MovieBob - Intermission
Why Movies Suck Now Part One: The Myths

Bob Chipman | 16 Jul 2010 12:00
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Title says it all, right? "What's gone wrong?" There are always a lot of reasons why this movie or that didn't work, but rather than just waiting for the examples to inevitably turn up, I figured I'd try answering a lot of "What do YOU think?" and "What's YOUR theory" questions all at once.

But first, I think it's a good idea to refute some of the commonly cited reasons you might've heard elsewhere that, as far as I'm concerned, don't make a lot of sense. See, the thing that a lot of the non-reasons have in common is that you'll hear them from people who have an agenda - folks with a vested interest in what sort of movies they want to see made or not made - and thus the arguments will be framed accordingly. Such people ought not be trusted, by the same token that you shouldn't take advice about the nutritional value of beef from PETA, or pass environmental policies drafted by politicians representing "energy states."
So! Let's get to it:

Myth #1: It's About Politics

You hear this one a lot lately. There's whole organizations like Big Hollywood, Movieguide, or the Parents Television Council, dedicated to evangelizing it, though of course it's been around for a long time before that.

See, in case you hadn't heard, the political leanings of the U.S. entertainment industry are overwhelmingly Liberal - a word which, here in America, is used as a slur to describe anyone slightly to the left of Yosemite Sam. So goes the theory espoused by delightful folks like this, Hollywood's liberalism puts it out of touch with the (at least) half of the American audience that identifies as Conservative - and thus unable to make movies that appeal to "the folks." Sounds vaguely plausible, right? Well, let's crunch some numbers.

The United States' most recent presidential election (as a good a barometer of these things as any) came down pretty close to 50/50, with about a three point margin favoring Barack Obama. Just going by that, one could extrapolate that the political makeup of the nation - and thus its moviegoers - would break the same way. Except for one thing: The whole country didn't vote. In fact, only slight more than half of eligible voters actually cast a ballot, which is much higher than normal (voter turnout is typically down around 35-40%), as this was easily the most hotly divisive election since JFK vs. Nixon. So, really, the decidedly left/right split is more like 25/25, with the remaining 50% apparently being unconcerned. And if politics can't motivate you to vote, how likely is it that they can motivate your movie choices? (Source of numbers can be found here.)

In other words, even if it is true that Hollywood's largely left-wing worldview alienates dedicated right-wing audiences, that's only about 1/4th of the population to begin with - a big loss, but hardly decisive.

And that's ignoring how nebulous the concepts of "left" and "right" are in the U.S.. Not just as a split between big and small government philosophies but also among a litanty of social issues tossed arbitrarily to one side or the other - which makes pinning down the actual outlook of all but the most ham-fistedly political film fairly difficult. In the fourth Rambo, the hero saves a group of Chrisitian missionaries from Burmese guerillas. In the process, said missionaries' smugly pacifist leader - who'd earlier excoriated John Rambo on the sinfulness of violence - learns that action trumps prayer and good intentions. Pro-war, yet irreligious? Where does that belong? V (as in For Vendetta) hates Government so much he makes Glenn Beck look like FDR, but his enemies are thinly-veiled analogs for the Bush Administration. Which one's the liberal, again?

Myth #2: Blame It On Teenage Boys

"Hollywood used to make movies for everyone. Now they only care about teenage boys. And since teenage boys have awful taste, movies are awful."

You've heard that one, right? Another one that sounds sensible, but is built on a foundation of half-truths and misunderstandings.

The notion that Hollywood at the tail end of The Golden Age (i.e. post-WWII - the first half of the 20th Century in the western world was so radically different a culture and so thoroughly obliterated by The War as to be wholly alien to this discussion) ever made movies for "everyone" is almost tragically naïve. Old Hollywood made movies for one audience: white men over 30. But because they held all the economic power in culture at that time, it seemed like what they preferred was preferred by all. Hollywood, like any business, has always catered to whatever it perceives as the biggest audience, not necessarily the broadest.

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