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Amazon Studios has unleashed controversy over subway ads for its new series Man in the High Castle, a show that imagines an alternate history in which the Axis Powers won WWII and occupied the United States.
The seats on a 42nd Street shuttle train in New York City have been decked out in the symbols of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, providing riders with what for some is an overly immersive experience of that alternate reality.
“Half the seats in my car had Nazi insignias inside an American flag, while the other half had the Japanese flag in a style like the World War II design,” straphanger Ann Toback complained to Gothamist, which first reported the story. “So I had a choice, and I chose to sit on the Nazi insignia because I really didn’t want to stare at it.”
— Gothamist (@Gothamist) November 23, 2015
Controversial campaigns are certainly not new to TV advertising.
In one of the more provocative bids for attention, in July A&E launched a highly unorthodox campaign to promote its anti-Christ-focused series Damien at San Diego Comic-Con. The network took advantage of the common presence of religious activists at the conference, taking to the streets alongside them with promotional materials for the film announcing “The Beast Rises,” and “From Flames, Damien Will Rise.”
Conversely, in other cases networks have caved under the pressure to remove materials deemed offensive. In 2014, FX Network changed the artwork for billboards promoting its thriller series The Strain after receiving blowback over an image of a worm coming out of an eyeball.
That same year, an ad for Bravo’s A Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce was banned on buses in both New York and Los Angeles for “inappropriate material.” The ads featured the show’s star, Lisa Edelstein, raising her ring finger with the tagline, “Go Find Yourself.”
While Nazi insignia may seem on the surface more potentially offensive than a woman alluding to flipping the bird (but not actually doing it), the New York City MTA maintains that the MITHC subway car ads are in line with their advertising policy.
“The updated standards prohibit political advertisements,” MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg told Gothamist. “Unless you’re saying that you believe Amazon is advocating for a Nazi takeover of the United States, then it meets the standards. They’re advertising a show.”
Still other passengers appeared nonplussed, with one rider tweeting “42nd St #shuttle covered w. Nazi and Japanese imperial signs inside & outside cars. Riders seem to not notice”
Amazon Studios didn’t immediately respond when reached for comment by The Hollywood Reporter.
— Katherine Lam (@byKatherineLam) November 23, 2015
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