RoboCop is a classic satirical science fiction/action movie from 1987 directed by Paul Verhoeven.The story takes place in Detroit in the near-future. Detroit is overrun by crime, primarily because of the work of unofficial crime boss Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). To address this matter, Omni Consumer Products (OCP for short) has decided that they will tear down crime-plagued Old Detroit and rebuild it as their own "Delta City". Beforehand, they must eradicate crime in the city. To that end, executive Bob Morton proposes a new conceptual cyborg to the CEO known as "the Old Man", which he calls RoboCop, which is constructed from a police officer's body and given superior firepower and combat abilities. This is at the cost of OCP President Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), who has proposed a military robot called "ED-209" for urban pacification, but which is prone to malfunction.Morton's RoboCop team gets their chance when police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) and his partner Anne Lewis chase Boddicker's gang to an abandoned steel mill. Boddicker and his men overwhelm Murphy, then take delight in unloading theirshotgunsinto him. OCP takes his remains and effectively resurrects him as the Nigh Invulnerable cyborg police officer RoboCop. His mind is supposedly erased, but signs indicate that the wipe job wasn't perfect and he begins to remember bits and pieces of his past. When Murphy starts looking for revenge against the people who took his human life from him, he discovers that Jones is connected to Boddicker — and that Jones has meddled with Murphy's programming to ensure his own survival.
This film has the examples of:
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Abandoned Warehouse: The site of the first confrontation between Murphy and Boddicker's gang. Happens again in the last confrontation, though it also throws in abandoned factories to the mix.
All Crimes Are Equal: ED-209 advances dangerously on RoboCop for being illegally parked on private property at the end of the film. (Not that it worked out that well for him on this occasion.)
All There in the Script: The script establishes that the film takes place in 2043, because in earlier versions, the news story that was shown following RoboCop's escape from the police and ED-209 had Casey Wong report to us that Sylvester Stallone has died at age 97 during a brain transplantnote Stallone was born in 1946 before the Kill Sat story was put in instead.
And I Must Scream: One of the scenes where we see RoboCop's creation from his point of view. We see Bob Morton and Donald Johnson, the first complaining because the scientists have saved Murphy's left arm. After being asked if RoboCop understands what they're saying, he replies that it doesn't matter as they're going to wipe his memory anyway. This is followed by Morton asking Johnson if he thinks they'd remove the arm, to which Johnson replies that they should, given Murphy signed release waivers when he joined the force allowing OCP to do whatever they want to him when he dies. Ultimately, Morton orders them to remove the left arm and RoboCop is shut down for surgery.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: Why the hell would they load up the ED-209 with live ammo for a demonstration in the executive board room? And give a loaded gun to the guy asked to act out the demonstration? OCP's board of governors isn't that bright.
Armor-Piercing Question: In the Miranda rights scene, RoboCop throws Boddicker through numerous plate-glass windows, intent on hurting him or killing him. Boddicker confesses Jones' involvement in the plot, but RoboCop keeps going. Boddicker finally gets Robo to stop by saying "You're a cop!", reminding Robo that his first duty is to the law. RoboCop stops his Roaring Rampage of Revenge and arrests Boddicker instead.
Art Major Physics: In the scene where RoboCop stops his first robbery by bending the barrel of the hood's gun while the criminal is holding it, the goon would have to have been strong enough to bend it himself to keep the gun in his hands. In other words, RoboCop would still have disarmed the creep, just not as spectacularly.
Asshole Victim: Bob Morton . Interestingly, the filmmakers revealed in the audio commentary that audiences actually seemed to feel sorry for him when Boddicker showed up and killed him rather viciously.
Better Than New: After Murphy is pronounced dead, OCP takes his remains and resurrects him using cybernetic/robotic technology into the Nigh Invulnerable RoboCop, though he'll never be human again.
BFG: Boddicker and crew eventually are supplied with the Cobra Assault Cannon. The props were built from Barrett Model 82 .50 caliber rifles, and they're quite explosive. They use the Cobra against RoboCop, and he takes one after they're defeated and uses it to blow up the ED-209 in front of OCP's headquarters.
Big Entrance: The producers were concerned that a simple open entrance could make RoboCop look silly. Instead, Verhoeven had Robo's entrance teased out. RoboCop is delivered to the police station by a transport convoy. The support staff comes in first, and as the desk officer protests to Bob Morton, he is suddenly silenced by the sound of heavy mechanical footsteps of something non-human walking into the station, barely visible behind frosted glass. We follow this up with teasing looks of the thing that become more and more revealing until you are eagerly following the running cops through the halls trying to get a good look at this thing. At the end, you get to see RoboCop towering in his maintenance chair and looking completely kickass.
The first time RoboCop takes his helmet off, he says to Lewis, "You may not like what you are about to see." Murphy's face is the only visible organic part of him, and from the looks of his head, has been grafted onto a completely synthetic skull.
Boddicker's getaway driver Emil crashes the panel truck into an industrial-strength tank of acidic toxic waste. Unfortunately for Emil, he survives, despite the fact that he's melting as the acid eats away at his skin, long enough to get splattered.
Murphy getting shredded apart with shotguns by Boddicker's gang, including losing his entire right arm, then Boddicker finishing him by using a pistol to blow his head off.
Speaking of which, the simple fact that Murphy, a nice guy with a wife and kid, woke up to discover that he was now mostly a machine who could only "feel" his past without actually remembering it is just all kinds of nasty.
Book Ends: The film begins and ends in the exact same boardroom, with an OCP executive being shot to pieces by a robot.
Boom, Headshot: Murphy dies after Boddicker pulls a pistol and shoots him in the head (which, after getting his entire right arm shot off, and being hit in the torso numerous times with shotguns, is almost a Mercy Kill).
Bond One-Liner: Boddicker chortles, "Give the man a hand!" after using his shotgun to shoot off Murphy's right hand.
Bowdlerized: The TV edit used for a ABC Sunday Night Movie in the early 90s cut half the movie and overdubbed the rest: "Ladies, leave!" and "You finked on the wrong guy."
The Mexican Spanish dub has a minor one: When in the news break talk about a war between Mexico and the U.S., the Mexican dub replaces the dialogue with about a war in the Middle East instead. (Oddly, the original dialogue was uncensored in the subbed version). It's very obvious why they changed that line.
When RoboCop is first revealed to the rest of the police department, it's explained by the engineers that RoboCop eats a "rudimentary paste that sustains his organic systems". The OCP exec Donald Johnson tries some and immediately tells Morton it "tastes like baby food", and can't resist helping himself to some more. Later in the film, when RoboCop is hiding out at the steel mill waiting for Boddicker to show up, Lewis brings him his gun, a cordless drill, and several jars of baby food to eat.
One that can only be found in the script: when Dick Jones's Engineered Public Confession is exposed by RoboCop at the end of the film, the script comments that "having your cover blown is almost the worst thing that can happen to a Corporate Animal." A few lines later, after Jones gets blasted out the window, the script quips that "this is probably the worst thing that can happen to a Corporate Animal."
During the hostage situation scene at City Hall, councilman Ron Miller makes several demands. One of these is for a new car that "has reclining leather seats, goes really fast and gets really shitty gas mileage!" to which the negotiator offers the 6000 SUX (and even offers to throw in a Blaupunkt). Later in the film, we are shown a commercial for the 6000 SUX in which terrified civilians are chased through the streets by a very unrealistic T-Rex:
Commercial Announcer: It's back! Big is back, because bigger is better! 6000 SUX, an American tradition. [Text appears across the bottom: "An American tradition, 8.2 mpg"]
"I know you. You're dead. We killed you. We killed you!" (RoboCop records and plays back) "You're dead. We killed you!"
"Murphy, it's you... Murphy, it's you..."
"I had to kill Bob Morton because he made a mistake. Now it's time to erase that mistake. *REWIND* I had to kill Bob Morton because he made a mistake. Now it's time to erase that mistake..."
Broken Faceplate: RoboCop's visor gets smashed open by ED-209, allowing the audience to see the fear and surprise on his face during a close-up.
Bulletproof Human Shield: In the scene where Kinney is getting shot repeatedly by ED-209, there is tons of blood but the bullets should have realistically passed through his body and shattered the window behind him.
Car Fu: Emil should have known not to play Car Fu around vats of industrial chemicals. After getting horribly disfigured by the stuff, he's finished off by getting run over himself and bursts into noxious slime.
During the ED-209's first presentation, an OCP executive is asked to brandish a loaded gun. In the final scene of the movie, Dick Jones grabs the same gun and uses it in an attempt to take the Old Man hostage.
The unknown and classified 4th Directive, along with RoboCop's computer jack that takes on the form of a spike emerging from his fist which he uses to dispatch Boddicker.
Cluster F-Bomb: The convenience store robber, upon RoboCop's entrance: "Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me!"
Crucified Hero Shot: Murphy's death, even though he doesn't have his arms splayed, is more or less a re-enactment of the Crucifixion. The RoboCop = cyborg!Jesus metaphor is extended throughout the film (see: getting pierced by a spear, walking on water).
Curb-Stomp Battle: RoboCop versus the ED-209 near the end of the film. Especially satisfying because their earlier fight wasn't concluded.
Cyberpunk Is Techno: The soundtrack blends traditional orchestral music with electronic music and synthesizers. Word of God says this was meant to symbolize RoboCop's dual nature as both man and machine.
Deadpan Snarker: The hostage negotiator vs. Ron Miller in the city hall hostage situation:
Lt Hedgecock: Okay Miller! Don't hurt the mayor! We'll give you what you want!
Ron Miller: First, don't fuck with me. I'm a desperate man! And second, I want some fresh coffee. And third, I want a recount! And no matter how it turns out, I want my old job back!
Lt. Hedgecock: Okay.
Ron Miller: And I want a bigger office! And I want a new car! And I want the city to pay for it all!
Lt Hedgecock: What kind of car, Miller?
Ron Miller: Something with reclining leather seats, that goes really fast, and gets really shitty gas mileage! All right?
Lt Hedgecock: How about the uh, 6000 SUX?
Ron Miller: Yeah! Okay, sure! What about cruise control? Does it come with cruise control?
Lt. Hedgecock: Hey, no problem, Miller. You let the Mayor go, we'll even throw in a Blaupunkt!
Brick Joke when a commercial for the SUX is shown and we see it has an 8.2 mpg rating.
Destination Defenestration: Jones' death. After holding the president of OCP hostage, he's blown out the window by RoboCop and plummets to the ground. There's also the hostage-taker at City Hall earlier in the movie, though RoboCop just grabs him and punches him through a window.
Did You Actually Believe?: Dick Jones says this to RoboCop when he tries to arrest him in his office, and informs him about the hidden Directive 4 that prevents this very contingency from happening.
However, the whole Jones/Boddicker/Morton subplot serves a storytelling purpose, specifically the Grey and Gray Morality question of responsibility for Murphy's death, in a very neat way. Boddicker and his gang carry the ultimate blame as the men who did the actual shooting. Dick Jones as Boddicker's paymaster is the Big Bad behind the crime wave Murphy was responding to at the beginning of the story, including the robbery of Boddicker's that Murphy and Lewis had been pursuing Boddicker for. But it is heavily implied if not outright stated that Bob Morton himself carries a significant share of the responsibility by placing Murphy in the firing line in the first place (having identified him as a possible candidate for the RoboCop program and transferring him to the most dangerous precinct in the city). By having Jones hire Boddicker in the role of a hit man to kill Morton, the writers essentially ensure that everyone directly responsible for Murphy's death is dead themselves by the end of the movie, without having to answer the morality question outright.
Epic Fail: The ED-209 attempts to descend a set of stairs in the OCP building, despite the fact that its feet are too big to go down the steps.
Equal-Opportunity Evil: Clarence Boddicker's gang is very ethnically diverse: white (Boddicker, Leon Nash), black (Joe Cox), Asian (Steve Minh), and Latin (Emil).
Even Evil Has Standards: Remorseless he may be, but Boddicker enters Bob Morton's house while Morton is in the company of two hookers and orders them, "Bitches, leave!" so that he won't need to eliminate extra witnesses.
Fingore: Among the many mutilations inflicted on him before his death, Boddicker's crew starts out by blowing off Murphy's right hand with a shotgun.
Flipping the Bird: Implied to a degree, RoboCop's six-inch data jack emerges from his fist and he brandishes it to a computer tech when he tries to stop Robo accessing files on his own death and Boddicker's gang.
Flashback Nightmare: Robo has a dream while sleeping in his chair in which he relives his own execution.
Gangsta Style: Boddicker's getaway driver Emil holds up a gas station by holding a SMG this way.
You're trying to take down a would-be rapist who's holding his victim hostage. He's using her as a human shield. You are RoboCop, you have good shooting skills. What do you do? Shoot between the hostage's legs and neuter the guy.
Guns Akimbo: Subverted, as human Murphy tries to shoot up the Boddicker gang's panel truck this way, with his own pistol and Lewis's sidearm, and fails spectacularly, only managing to hit Bobby in the leg.
Gun Twirling: Murphy's signature Character Tic, as he copies a move from his son's favorite TV show TJ Lazar. He explains to Lewis in the scene prior to the car chase that he does this because he knows he's his son's role model. (The gun safety issues of doing this are averted by the fact that Murphy only does that trick after unloading the weapon. When he's doing it with Lewis prior to chasing down Boddicker, he reloads his pistol afterwords.)
After Murphy is killed and Bob Morton's team turns him into RoboCop, and part of the process is that Murphy's memory is erased. However, it turns out the memory-wiping process is not perfect, as demonstrated when Morton shows off RoboCop's Improbable Aiming Skills at the firing range. After finishing his magazine, RoboCop twirls his Auto 9 on his right hand before putting it in his leg holster, and Lewis sees this, immediately realizing that RoboCop is Murphy.
Robo also does it at the end of the film before tucking his gun into his holster and confidently walking away, like a hero in an old Western movie.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Dick Jones and his Directive 4. Since he is the "number 2 guy around here," he tries to take the one guy who could terminate him hostage. "Dick, you're fired!" takes on a whole new meaning.
Hollywood Silencer: When Boddicker shoots Morton, he fits a silencer first so his pistol is barely audible. Which seems kind of odd given that after making Morton watch the video message from Dick Jones, Boddicker kills him by blowing up his house with a grenade, which is bound to draw attention.
Hookers and Blow: Plenty of both, particularly at Morton's house right before his death scene.
Hummer Dinger: The 6000 SUX has reclining leather seats, goes really fast and gets really shitty gas mileage(!), specifically, 8.2 MPG! Became even funnier once Hummer SUVs actually started hitting American streets.
Improbable Aiming Skills: Justified in that Robo's are all software. The human Murphy empties four magazines at a speeding panel truck and only manages to hit with one round. When the software craps out after RoboCop's run-in with the classified Directive 4 and Dick Jones, he's right back to being unable to hit the broad side of a barn, and Lewis has to help him reprogram himself.
Infrared X-Ray Camera: Robo has an infrared scanner that allows him to sneak up on a perp from behind a wall.
Instant Death Bullet: Typically about as thoroughly averted as humanly possible. Murphy gets shot dozens of times by Boddicker and at the end, he puts a couple dozen bullets in Dick Jones, but he is killed when he gets knocked back through a window and falls around 100 stories to his death.
I Surrender, Suckers: Attempted by Boddicker at the end of the final showdown. He tosses his gun aside and says he gives up...while his buddy is preparing to drop a load of scrap onto Murphy.
Just a Machine: OCP refers to RoboCop as their product instead of a human being with his own identity.
Just Following Orders: When one of the SWAT team sent to destroy RoboCop in the parking garage protests that they're shooting a fellow officer, the lieutenant simply answers "We have orders to destroy it!"
Kent Brockman News: The news anchors. Especially in the first segment, when they are talking about the police officer shot by Boddicker's gang.
Kill Sat: The SDI Defense Satellite mentioned in the news accidentally fires on Santa Barbara during start up tests and kills 110 people, including two former presidents who had retired to that area.
A thug tries to rape a woman at knifepoint. Seconds later, RoboCop appears and shoots him ... in the balls.
Ludd Was Right: Although one cop wonders if RoboCop was built to replace them, the trope is ultimately averted with the cops accepting him as an asset on their side, such as being a big tough trooper who can safely draw criminals' fire while his regular comrades can maneuver for position to do support flanking.
Lull Destruction: According to Word of God the creative team wanted a full 10 seconds of silence and blank screen between the moment of Murphy's death and the first flash of static marking the start of his resurrection. The executive team had other ideas.
Made of Plasticine: Emil splats reeeaaal good after taking a bath in a vat of toxic chemicals.
Memory Wiping Crew: Murphy's memory is supposedly wiped when he's being turned into RoboCop, however it isn't perfect because he retains his Gun Twirling habit, and also begins to remember Clarence Boddicker's gang shooting him up with their shotguns.
More Dakka: ED-209's cannons, RoboCop's machine pistol, and the hundreds of rounds the SWAT team fires at him, all with Bottomless Magazines, of course.
Mundane Made Awesome: The scene when RoboCop enters his squad car for the first time, shifts the gears into drive, and drives up the exit ramp from the motor pool and out onto the highway on his first patrol. Driving a police car is a lot more awesome when you're an invincible cyborg with an epic orchestral theme.
Involving ED-209, which is a heavily armed Mini Mecha. An OCP executive, Kinney, is asked to simulate a "typical arrest and disarming procedure" during a board meeting. Dick Jones gives Kinney a pistol and tells him to cock it and aim it at ED-209:
ED-209: Please put down your weapon. You have twenty seconds to comply. Dick Jones: I think you'd better do what he says, Mr. Kinney. (Kinney drops the Desert Eagle on the floor. ED-209 steps towards him, growls and aims its machine guns at him) ED-209:You now have fifteen seconds to comply. You are in direct violation of Penal Code 113, Section 9. Technician: Pull the plug! ED-209: You now have five seconds to comply. [Everyone starts screaming and diving for cover] Kinney:[trying to shield himself behind another board member] Help me! ED-209: Four. Three. Two. One. I am now authorized to use physical force. [ED-209 fires at Kinney and sprays him up with bulletswell past the point of death, until he is made more of lead than of flesh]
Emil at the gas station. When RoboCop uses the "dead or alive" line, Emil is surprised to hear it and figures out who the new cop is.
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Phony Newscast: The film has a series of newscasts where horrible events are described during the news in an upbeat fashion. For example, in the opening, Casey Wong describes Clarence Boddicker's recent ambush and murder of three police officers in this way, and cheers on the sole surviving officer of the attack, saying how he's rooting for the officer to live. Mood whiplash in the very next scene in the police locker room when Reed is seen taking said cop's name off his locker and putting his personal effects in an evidence tray.
There are advertisements placed throughout that accompany these newscasts so that you get an idea of what the consumer culture is like in the time period of the movie.
Pin-Pulling Teeth: When he kills Bob Morton, Clarence pulls the pin on the grenade in this way.
Playing Against Type: Prior to playing Dick Jones, Ronny Cox played nice guys. However, Dick Jones also set up a new type for him, as proven by Senator Robert Kinsey and Vilos Cohaagen. Kurtwood Smith was also known for slightly more refined and elegant characters (while still bad guys) and not the unsophisticated thug Boddicker was.
Police Brutality: Robo uses some heavy-handed tactics to fight crime, including throwing a terrorist out a window.
Power at a Price: The premise of the movie: Murphy gains superhuman abilities and the chance to come Back from the Dead, but he also loses much of his individuality in the process, or what makes him human to begin with.
R-Rated Opening: In the first twenty or so minutes of this film, we see a businessman get shredded by gunfire with blood spurting everywhere. Then we see the hero gets his hand blasted apart, shot repeated at point-blank range, an arm blown off, and shot in the head.
Railing Kill: Several when RoboCop shoots up Boddicker's drug lab.
In the commentary, the crew confess that they were terrified that real-world cops would react badly to that scene. They did a test screening...and it was a roaring success. Boddicker being an Asshole Victim probably helped.
Real-Life Relative: When Clarence Boddicker visits Dick Jones's office, he flirts momentarily with Barbara, Jones's secretary. She is played by Joan Pirkle, Kurtwood Smith's real wife.
Reckless Gun Usage: All over the place. It's not surprising that the ED-209 malfunctioned and killed an unarmed civilian if it's built by a corporation that's stupid enough to a) do a demonstration with its cannons fully loaded and b) give a loaded handgun to a guy who doesn't know how to use it, who then throws it on the floor, whereupon it could have gone off and killed someone. Simply placing it down on the floor could have saved Kinney his life.
Ridiculous Future Inflation: The Old Man mentions the interest payments alone on Delta City could cost them fifty million dollars. This is for six months.
Ridiculously Human Robots: The public is lead to believe RoboCop is completely robotic, which is believable since only his mouth is visible. Robo himself tries to avert this later in the film by taking off his helmet and showing his true face to the world.
Shout-Out: The catchphrase "I'd buy that for a dollar!!" from the Show Within a ShowIt's Not My Problem is a homage to the idiot's TV-derived catchphrase from the dystopic SF novel The Marching Morons, updated for inflation. Originally: "I'd buy that for a quarter!"
The star of the show, Bixby Snyder, is possibly a homage to Benny Hill. Or a parody. In a supposedly-filmed scene, there's one final newscast where the newsreaders announce that Snyder has been arrested for receiving sexual favours from underaged co-stars.
Soft Glass: The movie has plenty of things being thrown through glass, including RoboCop himself.
Something Only They Would Say: Lewis realizes that RoboCop is Alex Murphy when she sees him performing the gun-spin move he learned from the T.J. Lazer television show, during the demonstration of RoboCop's sharpshooting abilities at the precinct's shooting range.
Also, Emil figures out that RoboCop is Murphy during the gas station scene, when RoboCop says "Dead or alive, you're coming with me!" the very same thing that Murphy said while training a pistol on Emil at the steel mill.
Spiteful Spit: When RoboCop tells Clarence that he has the right to remain silent, he spits blood all over his visor. When he is brought to the station he takes another spit on Sgt. Reed's desk.
Stunned Silence: During the gas station robbery scene when Emil recognizes him as Murphy. RoboCop is so shocked he just stands in place replaying his recording of it and doesn't even react to Emil shooting a submachine gun at him.
Stylistic Suck: The Bixby Snyder show It's Not My Problem is so bad that when Emil and another guy sit down to watch a bit of it prior to Murphy showing up at the warehouse, they start laughing raucously even though no joke has been spoken.
Take That: The SDI Defense Satellite misfired on Santa Barbara, killing more than 110 people including two former president. One is understandable but two seems like carelessness. At the time the movie was filmed, there were two former american presidents living in California where the fictional laser struck: Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.
Tech Marches On: Played straight and averted. The DPD Records Department apparently still stores everything on reel-to-reel tape, and the one human-usable computer not sitting in a rack features a painfully slow and kludgy GUI. Over at OCP, we have the giant wall o' monitors in the board room, all of which are CRTs; the media center sports a VHS player. On the other hand, as shown by the playing of Dick's final taunts to Bob Morton as he died, CDs (or similarly designed DVDs) do seem to have become the norm of visual media. Presumably, Robo's data spike is roughly analogous to USB, and to the middle finger.
Murphy's death. First, Boddicker shoots his right hand off. Then Boddicker and his men take turns firing their shotguns, shooting off the rest of Murphy's right arm and blasting holes up and down Murphy's midsection. He's still alive at this point and really in pain. To finish it, Boddicker pulls a pistol and shoots him in the face, blowing off the top of Murphy's head.
They Call Me Mister Tibbs: The film ends with RoboCop telling "The Old Man" his name is Murphy. By the end of the third film, he gets this way with what's left of OCP.
RoboCop: My friends call me Murphy. You call me RoboCop.
Trench Coat Warfare: The convenience store robber pulls an assault rifle out of his coat. When RoboCop shows up, he bends the barrel in half.
War On Cops: Clarence Boddicker and his gang are noted by Casey Wong in the opening exposition newscast to have killed 31 police officers. The Detroit Police Department seriously must be running short of manpower if Boddicker is offing them like candy.
What You Are in the Dark: RoboCop beats up Boddicker almost to the point of death, but when Boddicker screams at him "You're a cop!", RoboCop realizes what he's doing and is able to restrain himself and arrest him instead.
RoboCop: Yes. I am a cop. (Directive 1 blinks across his HUD)
You Can't Go Home Again: As RoboCop, Murphy visits his old home and discovers his family no longer lives there, and it's planned to be turned into a model housing development. He wanders around the house alone for a while as memories of his former life come back to him. Saddened and angered, he then puts his fist through a monitor showing an ad for his new model home.