On Hollywood.

posted in: Day In The Life, Rant 8
This is a violent image.
Am I missing something?

For years, a conflict has raged within me:

Is Hollywood destroying humanity or am I just no fun? 

A couple months ago, my internal struggle was refreshed with the blood of Godzilla, which remains the last movie I saw, in the theater or otherwise.

Yuri and I had a night off, and I was actually the one who suggested we go. I’ve been to the movie theater maybe five times in two years. I completely get that many folks love movies — my sister and her fiance work in the industry and I have tremendous respect for them, their art, and their specific path — but feature films just aren’t my jam. I don’t see a lot of movies like I don’t read a lot of fiction. I’m a documentary-lovin’, non-fiction readin’ real-time junkie. I feel manipulated by film, I guess, and not in a good way. Still, every once in awhile, there’s a film that looks like such pure spectacle, such pure, 21st century American entertainment, I gotta do it. It’s like eating a Cinnabon or a Auntie Anne’s pretzel once every couple of years: indulging feels very wrong/momentarily good. The 2014 remake of Godzilla looked cool from the previews my sister Nan played for me; the monster was so big! The cities were so small!

“Yuri, let’s go see Godzilla.” 

“Seriously?”

We got our tickets and sat down with cups of tea and smuggled chocolate, fully prepared to be entertained. I had an open mind. I really wanted to have fun.

But I didn’t have fun. Because Hollywood sucks. Hollywood creates a facsimile of life for scores of people whose general well-being I care about. Hollywood cheapens the human experience. At its best, Hollywood inspires great floods of emotion that can be cathartic. But at its worst, Hollywood movies are irreverent, disrespectful, and hypnotic. And false. And confusing. And they are all expensive.

My main trouble wasn’t with Godzilla. It was not a great movie, but that’s okay. I was more troubled by the previews, the first one for a Scarlett Johannsen film coming out soon called Lucy. In the preview, we see a clip of Johannsen enduring forced abdominal surgery. The bad guys open her belly and insert something inside of her that she must transport against her will, the thing now being inside her and all. I’ve had multiple abdominal surgeries that might as well have been forced — if I didn’t have them, I’d have died so the choice was nil — and take it from me: There is nothing entertaining about being filleted. The reality of that sucks so much. I realize I have personal experience that most folks do not regarding this plot development in Lucy and clearly, I am going to be more sensitive to seeing such an experience portrayed fictionally, but like…can’t you pretend about something else? There’s so much to choose from.

Like…war. After Lucy, there were several previews for war movies where people were getting creamed right and left. Legs were getting blown off. Men were screaming, men were crying. After that, a preview for Non-Stop, which is about an airplane hijacking. Jet black guns, exploding pieces of airplane, crying women with hysterical, terrorized babies, a rugged Liam Neeson flinging himself backward down the aisle, shooting multiple rounds.

Am I missing something? Why is this entertaining? I’m not being rhetorical. I don’t understand. Surgical procedures, wars, gunfire, terrorist plots on planes, and death are things that create suffering. They are realities of life that require seas of compassion and support to endure and process. It’s not funny to see someone get shot to death on a plane flying at 35,000 feet. It’s terrifying. It should be terrifying. I beg someone to explain to me why people spend millions of dollars to create fictional suffering to last on film forever for people to watch in theaters while they sit eating snacks. Escapism? But how?

Maybe I’m just no fun.

That’s entirely possible! I do feel like I have blind spot, that there’s a “Kick Me” sign on my back and I’m just being snippy and snobby and old and lame. Everyone goes to the movies, right? Folks have preferences, too, and discernment. I shouldn’t say “Hollywood is this” because Hollywood is a lot of things and people and there’s good art that comes out of the place, I realize. But just when I was thinking, “Mary, chill. There is more to the movies than the crassness of Non-Stop,” the last preview presented itself. It was for a movie called The Other Woman, in which three hot blondes are real ornery about a man and exact their revenge on him for his misdeeds. There were boobs everywhere. And toilet humor, which is always better/grosser when there are girls involved, I suppose.

It’s just all so hostile. To be sure, there is great cinema in the world, but this is the stuff the general public is eating, the movies that are “in theaters everywhere starting Friday.” Mere blocks from where I sit, there are art house cinemas and legendary film centers that show incredible stories put to film. But people go see the Godzillas and The Other Womanses in Des Moines because that’s what’s playing there. I grew up not far from Des Moines, so I know. If you don’t have options, how can you discern?

No one should be stopped from making whatever sort of movie they want to make. Advocating for censorship will never be on my list of things to do, as much as I dislike these kinds of movies. I’ll just stay home.

(On my list of things to do, “Take on Hollywood” was also not there. Oh well.)

8 Responses

  1. Toni Osborne
    | Reply

    Hollywood gives people an outlet for their feelings of ‘at least I’m not dealing with THAT’, or ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my life was like THAT’ depending on the person and the movie. I watch very few of the newer movies because I’d rather not be ‘entertained’ by the gritty realities of death or debauchery. There is enough of that on the evening news.

  2. Elaine
    | Reply

    i am also having a more difficult time with any movie which depicts suffering or horror of some kind. I wold like more gentle loving movies.(then I can cry !)
    I wonder how much is age or not wanting to put energy into the ‘negative.’

  3. Lisa D.
    | Reply

    Mary, Cosmic T. here,

    Here, Here, as any good revolutionary would say to a revolt! How well you worded my feelings, that I myself could never put to word or song! Thank you for saying something. That just cheers me on to read that someone else is not sanguine in the theater. I have learned that I am usually going to be disappointed if I do attend what perchance could be a promising movie. What is the most interesting part of this, is that, Hollywood produces these frenetic, pointless, movies like an endless faucet that no one seems to come out of the catatonic state, to be able to turn off, especially when the family fun movies in the genre of ‘The Parent Trap’, make more money that they can possible spend in the making. Perhaps they don’t understand that we stay away from the theaters because they have missed us, their chief shoulda’ been target audience! Seems that the target audience that they are hitting the bulls eye on, is all requiring more and more to amaze and daze. The daze and amaze passes for thought and passion and meaning now. They must be very invested in loosing audience and money, because, the family quality, happy fun, movies make far more that the seamy ones. Somewhere in there we have to admit intent on their parts.

  4. Laura G
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, I’m so glad you wrote this! I was really starting to believe that I was not only the only one who felt this way, but that I, too, was “just no fun.” I go to the movies about once a year, or less. There are so few movies that seem in any way appealing enough to warrant spending $20. That’s 2 yards of fabric for crying out loud! The last time I went to a movie the previews were similar to what you experienced…evil demons, end of the world, or the 10th version of the same movie over and over. Thank you for putting my thoughts and feelings into your eloquent writing! And don’t worry, I’m quite sure you really ARE fun!

  5. Becky M
    | Reply

    I totally agree. I see very few movies lately because I just can’t stomach it. And people blame video games for ‘desensitizing” kids to violence!? Have they checked out the movies lately?

  6. Andres
    | Reply

    I’d probably stay away from most video games too if I was you.

  7. Shirley Fass
    | Reply

    I so agree–I rarely go to the movies because they alarm me. Once in a while I might break down and go to a comedy around the holidays, because Christmas movies are generally fun. I don’t find crying or being scared, or becoming outraged particularly entertaining!

  8. Laurie
    | Reply

    I SO agree with you! Thank you for making me feel like I’m not crazy to not want to pay good money to sit in the dark with strangers and view horrific things. Life is too short!!!! I don’t have a problem with anyone else enjoying movies in theaters, it’s just not for me. Thanks for being the kind, caring person that you are.

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