Author Topic: The Infantilization of Moviegoing Audiences  (Read 1983 times)

Beavermoose

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Re: The Infantilization of Moviegoing Audiences
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2015, 08:37:12 AM »
The bourgeoisie needs to keep the proletariat in check.

DarkeningHumour

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Re: The Infantilization of Moviegoing Audiences
« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2015, 08:58:37 AM »
I'll play devil's advocate here, Keanu-style. You propose that movies are growing increasingly infantile and that the movie industry is increasingly infantilizing its audience. Well, superhero, sci-fi, action movies and the like, that attract large audiences and that would be the culprits of said infantilization have existed for decades. If there has been a recent change I would argue that is is that audiences are finally being taken seriously by Hollywood. Indulge me.

Avengers will likely be in the top three grossing movies worldwide this year. Granted, its an action piece design to entertain the masses and to appeal to our baser selves and inner nerds. It fan-serves a target audience, a niche that has grown in size to encompass a large part of the market thanks to careful education by the industry. But it is by no means brain-dead. I'll not argue for the artistic qualities of the movie, though I could (for those interested, the rogerebert.com review was quite excellent on that part) and I'll instead focus on the points the movie raises. It is a movie about artificial intelligence, obviously, and the dangers it entails and so forth. But the subjects of arms race, preliminary strike, is man supposed to meddle, global peacekeeping and others. All these are extremely relevant to the current world. Now, the movie is hardly a monument of philosophical thinking and offers no answers and little discussion. But it challenges its audience, be it only a tiny bit, which is more than olden superhero movies I feel (it is very possible that I am completely wrong about this). Furthermore, there is something to be said about the characters themselves, their personalities and how they interact, the beauty and the beast narrative that is developed between two of them, god complexes in real gods and kinda-gods, etc. You get the point. And this is not limited to just this one movie.

The original Avengers was also about arms races and developing dangerous weapons as precautions. Winter Soldier delved heavily on the subjects of espionage and surveillance in a computerized world, their dangers and how much of them we can allow. It was a relevant movie and will remain so for a while and that is one of the things that made it one of the best superhero movies of all time, above more superfluous efforts like Thor. And this is not limited to only superhero movies. The Hunger Games as had many things to say about the media and the controlling and manipulation of the masses though them. It has also dealt with inequality, and a specific kind of class warfare. Divergent tries to say something about identity and social construction though it fails miserably.

On the animation side of things, the current trend is often to make them joke-filled comedies and in that regard they are becoming increasingly clever. Just look at the joke per minute ratio of say The Lego Movie or Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. And these are not jokes designed all for a specific public. There are those that are aimed at children, sure, but there are also those that only more mature and older watchers will be able to understand. I'll not go into sci-fi because the nature of the genre has always made it a vehicle for interesting ideas but if you think it has become dumber, gaze The Edge of Tomorrow, The Matrix and Mad Max : Fury Road and tell me there is nothing to be said about them. I am even told some people find Inception interesting...

We will always need indie and auteur movies to really dig into the things that matter, to explore the depths of the human heart and to wrench knowledge out of the human soul. But blockbusters do do their parts, maybe more than ever before. They deserve some credit.

At least some of them do. Of course, most are still indigestible drivel unworthy of an afterthought, though entertaining they may be.

I'll add this : the industry is not (completely) responsible for its audiences preference for easy to consume brainless content. Always and everywhere, most people prefer the mass-appeal stuff that does not challenge them. 200 hundred years ago the most popular romances and novels among the literate were not were the literary gems we have conserved in our collective memories and that our schools would very much like for us to read once in a while. They were terrible pieces no one remembers that were easy to read and had little to say and engaged no one. And I am sure there were some awful radio shows in the 1900s that were incredibly popular. The best works will never be the most popular among the general population for its own fault and we are all, even the denizens of this fine forum (and me the first), partly, if ever so slightly, to blame for it.
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jwiderski

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Re: The Infantilization of Moviegoing Audiences
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2015, 10:13:59 AM »
Again, I was not arguing infantilization has increased. I was saying it's become more obvious and literal. Instead of metaphoric infantilization through story structure, comedic style, etc..., nowadays it's literal infantilization through properties of our childhood. This is a roundabout way of saying, yes, adaptations of childhood properties have increased in number. One could also make the argument that "children's" movies have become more sophisticated, not because studios think of children more highly, but because they realize adults are watching them as well. But that's beside the point.

You're right in that it's not completely the industry's fault. We as an audience also clamor for simple, easy to consume escapism. However, the question to ask is why? I know that as a marginally more sophisticated media consumer, I don't always want simple escapism. Sometimes I want an interesting character study. Sometimes I want a challenging documentary. So why would the blockbuster action/adventure flick be the only kind of high grossing films? Is it because we're raised from birth to not think about film, nor expect any more from it? Is it because we get these desires satisfied elsewhere, likes books, music, and television (or perhaps older films)? Or is it because this desire just doesn't exist in most people, and we're the exception?

DarkeningHumour

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Re: The Infantilization of Moviegoing Audiences
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2015, 10:49:59 AM »
So why would the blockbuster action/adventure flick be the only kind of high grossing films?

If all the "cinephiles" in a given country rallied to watch an art-house movie ten times each, the blockbuster of the month would still have been watched 100 times more.

But let's not exaggerate, The Grand Budapest Hotel made $174 million worldwide, Boyhood $44 and Ex Machina is already at $30. It's not quite Age of Ultron's billion plus but all is not quite lost yet.
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verbALs

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Re: The Infantilization of Moviegoing Audiences
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2015, 06:30:55 AM »
Quote
Or is it because this desire just doesn't exist in most people, and we're the exception?

Yes, the exception.

Apply the same percentage to all art. Be generous and say 20% of movie watchers are cinephiles. The vast majority aren't looking to have their life changed by movies. Nor music, nor literature, nor intelligent television. The audiences for great TV aren't as big as for the reality shows. 20/80 is usually a good split so use it for the demarcation between serious/fun cinema. Number of people watching it/ amount of money generated/ number of films made of each type. It's probably close enough.

Apply it to yourself. The cinephile may not be a lover of great literature and may love pop music and nothing else. Nobody is a lover of every fine art. Trash art or infantile art; whatever you wanna call it always predominates. The classical music one likes will probably be deemed the pop classics by the connoisseur.

So look at some form of art where you have no interest other in the "pop" classification and then you will know how the majority of people feel about cinema. It's fun, but nothing serious. See how worked up some people get about comic books or video games, when your own view might be that this is "for kids". Perspective says they have as much right to regard these forms as serious art. If you want the right to have your own serious art interest taken seriously that is.



My serious problem with film analysis has been that the terms of fun cinema or genre cinema don't lend themselves well to arthouse cinema nor vice versa. Criticising Age of Ultron or Mad Max for lacking thematic depth or character development is as weak as damning Under The Skin for being slow or being ambiguous. There are appropriate terms to each form and the easiest and, consequently cheapest, criticism is to misappropriate the language. 
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

DarkeningHumour

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Re: The Infantilization of Moviegoing Audiences
« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2015, 06:56:00 AM »
This is the basic point I was making but I would disagree about one thing. Classical music lovers are often also ballet enthusiasts or readers that prefer the classics to contemporary literature or art-house movie fans or something else. Often an interest for a kind of art and its "higher" form goes hand in hand with other similar interests for other arts. Conversely, most people have little to no interest in any "high" art and only consume the popular kind. They listen to pop music and watch action blockbusters and enjoy reality TV and so forth, and though they might say they «love» music or movies, they have a vested interest in none. No one can have a mastery over all kinds of art obviously, it is already hard enough to find the time to read or watch enough movies enough to have a proper understanding of the medium. But a liking something like auteur movies is more than a random preference born out of some feeling, it is also a willingness to go deeper than the surface that is part of one personality, and thus can be transferable to other media. So every one is not a connoisseur of something and connoisseurs tend to be, or at least try to be, connoisseurs of more than one thing.
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