Odd how with all this time and the gushing availability of telly it’s taken me until now. Am slow to notice what my brain is doing unbidden.
In essence, I have been less-than-consciously re-evaluating what shows/movies are telling me. (Not just on the haunted fishtank, I find myself doing this when I re-read a book and when I listen to people speak…) A rare night when we agreed to watch a “classic” – en famille, instead of separate screens – is when the penny dropped. Also, our household conversations about characters – fictional or otherwise – have soared/raged to new heights as teenage perspectives blossom.
Am going to use a couple of case studies to attempt an explanation.
[WARNING: Contains spoliers.]
Alien (1979, Ridley Scott).
This fabulous movie scares me witless. Still does. But now I see it differently. (Spolier alert!) Now, I see a social bubble who have hitherto been super strict. Somewhat unwillingly, they venture outdoors for the first time since lockdown. When they do, what happens? They pick up a novel organism, bring it back within their bubble and fail to adequately quarantine the host. He – dramatically, as patient zero – shares (?!) the thing and it rampages. They have no idea what it is and have no idea what to do about it nor how to stop it. Almost everyone dies.
If only they’d stayed strictly in lockdown. Tsk.
Then the survior self-isolates for fifty-seven years.
I’ve just realised that in the sequel – Aliens – the protagonist awakes and tries to warn everyone. Then, because people are so smart in the future, there’s a whole “whatevs: it’s a hoax, you’re making it up” theme and they refuse to believe her. Except shadowy, powerful folk do know all about it.
Turns out they did all along, d’oh!
Then it all gets icky. Again. Only moreso. Will we humans never learn?
When I watched the film years ago? Things that struck/geekily-bothered were a cool spaceship had stupid CRT vis-screens, poor graphics and dreadful fonts: was it retro-fitted to have a 1970s video-game aesthetic? Or, with it being a commerical vehicle, when they bought the Nostromo – more likely the bean counters at Weyland-Yutani Corp’ refuse to tick the option box for “futuristic”. No way the crew would have spec’d it thus. Just like company car choices from my days in corporate Britain.
I know. I’ve changed.
Superman (1978, Richard Donner)
It has been pointed out that – viewed from the Twenty Twenties – the most unrealistic plot element of the Superman story is that the newspaper his alter-ego works for is profitable. The rest of it is all rather normal.
Consider the characters starting with Superman/Clark Kent. He’s a super-talented illegal immigrant, forced to be his true self only in secret. A guy who happliy wears lycra when he’s not at the office. His colleague is a super-sassy, intellgent lady who takes no BS. The boss? Bit of a dinosaur. No, lot of a dinosaur but seems to be unquestioned in his position of power. The bad guy? A greedy property developer who could oh-so-clearly benefit from counselling to resolve rather obvious childood trauma. He is rich, entitled, privileged and sexually frustrated because Lois doesn’t “get him”.
And they say comic books are fantastic, ridiculous, irrelevant.
La La Land (2016, Damien Chazelle)
I can’t abide a musical. Would rather stick pins in my eyes and in the very first scene the cast burst into song and dance in a traffic jam. I was transfixed when I should’ve projectile vomited. Why didn’t I smash the TV? Well, whilst, yes, it is a completely, utterly absurd scene it also transports me to that overpowering energy, nay, feeling that grips my chest when stuck fast in traffic. IE: hysteria. Albeit with frustration, not song and ensemble dance routine.
Now imagine a dark, rainy UK motorway in January. Ground to an engine-off-halt on – say – the M4 has such a hulking infinite critical mass singularity of hopelessness that you might as well jump onto the roof of your car and scream your lungs out. Oddly, it makes La La Land alternate-universe-compelling viewing.
Then we are treated to a (quite brilliant) tale of folk who have to give up on their dreams to achieve success. [Audible sigh]
Talented, single minded Seb (Ryan Gosling) laments how nobody understands nor values (his) art. In fact, he is forced to sell out to succeed*. This is resonant not just in these pandemic times but illustrates how music has been suffocated by big business with Simon Cowelly-Spotification. Talented artists are demeaned to play brainless pop and paid fractions of a penny for streaming of their creative genius.
I would suggest the latter plot point was a vivd and deliberate howl of anguish from the writers.
*But wait! His dream does come true in the movie (albeit in cleverly revealed) bitter-sweet fashion. Alas, the least believable part of the film is that Seb’s jazz club is a viable enterprise. In 2016 it was doubtful. Viewed from 2021? Outside of the major global cities, will there be any (non-corporate) music venues left?