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Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 12 News List

Becks, Sir Sean and Keanu in fake Viagra ad shock

By Marina Hyde  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The most appalling thing has happened, and China is to blame. I have yet to work out which senior Politburo member is responsible for the act of war, but know this: David Beckham’s image is being used to promote knock-off Viagra in Chinese TV adverts.

I need hardly add that it is without his consent — a kind of unauthorized annexation by the People’s Republic of one of Western culture’s most valuable resources: the Beckhams’ image rights. And so to the detail. What the manufacturers of the Chinese anti-impotence drug USA Selikon have done is taken interview footage of Beckham and dubbed it into Chinese to suggest that he’s saying something else entirely. Also involved are Sir Sean Connery of the Bahamas and my beloved idiot savant Keanu Reeves, but we’ll go to Beckham first, as he might be judged the linchpin of the ad.

Facing the camera, the erstwhile England captain purports to ask: “Want to know how I can keep strong and running on the football field?”

Hmm ... Is it something to do with the special supplements they give you at Milan? It’s like Cocoon up at their training center.

Alas, that doesn’t appear to be the answer.

“USA Selikon capsules help me a lot,” Beckham explains. “It’s also the secret weapon with which I can satisfy Victoria.”

Did you ever hear such effrontery? Next up is Keanu Reeves, and an interview culled from footage so animated that you’d think it was Keanu explaining his craft on Inside the Actor’s Studio, though I am confused to note he has yet to receive the call-up from that most venerable of unwatchable TV shows.

“The feelings after my kidneys got washed by USA Selikon capsules are surprising,” Keanu declaims. “And my girlfriends were also surprised.”

He really owns the line.

And finally, Sir Sean, who is made to say: “I turned 70 this year. But with the help of USA Selikon capsules, I was praised by Barbara that I’m still the James Bond, forever 25. I have told all my old friends, ‘You should try USA Selikon capsules.’”

Heaven knows who Barbara is — Sean has been married to Micheline Roquebrune for more than 30 years. But the point is, this aggression will not stand.

When Beckham does adverts, he does things like dress up as a slutty gladiator for Pepsi, draw his life story on a Perspex wall with a big crayon for Adidas, and talk about how horrid it was after he got sent off in the World Cup in 1998, but saying that “after I scored the goal against Greece, all the sports writers, they just stood up and started clapping me” — even though nobody who was sitting in the press box at the time recalls this happening. When Beckham does adverts, he does things like splay his legs open while wearing the tightest Armani underwear, while his wife goes on chatshows to explain, “I’m proud to see his penis 25 feet [7.5m] tall.”

Do you see, China? David Beckham does classy adverts. He’d find your ginseng-Viagra cocktail frightfully infra dig.

More to the point, this kind of thing threatens to shut off one of the most lucrative career choices for big Western stars: namely, the ability to whore oneself about in dodgy overseas adverts that one’s home fanbase will hopefully never see. See Sir Sean’s “Suntory time” whisky adverts, so uncharitably sent up in Lost in Translation.

Doesn’t it just disgust you when emerging markets refuse to play by the rules of economies that basically invented capitalism? Have a little respect, China! We worked damn hard to build the kind of world where celebrities can rent themselves out for millions to push products by the likes of Nestle — loving your work, George Clooney. You can’t just come along and start faking that kind of insincerity.

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