I just read a review of a recently released movie, and since I haven’t seen the film, and may not, I can’t say how accurate the review is, but one line of the review struck me as particularly relevant, especially in view of my previous blog. That line said approximately, “You can’t tell whose movie this is, the star’s, the co-star’s, or the supporting actors’.” From the rest of the review it was quite obvious that there was no confusion about the story lines or who was doing what to whom or why. What the reviewer was stating was that he wanted the movie to emphasize without a doubt which story was the predominant one, and to make every one else subservient.
My question to the reviewer is: “Why?” Have viewers become so simple-minded that they can’t enjoy intersecting story lines, and the fact that at one time one part of a story becomes more dominant and that at another time another character and part do?
Certainly, life is like that, and much as we’d all like to be the center of attention and action, no one always is, not even the most powerful and most famous among us. Or is it that we feel our own lives are so complicated that we can only enjoy a movie when it’s straightforward and simple.
Or is it that, while many of us enjoy complex movies, more and more the media pundits and critics want to oversimplify matters for us. That’s definitely been the case among the political analysts and the media talking heads who report on national politics. It’s become the case with the economic “analysts” who present such data in the national general media.
As I’ve noted more than a few times before, we live in a highly technological society, and such societies are anything but simple. And, in a riff on that theme, perhaps that’s really the gulf between the United States and many of the fundamentalist Mid-East cultures. They want to hang on to the comforting simplicity and clarity of their traditional past, and can see all too well that such clarity vanishes in the conflicts of a modern technological society. For that matter, even within the United States, that conflict exists, although so far, despite the horrible events in Arizona earlier this month, the violence around political events has been largely confined to verbal outbursts, despite the growing [until last week]intemperance of both media and political types.
And this movie’s review may well have bothered me because it’s yet another symptom of the conflict between “comforting” and clear traditional simplicity and modern complexity. The problem with those old traditional clarities is that they cover up a multitude of injustices and prejudices under the guise of morality, rather than striving for a better ethical code, and one more suited to a technological society. Like it or not, until we can juggle those complexities better, and in an overall improved ethical fashion, we’re going to have problems, and all the entertainment that regales us with comforting simplicities won’t help in the slightest, just as the majority of the “popular” literature at the end of the 19th century did little to prepare Americans for the need for the changes required in a developing technological society.