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Hoverboard hoax; a success or waste of time?

Published March 14, 2014 at 7:52 am

In recent years, the 1980’s time travel adventure/comedy film series Back to the Future has gone from being just a fondly remembered trilogy to a widely recognized classic of American popular cinema. It’s not surprising that this would lead to a growth in advertising drawing on the nostalgia of fans and the love of the “geek community.”

But Slate writer Will Oremus was disappointed and frustrated with a recent video that purported to be a commercial for a “real” hoverboard. This fictional children’s toy has been the subject of jokes and fake-outs since it first appeared in Back to the Future Part II back in 1989, along with some of that movie’s other pseudo-futuristic predictions like flying cars, “4-D” movies and self-lacing sneakers.

Earlier this week, the footage surfaced purporting to be a real demonstration of a hoverboard, featuring celebrities like Christopher Lloyd and Tony Hawk expressing amazement that it “really” exists. Of course, it’s not true, and Christopher Lloyd even appeared in a Funny or Die video mockingly “apologizing” for the deception.

Not funny, says Oremus. He calls out the original video for being “nothing but cynical exploitation of humans’ tendency to believe other humans when they say something is true.”

“Whatever the video’s intent, its primary achievement is to leave young people feeling a little more jaded than they were before,” he writes. “Is that really what you want, Christopher Lloyd?”

Viral videos are still an overwhelmingly popular means of netting views, clicks, likes and customer admiration. But there needs to be a coherent point behind the campaign, and Oremus is right to insist on a reason for duping the customer: otherwise it’s just dishonesty for dishonesty’s sake.

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