The Imposter Object

Anchor Bay Entertainment are from the quick and dirty school of film-making, with countless schlocky slasher movies and knock-off action titles in their copious backlist. The parade of DVD covers gives an interesting masterclass in the art of cinematic design, with every conceivable cliche explored multiple times. They’re also purveyors of Car’s Life 2, which together with films like Tangled Up and The Little Cars in the Great Race continue a long tradition of the ‘deceptive purchase’, the chameleon-like object that is designed to appear just similar enough to a more well known product that it may well be bought by mistake, rather than intentionally. The saddest is not that these films are artless, incompetent and wafer-thin imitations of other people’s ideas, but that someone somewhere probably worked very hard indeed to get this to market, unsupported by a producer, a script, a director or even any colleagues to bounce ideas off. Imposter objects usually just get lumped in with pure plagiarism, just as own brand goods walk a careful line between imitation and simple copying. Sites like You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice and this collection of Extreme Graphic Design Plagiarism simply skim the surface of cut and paste design. But a true imposter object is designed to sit alongside their more expensively produced doppelgangers in established outlets, with the veneer of respectability that implies.

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The above image is from a BBC gallery launched to coincide with John Ryan – A Retrospective, a recent exhibition in the late illustrator’s home town of Rye, East Sussex.

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