Trend Watch: The Power of Product Placement—A Lesson from Nurse Jackie

One might well be skeptical about the effectiveness of a product placement in a television series or film when the product doesn’t receive immediate identification, if any, beyond perhaps a written mention in a string of undifferentiated credits at the end. But a recent experience makes me rethink the power of product placement due to the influence of social networking.


The Showtime series Nurse Jackie, featuring the extraordinary talent of Edie Falco, starts each episode with a vignette that shows Jackie prepare for work. Jewelry figures prominently in the vignette: She puts on a pair of hoop earrings and a chain with a religious medal, and she removes and pockets her wedding band. The ring removal directly relates to the plot, and, in a more subtle way, the earrings and necklace also provide clues as to the personality of the character.



[Edie Falco as the title character in Nurse Jackie, wearing an intriguing bit of jewelry]


The hoop earrings suggest to me that Jackie wishes to look professional and polished at work. They are an appropriate size, not too large, not too small, in a style that would pass muster in any professional environment. Nurse Jackie is seen wearing other earrings in various episodes, including a small pair of teardrops. Perhaps there’s a different message in that motif.


While the earrings are attractive, it is the religious medal, the pendant on a chain, that is of particular moment.


The religious medal relates to Jackie’s work at All Saints Hospital, which, by its name, is a Catholic hospital. Although Jackie, as evidenced by her behavior, is identified as a lapsed Catholic, her medal shows an affinity for her religious upbringing and, of course, also relates to her place of employment.


I was curious about the medal, which appears to bear the image of a saint. The Nurse Jackie web site provides no clues as to the design on the medal. In doing some research on the Web, I quickly learned that I am not alone in my curiosity. The question is posted in several networking sites by individuals looking to find out just what is the image on that medal. The medal has created a bit of a buzz in the social networks.  


As of this writing, no one on any of the networking sites has come up with an answer, and Showtime has, thus far, remained mum. I wasn’t able to find what looks like a direct match on any website I visited that sells religious medals.


I’ll provide my best guess here: I think it may be the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, one of the names by which Mary, the mother of Jesus, is known and revered. (The Carmelite religious order was founded in Ireland in the 13th Century.) What makes that image particularly apropos is that is serves as a bit of an inside joke, in that Edie Falco is well known for playing the wife of the lead character in the HBO series The Sopranos. The name of her character: Carmela Soprano.



[A rendering in stained glass of Our Lady of Mount Carmel]


If anyone can definitively identify the image on the medal, please do chime in with a comment.


The viewing public has a curious streak. A pair of hoop earrings may be attractive enough for someone to want to know who designs and produces them, but something a bit more unusual and mysterious really gets the curiosity stoked. Therein lies a lesson about product placement and the power of social networking.

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