

The commercials greatest strength lies in the hilarious juxtaposition between football culture and office life, and what happens when those two worlds collide. Terry Tate’s stereotypical football machismo takes the oblivious office (for lack of a better term) douche bags to task, tackling pen-stealers, intimidating wrong-doers, and hurtling obscenities and his victims. Thurber, who also directed the 2004 comedy Dodgeball, expertly inserts the Reebok logo onto the powerful Tate, but leaves out any other unnecessary pandering and advertising that would distract/detract from the short. And like any successful film, Terry Tate is a brilliant and well rounded character who grows to become a part of the office lifestyle. An actual wide range of his emotions are explored in a little more than three minutes, which draws the audience in and helps us easily root for him.

A brilliant commercial, and ultimately one of the reasons why the lines between mediums can be blended and extremely subjective.


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