Thursday, December 23, 2004

Why "Bad Boys 2" might be better than "The Royal Tennenbaums"

Ever since last spring when I took Dr. Ricke's fascinating, everyone-should-have-to-take-this "Shakespeare" course at Taylor, I've been thinking--on and off of course--about this very idea: why is it that the popular or mainstream or general wave of culture tends to be accepted, embraced by ignorant people (labeled that way by intellectuals) who aren't yet enlightened enough to know how the world really works (or better put, don't even care to know)?

For instance, I tend to be really hard on people who only like movies that everyone else likes or people who only watch movies like "Bad Boys 2" and "Blade: Trinity." In fact, up until last spring, I would say I was ignorant as to the importance of needing to watch movies like this. These movies make hundreds of millions and are seen by 70% of our country almost religiously, thus, couldn't they be said to be more influential (or reflective of society's real needs and wants) then movies like, oh...let's say "Magnolia?" Now, I hate what I just wrote but I think it's the truth. Wouldn't you have to agree if you really gave it some thought?

So, since last spring I've attempted to minimize the amount of "downplaying" of movies like "Bad Boys 2" b/c of how I believe this kind of attitude pulls me further and further away and makes me more and more out-of-touch with a culture that really does love to watch movies like this ("Bad Boys 2," "Exit Wounds," "XXX," "Star Wars 8")" ALL OF THE TIME. That's why they go to the movies. They don't want to go to try to find hidden meaning like why the camera captured only the hands of the people in a particular scene or how the mood of the movie really correlated to the colors used by the filmmaker--were they saturated or were they desaturated out? As one writer I'm reading right now would say, they go to find out one thing. Particularly, the point of it all--what is the point? The point of the movie: what is it? If it's ambiguous and weird like "Magnolia" the general public will hate it (emphasized place on the word "hate" in the previous sentence). If it's dry and dysfunctional and only funny to people who think suicide is funny, then once again, the general public will hate it (like perhaps "The Royal Tennenbaums," although I'm not suggesting the suicide scene was funny in this film, i'm just saying that people like me probably thought it was very telling or revealing of Luke Wilson's true character and people like my friend "Bob" think it's just freaky and weird and abnormal and totally "f-d" up). Like one of my Taylor professors used to say, "I don't go see movies to see reality--I go see movies to escape it. If I wanted to watch what it feels like to have your wife cheat on you [he was referring to "American Beauty" at the moment] I would turn on the TV, or talk to a friend or just look at the world around me and BE depressed." I never realized how right on this professor least, when it comes to the feelings of MOST of society.

The truth is, the elitest crowd loves to gripe about how shallow and dull and ignorant and stupid and totally pathetic mainstream culture really is (and the people who consumingly buy into it) but let's be honest...what are we doing or they doing (am i part of the elite crowd? i'm not sure) to change or influence culture like these consumer movers and shakers are? Aren't we speaking and preaching to a choir, even though it's a choir that's about 1/100 of the mainstream size?

Which brings me to my personal dilemma (and the dilemma to all people sitting in a seat nearby me when it comes to popular culture): do I want to be a person who compromises knowledge and perfection for the sake of influencing the popular people or do i want to be a person who strives for knowledge and perfection even thought i'll eventually and probably end up alienating 90% of society, thus, having very very little influence (i.e., do I want to sing with "Destiny's Child" or "Sufjan Stevens"? It seems it's a 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' option and I don't like that at all.

Which brings me back to my original, opening sentence to which I think MIGHT be a solution (key word there is "a"). Shakespeare. I'll say it again, Shakespeare. He's one of the few people I can think of who made stuff that people who love "Bad Boys 2" would love and be entertained by and yet, pleased those hoity-toity people, those intellectuals and elite folks of society (while making fun of both classes simultaneously). That's why Shakespeare is so amazing. Not because today's scholars have said he is but because back in his day, he influenced the maximum number of people by realizing he had to please the poor and the popular as well as the proud and the elite. That is where his true genius lies in.

Thus, to the elite, I tip my hat...and to the popular crowd, I fart. Maybe it's not that difficult to do after all.


Chalupa said...

Definately some good thoughts. I've kinda pondered some of these things myself at times. I definately enjoy some of the 'lowbrow' movies but don't enjoy all of them. There's always movies I just like even though they don't have meaningful storylines or things to learn, etc. I usually just classify those as entertaining and don't always know why I like them.

I do think we definately need to be able to relate to others though. How else are we supposed to fulfill that great commission?

nateshorb said...

yeah yeah yeah...good thoughts and all...but did you REALLY have to put royal tennenbaums in the same sentence with bad boys 2?!? and sufjan stevens in the same sentence with.........i cant even say it........destiny's child?!? i think this post's sole purpose was shock value.

Neville said...

chalupa, i think you're right on....and nate, well I throw my hands up once again b/c i can't tell if you're being sarcastic or serious or both (or trying to be funnY?---do you remember the x-mas incident????) but still, I wasn't trying to play the shock value card...I was picking for examples that best fit my explaination. Sorry if you were offended (but may I remind you that 99% of the country would've read that sentence and said, "who the heck is SUJ-Jan stevens? he related to Beyonce?") You get my point.

Neville said...

Oh and pardon my "f-d" up comment, but I was actually quoting (yes, that's a direct quote) from my friend referring to any person who would ever even think of committing suicide. What do you say to that friend, Nate?

Michael Leahy said...

For a while I snobbed all the popular hits of the day. Ultimately, when I started belatedly catching up on "Apocalypse Now" and even "The Empire strikes Back" on smaller screens, I regretted it. Although some movies are better than others, the fact that they are popular is not a bad thing per se (see, I can use intermellectual words too!).

nateshorb said...

perhaps the life aquatic will be the shakespearean happy medium you're looking for.
there are plenty of fight scenes and billy murray was quite reminicient of a tough guy will smith type character.

Neville said...

Just a're right. They're not bad b/c they're popular, although, i'm fascinated when the very bad ones are the very poplular ones, you know? Oh and Nate, I haven't seen it yet but want to real soon (although i don't think what you're saying is true b/c i've heard from too many 'popular' people already who said they hated maybe my theory is all wrong to begin with. Who knows)? good night.