Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Loss of Story


Last week's issue of Entertainment Weekly has an opinion piece by Owen Gleiberman about the sad fate of storytelling in movies. We live, he postulates, in an era where character-driven films are basically being neglected in favor of franchise-driven action and fantasy films. This has reduced storytelling to repetitive story arcs, where we know almost from the start of the film where (and who) the characters are going to be at the end. The purpose of these films is wish fulfillment, according to Gleiberman. We see ourselves in these characters and want to see them succeed as a form of wish fulfillment. It’s the same desire that fuels the success of reality TV, which he argues, is having the same sort of effect on storytelling on TV. To illustrate this comparison, he refers to reality TV contestants as “ready made arcs.”

This isn’t to say that blockbusters are bad, per se, but their dominance at the box office does have a downside:

“The issue is that great movies and television shows—especially great movies—invite us to enter the souls of characters who are more than just our mirrors, our walking, talking, fantasy doppelgangers. As an unending diet of blockbusters has helped spawn an audience of nerve-jangled sensation junkies, however, it gets harder and harder for subtlety to cut through the clutter, even the Godfather might now be released as an art film….If pop culture ever does lose the heartbeat of rich, deep, organic storytelling, perhaps what we’ll have really lost is the recognition that there’s something out there greater than ourselves.”

I couldn’t help but think about the American comics market the whole time I was reading it.

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