You may have noticed that I don’t talk about many straight drama films or shows. This is simply because my taste runs toward sci-fi, action and comedy. I’ll watch anything that’s good, but I have noticed over the years that everything I love tends to be classified as something other than plain drama.
Last week, I was thinking I should make a conscious effort to watch more drama and report on how women are faring in that neck of the woods. But then I had a better idea.
I’ve decided to go right on being living proof that the industry doesn’t know women as well as it thinks it does. I’m going to continue to write about what I know and like. Hopefully, some of you guys will get inspired to write about drama projects you’ve seen, and it’ll all balance out.
In the meantime, this has all gotten me thinking about my viewing preferences and the industry’s assumptions, and just how far apart they are. Telling me a movie will “make you cry” is a surefire way to keep me from ever seeing it. I have never seen Titanic, and I want it engraved on my tombstone: “She never saw Titanic”. It’ll prove to some crew of archeologists 3,000 years from now that I was the single most insightful person on the planet. Just you watch.
I hated “Pretty Woman” – really hated, like “let’s have a big Nazi DVD burning party” hated. My relationship with so-called romantic comedies has not improved much from that time, because most of them are based on such sick relationship dynamics that I find them neither romantic nor comedic. Just… icky.
I never liked cartoons or children’s programming as a kid. As a teen, I skipped the entire “made for teens” market, with the exception of Pretty in Pink, which I was forced to see – all I recall from that movie was thinking that if that one actor (who, I just realized last year, was James Spader) could be that scary in such a laughable movie, he must be effin’ amazing. So even when I saw things targeted to my demographic, it seems I didn’t view them they way the industry thought I would. I do remember that WhatsHerFace ended up with the rich guy, but it was the 80’s, for cryin’ out loud! The era of “Greed is good!” Of course she wound up with Richie Richrich. If that was supposed to provide suspense, they really should’ve parked that movie in some other decade.
But you know… my friends liked the movie just like little girls were supposed to, and yet we had long discussions about the story that the filmmakers had polled girls in a shopping mall to find out if WhatsHerFace should end up with Richie Richrich or Dweeb. Yes, I’m talking about four teenage girls sitting around discussing the lack of creativity in the film industry. So, here’s a crazy idea! Maybe none of us watch movies like the movie makers like to think? Or maybe we’re not as unaware of the filmmaking process as they think? We’re not all sitting around like shrieking monkeys and asking, “Ooo, Ooo! How sacred screen make devil pictures?” We know how the images get there – we’re even shockingly adept at psyching out what the filmmaker meant when they put across something entirely different.
Sometimes I think film and TV makers assume we are all non-creative types. That if we had any talent, we’d be making art of our own. That because we watch the stuff as fans, we must all be accountants whose best efforts at storytelling would be something along the lines of: “Jane went to the market. She needed avocados and birth control pills. Fortunately, Sav-On had both, though only the avocados were on sale. She went home and made guacamole and did not get pregnant for some years to come.”
But if anything can dispell that myth, it’s the internet. Fan fiction abounds in shocking volumes, and while most of it is appalling tripe (and I’d have to say the same about professional fiction – sorry, guys), there are some shockingly good writers out there who only do accounting for a living. There are some people making some surprisingly decent short movies with their home equipment.
I keep going back to the ripple of shock that went through the industry when The Usual Suspects came out with no sympathetic characters, and people loved it. This defied huge chunks of Hollywood assumptions. “But, we didn’t tell them what character to like. Did they like one anyway? On their own? Which one did they like? Or was it not the characters but the story they liked?” It seemed to me, from what I heard, they had never realized before that we encounter movies just like we encounter situations and people in real life: we filter our understanding through our own experiences and personality. You don’t automatically like someone just because everyone at a party tells you how lovely they are.
It really seemed to me that Hollywood thought they controlled our reactions by providing visual and auditory cues. Remember how westerns actually put the good guys in white hats and the bad guys in black? I think that was because if the writing was bad, you’d have a helluva time telling them apart. For example, how many movies have you seen where you know the hero supposedly only killed that poor man because he had to… and yet there’s a glaring logic gap we’ll call Option B – a simple way the hero could have avoided the killing. You go away assuming the writers just didn’t think of Option B, because you’ve been trained to suspend your disbelief.
Imagine how hilarious it would be if everyone stopped suspending their disbelief when it comes to logic holes. Only, instead of saying “bad writing”, we all just bought into the story as it and said, “Boy, that HeroGuy sure was evil, wasn’t he? I felt sorry for Villain.”