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Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Deterioration of Cinema and the Decline of Civilization

It has been noted in newspapers, magazines, and blogs that, on the whole, when it comes to mass entertainment, television is vastly superior to the movies.  Still, this phenomenon has not yet been solipsized upon, and so it does not yet exist.  Herewith, we rectify the situation.

First of all, yes.  Television "on average" (whatever it means to "average" programming) is vastly superior to virtually anything you will find in your local multiplex.  Inevitably this is blamed on economics.  A movie cannot hope to be successful unless it attracts millions and millions of people.  This means tapping not just the domestic (American) market, but the vast hordes of potential moviegoers overseas.  And if, as Robert Frost said, poetry is what gets lost in translation, then a corollary may be that big explosions are what gets added in translation.  The bigger the booms, the bigger the bang for the big bucks.  But in the zero-sum game that is corporate filmmaking, extra money doled out on effects likely means money stripped away from such things as scripts and actors.

Thankfully, the creative types who may have previously gravitated to the big studios' movie departments, may still find outlets for their creativity on the small screen.  The realization hit the Solipsist recently that an ever-larger percentage of his Netflix cue is devoted to series-DVD's.

(Digression: Blogger profiles (see yesterday's post) don't have a space for favorite television shows.  Herewith, then, in no particular order, a Solipsistic list of TV enthusiasms, sans hyperlinks: The Wire, Lost, Fringe, Damages, Rescue Me, Star Trek (all incarnations are OK, but especially TNG and DS9), Seinfeld, The West Wing, House, The Simpsons, The Shield, Arrested Development. YNSHC is not ignoring Battlestar Galactica, but he has not been keeping up with it recently, so he feels hypocritical about putting it on the list.  End of digression.)

The question, then, is what does all this mean?  On the one hand, nothing much.  So, people will now gather around the water cooler to discuss TV shows more often than they discuss movies.  It was probably ever thus, anyway.  YNSHC remembers back in elementary school the water-cooler conversation (well, OK, the Scooby-Doo lunchbox conversation) more often revolved around last night's "Happy Days" than on any particular movie.

Still, YNSHC feels that something is being lost.  We are ever more isolated as individuals.  It's becoming less and less common to have the NEED to interact with people face to face.  The Solipsist himself, for example, not long ago made contact with a college friend he hadn't spoken to in about twenty years.  Turns out she lives within a relatively short driving distance.  And yet, they still haven't gotten together for lunch--mainly because of being busy, but also because there just doesn't seem to be the need: The internet makes daily visits of a sort commonplace, while also increasing the inertial drag of just wanting to stay home and cave.

Instead of going to movies with friends, we simply watch TV shows at home.  And blog our recommendations instead of chatting about things we like.

But what's the cause and effect here?  Are we more inclined to stay home and watch TV because TV is so much better?  Or is TV so much better because we as a society are so much less inclined to go out and interact with our fellow human beings?  YNSHC thinks it's a little bit of both.

On the upside, this leads to good TV.  On the downside, this drives us all further and further into our atomized, self-programmed, and, yes, solipsistic little worlds.  

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