I’m starting to get old. Not physically, as I am at the tender age of 23 but mentally? I’m starting to get old. I’ve suspected as much for some time, but I find it confirmed every time I try to entertain myself. I put on a film and I’m prepared to be disappointed from the start. I couldn’t give much less of a shit how cool Robert Downey Jr. is in The Avengers. I try out a new game and see things that I’ve seen before in a thousand other games, emit a world-weary sigh and return to that age-old question: what should I do with my day off?
I have been wondering why I find myself with such a miserable view of everything and have come to the conclusion that the problem is that I’m expecting entertainment outputs to treat me like an (at least moderately) intelligent person. Anyone who has been to the cinema, opened a newspaper or booted up a video game is aware of this and it is a blessed shame. It sounds like your typical American-bashing, but I have started to turn more towards foreign film-makers and authors to help me pass the time as they seem to try more original ideas and styles than a Hollywood blockbuster. The best comparison I can come up with is that Hollywood is like a roller-coaster; you’re being led through the story at high speed and adrenaline hits you like a giddy brick, whereas I much prefer to be led through a story as though through a dark room by an unseen figure; there is a sense of danger and mystery and you have no idea what is at the other end of the room, only that it might be marvellous. Basically, I don’t want have my hand held and I don’t want to be patronised.
The problem is that entertainment exists not only to entertain, but to allow itself to continue to entertain. To whit, it needs to make money and the fact is that as long as one style and genre is making money, studios will continue to replicate it, squeezing every last penny out of every idea before abandoning it to the shadowy realms of forgotten memory to usurp the next fad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that they’re the sole cause, and I entirely understand the necessity for the studios to be able to make a profit from what they produce. We, the consumers, have to accept out share of the blame, after all the only reason the same ideas get reused and stagnate is because we will pay to go and see the latest offering every time, meaning that the studios never feel the need to take more of a risk because we aren’t giving them any reason to.
I sit down and watch the huge-budget titles, too. The reason for my doing so is that a fast paced story, huge set-pieces and shallow writing are a quick thrill, undemanding of intellect or attention and after a week at work when you’re stressed and exhausted, that can be all that you need. But sometimes, I feel that everybody should watch a foreign or an independent film. Don’t be put off by a complex plot and an emphasis on characterisation, look forward to the feeling of contemplation and satisfaction that will come before the end credits and, most of all, don’t allow the studios to fool you into thinking that you are stupid, that you can’t handle anything ‘more difficult’ than what Michael Bay has just made. After all, there’s as much enjoyment in a slow sip of bourbon (two cubes floating freely) as there is in a shot of tequila.
You’re better than they give you credit for.