[From The New York Times’ Media Decoder blog, where the post includes two videos including the ad and additional images]
The Blogger Who Found Jenny Not on the Block
By Noam Cohen
November 24, 2011
A new ad featuring the pop star Jennifer Lopez behind the wheel of a Fiat 500 as she reflects on her Bronx upbringing may have done the impossible – shock a jaded public well accustomed to fakery in TV advertising.
The ad uses a body double for the scenes in the Bronx, which have been carefully spliced with material shot with Ms. Lopez in Los Angeles. As she drives, she reflects on the Bronx: “This is my world. This place inspires me to be tougher, to think faster. They may just be streets to you, but to me they are a playground.”
At the end of the minute-long ad, the body-double Jennifer Lopez hugs a young kid in front of a Bronx tenement.
The news about the ad spread via the muckracking Web site The Smoking Gun, which reported that a Los Angeles digital production studio was hired to make the editing look seamless.
But, as The Smoking Gun later noted, it was not the first to publish the news.
Ed Morales, a freelance journalist and author, had blogged about the ad shoot in October, after watching from his window in Mott Haven. For a Bronx shoot, the producers didn’t have to go far, he noted. He lives a block and half from the Willis Avenue Bridge, with Manhattan just on the other side.
“The whole neighborhood was aware of it,” he said in an interview. “I had no idea what it was, I first thought it was a movie shoot – but they didn’t have the big vans, the trailers.”
Of course, Ms. Lopez’s Bronx-ness – she was born in the Castle Hill section and attended Preston High School – is central to her public identity as “Jenny From the Block.”
Fiat’s statement confirming the body double was nonchalant: “In today’s world, people are increasingly mobile and their work takes them to a variety of locations. As a result, we took the opportunity to film wherever Ms. Lopez was working at the time to accommodate her schedule.”
Mr. Morales took out his iPhone camera and filmed when he saw that the shoot had been stopped with the car in the middle of the street and someone from the crew looking inside the hood. “This little detail was clearly left on the cutting room floor!” he wrote on his blog.
Mr. Morales said his friends got a kick out of the post when it ran – and it had heavy traffic for his site, about 200 page views.
The attention the use of a body double has gotten after The Smoking Gun report made sense because the potential for a gotcha moment was high, he said: “It’s a classic case of Jennifer, or any celebrity, who comes from a lower-middle class background, who tries to publicly identify with the class they come from.”
He added: “Those are the perils. But maybe we should give her credit for trying to make that connection – the majority position is that people from that background don’t look back.”
Questions about the authenticity of the commercial don’t end with whether Ms. Lopez was in the Bronx or not. For those accustomed to looking at the fine grain of the streetscape, the image of a yellow cab that appears about 20 seconds into the commercial rings false. It doesn’t bear the blocky “NYC” logo nor the T-in-a-circle of standard medallion livery. Apparently, even the taxi was a stunt double.