Gladys Santiago

Not Used as Intended: Product Displacement in ‘Nurse Jackie’

Posted in Media, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on February 7, 2010

Sweet'N All - Nurse Jackie - Sweet-N-All

Generally, companies do not want their products to be associated with drugs, violence and crime.  Mercedes-Benz, for example, demanded any appearance of its logo be removed from Slumdog Millionaire to avoid being associated with Mumbai poverty.  Danny Boyle was forced to resort to product displacement and digitally remove the logos from the film.  Post-production digital pixelation and physically covering up labels are the most common methods of unbranding a scene to omit any references to trademarked brands.  

The “Sweet-N-All” episode of Nurse Jackie provides a fascinating approach to product displacement because it features an establishing shot of sugar packets that instructs viewers to identify Sweet’N All as an artificial sweetener.  In this shot, packets of Domino Sugar, Equal, Sweet’N Low and Sweet’N All fall on the floor as Jackie shares an intimate moment with her husband before their daughters arrive for breakfast.  It’s important to note that Sweet’N Low and Sweet’N All packets were displayed together because it demonstrates that both brands exist within the Nurse Jackie world.  It can even be interpreted that the two pink-packaged sweeteners are rival brands.  Sweet’N All is essentially, not a fictionalized version of Sweet’N Low, but rather, it’s a separate, albeit fictional brand that was created to establish the industrious lengths Jackie goes through to fuel her addiction.

A few minutes into the episode, during a voice-over narration, Jackie, with a hint of triggered fondness states, “Sweet’N All. Sounds like Seconal. Remember Seconal?” and then goes on to tell viewers to “watch and learn” as she empties the content of a Sweet’N All packet.  She then methodically crushes a mortar full of Percocet, fills three Sweet’N All packets with the drug and seals them to use throughout her workday.  Jackie cautions that Percocet should not be chewed, crushed or snorted because, “it’ll hit your system like a bolt of lightning.”  With a complete disregard to the forewarned dangers of Percocet, Jackie nonchalantly places the packets in her sweater pocket.  Essentially, the Sweet’N All packaging is repurposed by Jackie as drug paraphernalia.  The production would have certainly faced legal action if it used Sweet’N Low in such a manner.