Vending machines have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, offering convenient access to snacks and beverages in various public spaces. However, when it comes to their portrayal in film and television, these seemingly harmless machines often take on a sinister role.
Why is it that the entertainment industry consistently depicts vending machines in a negative light? In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this trend and take a look at some high profile examples of films treating our beloved vending machines harshly.
The Vending Machine as a Symbol of Isolation
One common theme in film and TV is the portrayal of vending machines in settings that evoke feelings of isolation and loneliness. The cold, metallic appearance of vending machines can serve as a visual metaphor for characters who are disconnected from society or struggling with their own inner demons.
In the 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Joel (played by Jim Carrey) encounters a vending machine in a desolate train station as he contemplates erasing memories of his failed relationship. The vending machine stands as a lonely sentinel, underscoring the emotional turmoil of the scene.
Snack vending machines and cold drink machines also feature regularly in post-apocalyptic films, where the flickering backlight of a vending machine punches through an otherwise dimly lit corridor, as the protagonist hides away for a brief moment of respite. Take World War Z as an example, with its famous scene showing Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) bruised and cut up, grabbing a Pepsi from a cold drinks machine, unsurprisingly, in a dimly lit corridor.
Vending Machines Up To No Good
We can’t write this article without making reference to one of the most famous vending machine scenes in film history – that’s right, we’re talking about the killer drinks machine in Maximum Overdrive. In the film we see it taken over by an evil force, firing cans of fizzy drink at a field of baseball playing children and their parents.
While we appreciate the humour in the absurdity, it’s another example of films and TV shows taking aim at our beloved vending machines, playing on the perception of vending machines as frustrating machines that can malfunction at a moment’s notice.
How about Jurassic Park? An amazing movie with a brilliant cast of actors, directed by one of the world’s greatest ever Directors, Steven Spielberg. Well, even Jurassic Park uses vending machines as part of the story arc for the dodgy deeds of villain Nedry (Wayne Knight), as he makes up an excuse of ‘needing to grab a drink and salty snack’ from the vending machine, before escaping with stolen dinosaur embryos.
The Frustrating and Mundane Vending Machine
Films and TV shows love to give vending machines the unfair reputation of being constantly broken, and extremely dull. When they’re not malfunctioning and causing immense frustration to whoever is in the scene, they’re being mocked for being the embodiment of modern day mundanity.
If you’ve ever watched the 1998 classic, The Truman Show, you’ll recall Truman’s best friend, Marlon, working as a vending machine operator. In one famous scene, the two characters are hitting golf balls from a bridge when Marlon comments ‘you should try filling vending machines for a living’ with exasperation. Admittedly, the character fills the same vending machine with the same two products every day of the week for the purposes of shooting the TV show, but we can’t help but feel that it’s an unfair depiction of vending operators. Just ask our team, they love their jobs!
Finally, in the 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, becomes increasingly frustrated when he repeatedly encounters a malfunctioning vending machine, adding to the chaos of his time loop experience, and building a connection with the audience who the film’s writers clearly believe would share in his frustration.
Even Disney Takes a Jab
We love Disney films – they delight and entertain millions of young people, and the classics of our childhood will forever hold a special place in our hearts. However, even Disney couldn’t resist a sly dig at the vending machine in one of the most successful film franchises in their collection.
In Toy Story 3, we see the committee of evil toys plotting and scheming in a bright green room, well out of sight of any meddling from Woody or Buzz. We learn that their meeting place is the backlit signage at the top of a snack vending machine – the perfect place to scheme without being heard, seen or accessible.
It is an incredible film mind, and we do love the tongue-in-cheek jokes and references throughout, so we’ll let Disney off the hook on this one. But if it happens again, we might just need to find our own vending machine to assemble our revenge committee in…
While vending machines play a crucial role in our daily lives, the film and TV industry often portrays them in a negative light for various artistic and thematic reasons. Whether serving as symbols of isolation, consumerism, or unexpected peril, vending machines offer a unique storytelling tool that can enhance the emotional impact of a scene.
It has to be said, despite the negativity that can sometimes come from these film and TV appearances, they are also critical pieces of set within scenes to provide opportunities for dialogue, make characters more relatable to their audience, and can aid character development through their interactions with machines.
So, if you’re looking for a snack vending machine, coffee machine or micro market to give your team the best spaces to socialise and interact, and great quality food and drink, why not drop us a line? That is, unless you believe what the films say about vending machines…
Call us on 01865 341011, or send us an enquiry. Let’s talk about all the positives of vending machines, today!