Thursday, October 28, 2010

Psychology of Democracy via the Box Office

Building on yesterday’s head-shaking grief at the pervading disgust of society…

From an observer’s standpoint, I can see where society wants to go. You don’t have to listen to pundits on either side and you don’t even have to talk to your neighbors. Take a look at the box office returns.

Entertainment has always reflected society. If you want to understand the over-all attitude of any given period, study the most popular entertainment.

We, as a nation, no longer believe that “one person” can do anything to change our situation. Which is why Salt failed to perform. And they don’t feel that one “normal” person can do much of anything, which may explain the underperformance of Knight and Day. There certainly isn’t much faith in the younger generations. We need past heroes to step forward and band together. Which may explain why people flocked to The Expendables and are currently flocking towards Red.

We want the comfort of the familiar, but don’t just regurgitate. We want Piranha 3D, not The A-Team.

For the younger generation, even romance is too tricky a minefield to navigate (sorry, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), but hanging out with your friends and fucking around at least takes your mind off the problems of the world around you. And if you’re a member of the current crop of “lost generation” folks, those once referred to as “X”, you need idiotic diversion more than ever because the world today is way out of your control. (Jackass 3-D) There are few comfort zones left anyway. By the time we schlep home, all we can do is veg on the couch and see what old friends are up to. Therefore, The Social Network reinforces that we’re not wasting our time. And the younger folks even feel justified in the attention paid to Facebook.

We want to feel smart (Inception). We want to feel loved (Toy Story 3). Folks want to know that their pain and loneliness is recognized and understandable (Twilight: Eclipse).

Change by voting? Vote for who? The loudmouth on the right or the moron on the left? The guy who wants to spend and raise taxes, or the one that wants to send poor people to the salt mines of the rich? There’s no choice there! At least with American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, you get some feeling of your voice being heard. And if everyone in charge is either malevolent or incompetent, is it any wonder our entertainment super-villains are impotent too (Despicable Me, MegaMind)?

The unpredictable tastes of the audience has Hollywood, as usual, running around in tight little circles, unsure of what to do. Just like the governments state and local. But going to the movies—or not—is the only way we can exercise Democracy and actually see it matter.

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