This blog post originally appeared at the DuetsBlog.
Being a Make Mine Marvel type, I am of course very excited to see the Avengers movie, which will feature all of the Marvel heroes together! In one place! With Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) there to help them save the world.
I was disturbed, however, to find out that one of the myriad tie-ins to the movie (fine examples of co-branding) is something called the “Limited Edition Avengers Magtitan Neo Legend“: it looks like a fancy bracelet and is in fact based on something that Tony Stark (Iron Man) wears in the movie. They’re made by Colantotte, who have set up a whole mini-website for the Avengers movie that lets you download an interactive comic, take quizzes, view profiles of each Avenger, and (most important) buy the Limited Edition Avengers Magtitan Neo Legend things, which are made from titanium, stainless steel, and carbon fiber. They’re pretty, but manly enough that guys could wear them and feel Tony Stark-ish (although, to be fair, Robert Downey Jr. makes any jewelry look pretty good).
The name is, of course, designed to make you buy it immediately – “Limited Edition” means they’ll only be selling it for 5 years instead of 6 – and I don’t know what “Magtitan Neo Legend” is supposed to convey. It sounds like manly words thrown into a blender. Marvel is lucky they were able to squeeze the word Avengers into the middle.
So why is this worse than the Harry Potter wands and Sauron’s One Rings that you see advertised in the back of Sky Mall? Well, the Limited Edition Avengers Magtitan Neo Legend bracelet actually promises to *do* something for you – just like superheroes, it helps you “maintain [your] edge while fighting off arch rivals!” Digging a little deeper in the press release, we find that what this actually means is:
The natural power of the Colantotte’s magnets restores the negative impact today’s lifestyle imposes. The human body absorbs positive ions from electronic equipment, cell phones, electrical wiring, and machinery. Colantotte, with its negative ionic technology combats these destructive positive ions for regeneration.
Oh. They have magnets in them. But not just any magnets, these are sciency magnets:
All Colantotte products are created with axially magnetized magnets in a unique Alternating North-South Polarity Orientation (ANSPO™) to maximize the magnetic field flow.
(FYI, alternating poles are what make refrigerator magnets stick so well to the surface of your fridge but lose their effectiveness when they get about a half inch away.)
This is not a science blog, so I won’t take the time to go through all of the reasons why bracelets with magnets don’t do anything for you, but it’s safe to say that the preponderance of evidence has shown that magnet therapy has no basis in reality and is likely a result of the placebo effect; that human bodies are not absorbing positive ions that are destroying us; and further, that even if the theory were true, the bracelets could not emit negative ions without a power source, which they clearly do not have.
Of course there are dozens of magic bracelet bracelets, magnetic or otherwise, on the market, including Q-Ray (sued by the FTC for false advertising), Power Balance (shut down in Australian by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), and Balance Bracelet (ordered by the FTC to pay a $400k settlement into a global settlement fund for consumers).
I guess what bothers me most is that Marvel and Joss Whedon are implicitly endorsing pseudoscience by allowing this kind of product as a tie-in. I realize I am talking about a movie that features an Asgardian God of Thunder as well as a gamma-ray created green Hulk, but that’s a movie. This is real life, and magnetic bracelets won’t turn you into a superhero, or cure your arthritis, or help you “maintain your edge”, whatever that means. And what if Colantotte gets shut down or sued? Won’t that tarnish the Marvel/Avengers/Whedon brand by association?
But hey, if you want to look like a superhero, you can buy one and pretend it makes you super. Only $200.