Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Movies and Television Shows Are More Than Entertainment

The way we tell perpetuate stories first started with the spoken word, centuries before our ability to print. Since then, books and other written works have been an invaluable source of knowledge and entertainment on top of retaining it's original intent to carry on history. Since we are in the eye of the technological storm, it might be difficult to definitively say that visual media has slowly replaced the written word as the way we view our world; but we'll say it anyway. More and more our society is flipping on the television set in favor of picking up books. Experts have condemned this, blaming visual media as passive entertainment as opposed to its literary counterpart. That sentiment is perpetuated by the pointless, mind-numbing, episodic shitstorm of shows that make up a good portion of our television lineup; shows like VH1's "Tool Academy," "Rock of Love," E!'s "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and the like. These shows follow no discernible plot with little to offer the viewer other than stereotypical mindless corpses or baseless celebrity status. These shows even have siblings in cinema; 2009's "Transformers 2: Revenge of The Fallen" is a fantastic example of a movie's abilities to side step a plot or any quality at all with lots of explosions, special effects, and a sex symbol who happens to perfectly personify this nation's stupidity. The fact that such shows and movies such can garner some many viewers is not a testament to the nature of visual media, but a testament to the nature of our idiotic and frivolous society.
How to combat this onslaught of unavoidable, degenerative entertainment? There have consistently been shows and movies throughout history that stand as more than entertainment, that we have now categorized as "classics." These are the types of positive entertainment that I feel comfortable with slowly replacing our library shelves. Television and movies offer a visual aspect that books do not, and that is fine. Authors argue that there is no imagination left to the audience but that is only true of the descriptions; the story and intrigue and underwritten morality is all there to imagine and digest and interpret. The best types of shows and movies are ones that present more than a plot line to tell a story; they use the story as a vehicle to tackle deeper philosophic questions. It's the same quality a great novel possesses. For all of William Shakespeare's iambic pentameter nonsense, at the heart of his greatest stories are lessons that we all can learn from and that is why the great poet of Avondale is still taught to this day. Movies and television shows are more than entertainment; the best ones ask us about ourselves, what type of people we are, and forces us to come to terms with where we're headed as a society.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The True Purpose Of Public Education

The other day I was watching the season premiere of "Heroes." (I know, I know, lost cause right?) During every commercial break, I saw numerous ads depicting products no one EVER needs; home gym systems, rock ballads of the '90s, etc. I wondered, "Who the hell would buy this stuff?" The answer is we would. This entire blog could be about the consumerism that drives every aspect of America. "Everything you want/nothing you need," and it's a sad, shameful truth. If you look closer, you'll see that we have been programmed through 12 years of schooling to be mindless worker/consumer drones that keep this economy going; a fool-proof plan that the in-charges in Washington somehow still managed to fuck up. We are taught early on to want things we don't need; I can't remember the last time I NEEDED a Matchbox HotWheels, Pokemon trading cards, or a FoodSavor3000. How can these things sell? It's because our populous is convinced that these luxuries are necessities of life. You don't have to have studied marketing to know that there are two groups of people who can always be convinced to consume more than they need to: addicts and children. Public education has "schooled" us to not think at all, from the C students that have no smarts to the A students that understand the politics of school (teacher's tendencies, cheating, cramming, etc) to the point they don't need a brain. School has done a pretty good job of turning our children into addicts, but it has done an even better job of turning our children into children. This is no accident, theorists from Plato to Rousseau knew that if children could be cloistered with other children, stripped of responsibility and independence, encouraged to develop only the trivializing emotions of greed, envy, jealousy, and fear, they would grow older but never truly grow up. And that's the point, we see these children on every school bus, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because in these children we see ourselves, and that maybe the greatest shame of all.


I have no reason to believe anyone would find this particular blog of any interest; even the blog title preemptively warns you to stay away. What I do believe is that those who take the time to read what I've written might be intrigued by some of the views I hold (views which I fully acknowledge hold no academic water whatsoever). But if you find enough time in your life to post a reply and engage in mutually stimulating dialogue, I can promise that I will reciprocate the time and effort you have shown me. It is my hope that even without knowing each other, we can see our very same world through two very different lenses.