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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Hills Are on Life Support


We used to live in a Rodgers & Hammerstein world where people spontaneously burst into song. Now it's a Scorsese and Tarantino world where people spontaneously burst into flame.

I'm not one to overrate the good ol' days. I don't believe society is getting progressively worse. I believe people, created in God's image as we are, have always been good at being depraved. We have our moments, but people are real bad by nature.

I understand that. It isn't our nature that has changed, but our outlook. To quote Jerry Maguire, "We live in a cynical world. A cynical . . . world." We do. See, it used to be okay for a movie to be unapologetically happy. The hills are alive with the sound of music? That's really happy. Little rich Austrian kids running around singing "Do Re Mi" in lederhausen made out of drapes? That's Jack McFarland happy. But when The Sound of Music came out, it was par for the course. It was culturally acceptable to make movies that just made people happy. Heck, that's what people wanted. Musicals were cool. Gene Kelly singing and dancing . . . cool. Fred Astaire dancing and singing . . . cool. We didn't ask our entertainment to artfully, painfully reproduce the darkness of the human heart. We just wanted a little cheering up, and it worked. Didn't cure the alcoholism, materialism, rage, lust, and selfishness, but it worked wonders on cynicism.

You couldn't get away with that now. If you're gonna be that happy, it's gotta be because you're Jack McFarland. Or just ridiculously sarcastic. Yesterday's happy is today's cheesy. What used to pass as a happy ending is now dismissed as predictable. Show a complex chronology, a bloody betrayal, and a few thousand f-bombs, and you're a cinematic genius. Resolve the conflict and let the lovebird leads live happily ever after? You're a sellout studio popcorn commercialized joke. I hate that.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good dark movie. I love Pulp Fiction. Big fan of Se7en. But at least those movies, disturbing and revealing as they are, still offered a slim ray of hope . . . in my eyes, anyway. But movies like Mystic River, The Departed . . . I just don't see it. If you like them, fine. But I just hate the mindset of taking a grim satisfaction in feeling awful about the depravity of human existence, especially when it's coupled with an intolerance for unadulterated glee.

Because the intolerance makes its way to more than just media. I think it affects the way we look at people in general. Perkiness is an unpardonable sin in some municipalities. Jadedness is required. I'm a serious offender myself. I think I'm afraid of dancing in public because it would make me seem too happy. Same with smiling in photographs. It just feels unnatural. Yeah, I'm griping against myself, and I'm blaming the media.

Maybe it's time I sit down for a couple of High School Musical sessions and cheer myself up. Ah, that's what I love about blogging. I feel absolutely no pressure to make a lucid point. Thank you, Al Gore, for inventing this crazy place. Now that makes me happy.

3 comments:

  1. I am with you. I am very cautious as to what TV shows and movies I watch because I don't want to be sad or depressed afterward. I spent way too much time in the hospital with Noah to EVER want to watch a hospital drama soap (however I LOVE hospital comedies such as Scrubs...)

    I will say that I think M. Night's movies are always uplifting for me... in the middle of watching Lady In The Water again and wish more movies could be like this. No one is breaking into song here, tho.

    Steph

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  2. That's interesting. I agree with you. I can see hope in some of the darker movies. But the Departed was just a depravity fest. I felt dirty when it was done. I think in the past, we knew we were depraved, but we liked to think we kept it hidden. It wasn't acceptable to throw it out there for everyone to see. The Sound of Music, if made now, would look more like Schindler's List. Which is why I liked Life is Beautiful more. There was more hope there. Nowadays, whatever is shocking and realistic is seen as superior, because we've lost our desire to keep our underbelly "under". We, for some reason, like to roll over and show it off as our true, realistic self. Which is why I see such a big difference between Pulp Fiction/Se7en and The Departed. For the prior two movies, the depravity is a gimmick. For the Departed, it's presented as reality, and it kind of scares me that we all like professing that as our true self. I'd rather go back to the old days of using media to suspend that segment of our nature than use it as a tool to propagate it...

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  3. And I only voted I Am Legend because it's the only one I've seen. I bet Juno would be good, though...

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