What the movie world needs

The world has become a scary place. OK, just the North American world–the Balkans and Middle East have been scary for some time now.

Terror, be it real, imagined or remembered, has a way of shaping minds and moulding a cultural psyche. After the major attacks on the United States’ symbols and people, terror has lodged itself into the minds of the men, women and children on this continent. And while people are busy changing their world views and attitudes, Hollywood is also taking an about face in what it produces and markets.

As early as last Wednesday, the movie capital of the world announced some major changes. Driven by the anticipation of public distaste for action and action comedies, moviemakers have decided to postpone the release of the Tim Allen film Big Trouble due to a comedic look at a plane hijacking. Likewise, Spiderman trailers containing footage of the now destroyed World Trade Centre were pulled.

Of course, the decisions are all in the name of good taste because it would be careless to shower salt on the open wounds of a nation and its people. Unfortunately, the time is ripe for film production to make a major turn away from movies that take a serious look at the reality of living, which will have serious consequences.

It will not be a surprise that during the next year, the public will reject serious action films, intense dramas and sharp documentaries in favour of fantasy, fluff comedy, musical and light drama genres. Audiences are at a point where death and destruction won’t cut it anymore as legitimate entertainment. Unfortunately, they’ve seen too much hurt to last for at least a few years.

Now the stage is set for the appearance of the anticipated fantasy films The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings and Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone. They are popular and escapist–quite possibly what Hollywood will be churning out for a few years.

Even though today’s popular rhetoric centers around North America are entering the "healing process," the movie industry will shy away from real issues and the serious questions in favour of pandering to a public that will make box office successes out of escapism. If we thought teen comedies were on the decline, we have to seriously think again.

What North America needs, from a psychological point of view, are films that face the reality of the war on terrorism, of the joy and suffering of human life and of the challenges of society be it through comedies, actions, dramas or documentaries. Through the mass medium of the movies, the continent needs to confront its anxieties as a group to facilitate the "healing process" that must occur.

Instead, North America will get high budget films that will take it into comic book worlds, century-old literary situations and the subreality of the teen genre. If any serious gaze at real life does surface in the next few years, it will be veiled in metaphor and symbolism so that audiences can tune it out just in time to avoid real life.

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