Amazon May Not Have Requested That NYC Yank Nazi-Themed Ads

Man in the High Castle cast Amazon premiere
Stephen Lovekin/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

Did Amazon Studios really request that its controversial New York City subway ads for the ambitious drama “The Man In The High Castle” be removed? Perhaps not.

A person with knowledge of the matter suggested that spokespersons for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority misspoke when they issued statements Tuesday saying that the company had instructed the MTA to pull the ads off the Shuttle, a subway line that transports riders between Grand Central Terminal and Times Square in Manhattan. This person suggested instead that various authorities had put pressure on the MTA to remove the ads from the train.

“Amazon Studios creates high-quality, provocative programming that spurs conversation,” Amazon said in a prepared statement. “‘The Man in the High Castle’, based on an acclaimed novel, explores the impact to our freedoms if we had lost World War II.  Like ‘Transparent’ and the movie ‘Chi-Raq’, stories that society cares about often touch on important, thought-provoking topics. We will continue to bring this kind of storytelling to our customers.”

The eyebrow-raising ads in question appeared as part of a “wrap” of the Shuttle.  “The Man In The High Castle” is an Amazon drama that has gained critical acclaim since Amazon released ten episodes earlier this month. Based on a 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick, “Castle” tells the story of people in the United States struggling in an alternate future in which the Axis powers won World War II. On some subway seats, riders found an insignia reminiscent of Japan’s Rising Sun. A German “Iron Eagle” decorated other seat backs.

New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio called the ads “irresponsible and offensive,” and members of various advocacy groups also weighed in on the subject.

The Amazon effort carried no Swastikas or other, obvious signs of Nazi Germany, and seemed meant instead to take straphangers into the world portrayed in the drama. Taken out of context, however, subway riders were free to interpret the promotional decorations on their own. Amazon had been slated to keep the Shuttle “wrap”  from November 15 to December 14, while 260 subway station posters were to appear between November 9 and December 14.