Flashpoint - When Values Collide
Producer:Video Marketing Resources, Inc. running Time: 73 minutes
Imagine a 73-minute-long stand-up comedy shtick on the subject of diversity, delivered by Truman Capote on speed, and you've got Morris Massey's "Flashpoint." Truman Capote was a gifted writer. And Morris Massey, whose background is in marketing, is a training-video star. But campy cleverness and pop packaging a diversity guru do not make. And as this video painfully reveals, Massey knows next to nothing about the subject of diversity. Even worse, with a presentation that veers self-indulgently from stand-up comedy to tent revival religiosity to pitchman pop psychology, Massey ends up undermining the legitimacy and seriousness of the whole subject.
Not that Massey's combination of break-neck talking speed and superficiality has prevented this tape from becoming a best-seller. In the $1.5 billion market for off-the-shelf training videos, books, and classroom materials, diversity has taken off as the topic du jour. The number of diversity "experts" reportedly has more than quadrupled since 1990. In that overcrowded field of consultants, Massey's reputation serves to reassure trainers that when they sit their people down in front of a TV for a diversity session, this offering will be a neat conversation starter.
It's more likely to be a conversation killer. Massey's approach to diversity is to stand in front of a video screen and yell at us. When he tries to be sincere, he's funny. When he tries to be funny, he's pathetic. What he intends to be consciousness-raising turns out to be stream-of-consciousness. His non-stop delivery roams across the pages of the National Enquirer, Variety, and Playboy looking for one-liners that masquerade as examples of diversity issues. Some of his salient insights that presumably pertain to his subject: "The Duchess of Slut getting her toes sucked by her financial adviser - I don't get it." (Nor do I. What does Fergie have to do with diversity?) Or "There's one universal truth about sex that's hard to ignore: people are horny." And "When Murphy Brown had a baby, Dan Quayle had a cow."
The video training industry is an uncertain infant. No one is sure what makes a good video. There are just as many questions about the audience. What makes an interaction succeed? No one has that answer either. So consider Massey's tape an experiment with a blend of entertainment, inspiration, humor, and shock to get a reaction from his audience. In this case, however, the right reaction is to pull the plug.
Laura Winig is founder and publisher of Training Media Review, a Boston-based newsletter that rates corporate videos
A version of this article appeared in the Prototype Issue issue of Fast Company magazine.