Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 masterpiece Robocop is turning 30 this year, and it has aged like a fine wine. We highly recommend you go check it out at midnight this Friday at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, where it screens as a part of its month-long retrospective on the best cult films from that year.
Robocop’s deep and biting satire of corporate culture and authoritarianism has only become more relevant as the years have passed. In honor of this milestone, we thought we’d revisit one of the most ironic aspects of Robocop’s existence as a pop culture figure: His recurring appearances in commercials overseas. Yes, that’s right: the noted cock-annihilator did everything from kill roaches to steal refrigerators during a commercial break back in the late-’80s and early-’90s.
Here’s what’s considered by many to be the best of these ads, which went a little viral back in the mid-aughts: A Korean promo for a fried chicken recipe, in which Robocop hops off the television screen and decides it might be a good idea to steal some middle-class family’s refrigerator because he wants some dessert. How’s he even going to fit that thing in the TV, as it stands? Pay close attention to the captions that come up on screen, because, though you can’t really tell on the first listen, Robocop speaks English in it! The “Oh what the hell fried chicken” that Robocop says to the mom at the start of the commercial can immediately brighten up a cloudy day, and we can kind of see why this is beloved by so many online:
Next, there’s two from Nissin Noodles, meant to tie into the release of the Frank Miller-scripted Robocop 3, in which Robocop somehow has noodles and chopsticks embedded in his thigh holster instead of a gun to stop the crooks, and a bunch of dudes on a beach chant the name of the specific brand of noodles while wearing Robocop onesies. They’re kind of brilliant, in a bombastic way, and very silly.
We wish we could hop into a time machine and go eat enough Ramen to get one of those Robocop toothbrushes. There’s nothing better than scrubbing the plaque off your pearly whites with the embodiment of Detroit justice. Check it out:
Finally, a Japanese bug spray ad features Robocop killing a big and garish roach to protect the city (people really love that his gun pops out of his thigh!) to the delight of all the terrified children at home. Clocking in at just under 15 seconds long, it’s just enough to scar you for life and make you deathly terrified of bugs. It’s pretty impressive, given that it’s got one of the best Robocop suits of any of these ads, and just Jesus fuck is that roach frightening:
Remember, we come to praise these ads, not bury them, and it’s nowhere nearly as egregious as anything that we Americans have done with the character. After all, we had a Dutch guy create him for us, so why shouldn’t we be the ones to fuck Robocop up? We’re not talking about the sequels, or the cartoon, or the toy line that the film spawned. We’re not even talking about the 2014 remake, though that came kind of close. No, we’re speaking of the time that Robocop met the king of American crooks, Richard Nixon.
Though, now that we think of it, that’s actually a kind of perfect marketing stunt.