Mooninites Attack!

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This story blows my mind. Apparently, some strange battery-powered devices were found at various points around Boston today, causing officials to shut down freeways, bridges, part of the transit system, and a section of the Charles River. Bomb squads were called in to detonate the devices. Turns out these things are harmless battery-powered blinking LED light boards featuring a Mooninite, a character from “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” which is itself a surreal 15-minute cartoon series airing on Adult Swim, the late-night “alternative” programming brand on Cartoon Network. All this was part of a marketing campaign for the upcoming “Hunger Force” movie: “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.”

As a fan of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” and especially of the snarky Mooninites (the one on the light boards is named Ignignoc!) I have to say it was extraordinarily surreal to log on to Drudge Report this afternoon and find this unbelievable photograph of a helmeted bomb squad technician holding a Mooninite. Actually, it was a DJ and fellow Aqua Teen fan at my radio station who first pulled up the web page; his slack-jawed request for me to “just… come… look at this right now” was priceless. The show itself has run for a few years on Adult Swim; while it has frankly lost a lot of its surreal humor this season, I’ll sit through a rerun any night, and it’s the very definition of “underground.” To see Ignignoc plastered all over news websites, and TV reporters trying to get their mouths around “Mooninite,” was head-spinning.

Like so much in today’s (ahem) post-modern culture, this situation elicits equal and opposite reactions. On the one hand, this was a simple commercial art prank, and the paranoid hysteria of post-9/11 America that it illustrates is both shocking and depressing. On the other hand, what the hell were the marketing team at Adult Swim thinking?! There are guerilla marketing controversies that help promote your brand, and then there are controversies that jeopardize the whole enterprise. Planting homemade devices with exposed batteries and dangling wires at public places, no matter how silly the intent, is about as smart as complaining about removing your shoes while in the security line at the airport. Apparently arrests have already been made, and who knows how far the ramifications will travel up the Adult Swim/Cartoon Network/Turner Broadcasting ladder. “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” the movie, is supposed to premier on March 23rd; any bets on that actually happening?

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