Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Art Is Not a Circle Jerk

I regularly read reviews of TV shows, games, and movies.  I often visit www.ign.com to see what they have to say about the media I like.

What I've been noticing--and with a lot of reviewers, not just at IGN--is that there are fewer and fewer reviewers these days who actually review a work of TV or film based on the actual work itself.  Many of them seem to review it based on what they thought it should have been.

They don't really review the meaning of the piece, they usually just trash it by saying that so-and-so character should have done X instead of Y.  Or that they wish the show would have gone in a completely different direction.  I read a little blurb about the movie Prometheus that said the movie was a giant let-down because it "left too many questions unanswered."

And so, because the work of art did not fully meet their expectations, the reviewers say that it was all "disappointing."  For example, I'm really into a show called Dexter.  It's about a forensic analyst who happens to be a serial killer.  He generaly kills criminals who slip through the cracks of the justice system.


Dexter is an adopted child, and it turns out that his "sister" discovers that she has romantic feelings for him.  A reviewer at IGN has been harping on this for the past year now, and how disgusting he thinks it is.  He goes on and on about how he hopes that the whole notion gets dropped, like it should never have happened in the first place.

Sure, it's okay to think that it's gross (even though they're not related by blood, at all), but to say that it should be dropped simply because it's disgusting and makes him feel uncomfortable?  Oh, so sorry that a TV show irked your fragile sensibilities.  The best part is that it's a show about a ruthless serial killer.  He's okay with the fact that the protagonist, Dexter, is a sociopath with a heart of gold, but his adoptive sister falling for him?  Outrageous!


The asshats at IGN do the same thing with another show I love called Homeland.  The guy constantly trashes the show saying "Brody (the protagonist) should have done this," or "OMG the writers are so stupid for going in this direction!"

It's indicative of a larger problem in society.  People have grown so accustomed to having their every want and need met that they simply can't handle it when someone gives them anything less than their hearts' desire.

Newsflash assholes: The Rolling Stones were right, because you can't always get what you want.  Instead of wishing that a show turned out differently, how about we just ponder the implications of what actually happened.  If it turns out that a plot divice is total shit, then so be it.  But the key is to not judge something total shit simply because you think it should have been something else.

The problem is that we've been fed this horse-shit message that we're supposed to expect nothing less than all of our needs being met.  What we should be teaching people is that instead of being spoiled brats whenever we don't get everything we wanted for Christmas, perhaps we should find value in what we are given, regardless of whether or not we wanted it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: art is not meant to be entertainment.  The purpose of art is not, and should not, be to make you feel satisfied.  It's actually supposed to be the opposite of fulfillment.  It's supposed to leave you craving more, but not in the sense that you were disappointed and still lay in wait for your needs to be met.  It's supposed to give the much needed spark to your tinder, to energize your brain and to push you to explore untreaded territory.

Isn't that a novel idea?  Appreciating what we have instead of spurning it for not being what we expected?  I suspect that is a notion that will become fossilized in about twenty years.  People like me will fondly remember the good old days where we were challenged to think and remember that there is an entire world outside the narrow confines of our selfish desires.

Appreciate art for what it is, not for what you want it to be.


Silverfiddle said...

I wonder if this is a generational phenomenon.

These whiner you write about would hate the classics, Hemingway, Steinbeck, even Orwell. These men write about real life, and it is messy and they don't wrap it all up and put a bow on top.

My own anecdotal observation is that, like yours, that people expect to get what they want. They've been encouraged to by things like the Scooby Doo movie where Freddie and Daphne really are getting it on, and the scene at the beginning that leads you to briefly believe Scooby and Shaggy are smoking dope.

Remember the Brady Bunch movie where Greg and Marcia kiss?

There are loads of Hollywood movies in the 80's and 90's taking old 60's and 70's themes to the next level.

I am not sourly carping about it, just adding my own observations.
Could much of popular culture, outside alternative music, be dumbing us down and killing our imaginations?

I don't consume enough of it to know the answer.

Jack Camwell said...

Some very good observations. An interesting point you bring up is how pop culture is trying to modernize some of the older stuff from your generation.

My question is why? Why do we feel the need to make things more "modern?" I think it's a silly perception that kids these days just won't get it, because they're too young to appreciate it.

I will admit that sometimes it's difficult for me to watch older films because of the fact that movies are just made differently today than they were 30 years ago. It take a considerable amount of effort for me to not laugh or cringe at scenes that seem awkward and out of place to me, but were taken seriously in its time. But I work through my own conditioning and I try to accept things for what they are and for what they mean.

Yes, I think that things are way dumbed down in terms of art and pop culture. I was reading a review for another show I watch called Walking Dead. The reviewer was mad that there was a time lapse that wasn't explained. He said "well, one of the characters could have just made a brief mention about it, and that would have worked."

The idiot could have just done the mental math himself and filled in the gaps. For some reason, a lot of people today seem to need everything spelled out for them. If every little detail isn't explicitly covered, then that's somehow a detriment.

Pop culture is taking the imagination out of art, and it's stunting society's artistic and creative growth.

Jack Camwell said...

From IGN, here's an excerpt from their review of The Hobbit, the new Lord of the Rings franchise film due out soon.

"This elaboration on events once left to footnotes makes The Hobbit run 160 minutes, which isn't noteworthy (given the runtime of the LOTR films) except that unlike the preceding trilogy it takes a full hour for anything to really happen here. The first hour -- which includes the amusing invasion of the dwarves into Bilbo's domestic bliss and their subsequent song-and-slapstick dinner -- drags along and robs the film of a sense of urgency and forward momentum. For a film that's more kid-friendly than its predecessors -- there are snot gags and belching jokes sure to make kids giggle -- it'll be interesting to see if youngsters will have the patience to get through this movie."

Apparently, there's not enough action for this cretin. It's funny that he wonders if small children will be able to sit through the beginning hour because it sounds like he had a hard time with it.

The problem in films today is that there is way TOO MUCH action, because the audience of today craves more and more action. Just watch the Daniel Craig 007 films. They're just 2.5 hours of one action sequence after another.

Joe Markowitz said...

Do you know the story of Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris? They were a young engaged couple respectable enough that they were invited to sit in the box with President Lincoln at Ford's theatre on the night of his assassination. They were also stepbrother and stepsister, and they subsequently married. Rathbone later lost his mind and murdered his wife, which was partly attributed to his guilt over Lincoln's assassination. I don't follow Dexter, but I wouldn't be surprised if the writers were influenced by this history.

Ducky's here said...

There are loads of Hollywood movies in the 80's and 90's taking old 60's and 70's themes to the next level.

Yeah, did we really need a remake of Red Dawn?

It hardly matters. So little cinema "leaves the theater" these days.

jez said...

My default response is to always ask whether it was really less dumb in the '50s. I haven't seen Daniel Craig's Bond, but there's a franchise that's surely been immune to dumbing down since the 70s.

Cinema, as opposed to television, was arguably a more sophisticated medium prior to star wars. But TV was always dumb. Game shows from the 50s are still game shows. And there have always been remakes, often bouncing around from novel to play to musical to hollywood, there are only 8 archetypal stories at the end of the day.