So now, on top of all the other anti-art hells currently bludgeoning the art of filmmaking — Woke Hell, Superhero Hell, CGI Hell, China Hell, Reboot Hell, Remake Hell, Sequel Hell, and Franchise Hell — we get to throw Representation Hell on the fire.
Listen, I get that moviemaking has always been a business, a corporate thing… And there has long been limitations on content, be it sex, violence, etc., but there’s a big difference between telling people what they can’t do and what they must do.
And there’s a real big difference between telling an artist what they can’t do and what they must do.
Working around limitations can bring out the best in artists. You don’t need me to re-tell all the stories about how time and budget limitations oftentimes produced gold. If Steven Spielberg got everything he wanted making Jaws, we would have seen the shark a whole lot more often, which would have weakened the movie considerably.
The old Production or Hays Code is another example.
Back in the Golden Era, Hollywood had all kinds of limits put on it as far as sex and violence, as far as crime not being allowed to pay off and not denigrating religion — stuff like that. The result? The greatest era of art the world has ever seen. What came out of Hollywood between 1930 and 1955 will never be topped.
My point is that Spielberg and his shark and the Studio System and its Production Code are what you get when you say to an artist, This is not available to you. You can do anything else, but you can’t do this thing or the other thing.
What’s happening to movies today is entirely different. Artists aren’t being told what they can’t do, they are being told what they must do, and that’s as limiting as it gets.
When you’re told you can’t do something, that still leaves open countless options open for what you can do.
When you’re told you must do something, that becomes your only option.
You must appeal to China.
You must create something that can be turned into a franchise.
There must be superheroes.
This must be based on a familiar property.
And now… there must be representation of particular racial and sexual minorities.
That doesn’t leave you with much to work with, does it?
I get that there’s something in the American psyche that seeks out the comfort of conformity and uniformity. It’s why a handful of corporations run everything. No matter where you go, there’s McDonald’s and Walmart, there’s the Marriott and Costco, there’s the FX Channel, and the FXX Channel, and FXXX Channel, and ESPN 2. And I get that that’s why three pieces of shit like those latest Star Wars sequels and the gajillionth Marvel programmer make fortunes.
Sometime over the last 50 years, too much TV and time at the mall fried our circuits to where we became so afraid of change, so desperate to deny our own mortality through sameness, that we’re still watching Brady Bunch reunions.
The fact I’m not immune to this and contribute to the problem doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the problem, that I don’t remember when this was a country that got excited over something new instead of more Full House and another Star Is Born, another round of the same dozen Stephen King movies, more Legally Blonde and Knight Rider and Tron and Bill & Ted and The Matrix and Who’s the Boss and Saved By the Bell and Chucky and Sponge Bob and Scream and Fresh Prince (those are all in the world, I’m not making it up).
It might make money, but it’s not art.
I miss art.
Inspiration creates art.
Corporate blueprints create blah.