FULL BLEED: DOMINATION'S THE NAME OF THE GAME
So let's talk real quick about another of the fun little symptoms induced by the Howling Pit. It's a thing I've seen for as long as I've been on the internet (which far predates the Long September of 1994 or was it 1996?).
Movies, and frankly, games and comics and stories and even music? They're just things to be conquered. They're things to catalog and dominate. To pick apart and find fault in. To rack up points with. To prove that you are indeed superior to whatever is made by other humans that you might happen to consume. Or build an identity around.
I mean, how can you prove you're strongest in an identity-by-consumption society? You got it. By proving you're mightier than the stuff you consume to fuel your identity. You're a STAR WARS fan? Well, you're not unless you can dissect it in exactly the right way. Or if you only like the right STAR WARS movies in the right way.
This plays right into gatekeeping and neatly dovetails into the clicks/metrics for cash that something like 95% of the entertainment internet is based upon. Look at CinemaSins over on YouTube, or any dude just barfing up an Explainer video on what's really being said in Romero's zombie movies.
An aside: I love most of Romero's zombie movies. They are not difficult texts to engage with. Pretending they are for clicks says more about you than me. And while I've done a long exigesis on DAWN OF THE DEAD, my intention was not domination, but submission with reporting on the experience. That whole master and servant thing.
But this stuff? It's easily quantifiable, right? A dude can rattle off a list of inconsistencies and frozen frames with VFX flubs or where you can see the camera in the doorknob and BOOM. He's above the movie. He's never been in it. He's picking at minutae, not actually, y'know, having a goddamn experience while being carried away by the film. He's in charge of all of this. He's dominated the film. He's the aesthetic dominator. No mystery box can escape his sight. He'll claw it open and gleefully shriek that there's really nothing inside. That it's just empty so MASH that subscribe button and get another cinematic annihilation next week.
I lay a lot of the blame for this at the feet of MST3K. You can (rightfully) argue that the dudes really love these movies and are just poking good-natured fun at them. Sure. But that doesn't mean that an army of cretins seeking a way to dominate not only work but fans of a work won't pick up on things and turn them into something awful. Does what it says right on the tin, y'know? Sure, another part of this is the carefully cultivated Gen X irony, which was supposed to be the major countercultural mode during the ascent of the internet into mainstream society (but the roots had been laid down in USEnet.) And I'll cop to being just as guilty as anyone on this count. It's easy to tear stuff down. Harder to build.
I could make the parasite analogy. It might even be the right one to make.
Of course, it's hilarious to see folks who cut their teeth taking down regular serial TV, even something as lofty as LOST, try to take down TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN. That was endless entertainment. I've even seen very well meaning people explain every action in the last two hours, linking them together in a great chain of inevitability and meaning that was surely inescapable as the Black Lodge itself, right? And yet none of those touched on the harrowing emotional quicksand that Lynch and Frost and company charged into to present the viewer with. Can you imagine trying to turn this into a linear plot that makes sense when the emotional reality of it was far more unsettling than any horror movie you could imagine in your head? That's a real apocalypse being visited unto the viewer, a real hidden truth.
Of course, this impulse cannot be broken. Not when it's so easy to monetize, so cut-and-dried and factually correct. Who else will replace the hole left in the economy by BREAKING DOWN THE TRAILER SHOT BY SHOT articles and videos and tweets and Facebook posts? Who's gonna buy the collection of breathless prose on Amazon later?
It's like these dudes are terrified to actually experience a movie, y'know? Just like musicologists (as friends and I dubbed them) were terrified to have an experience where an album physically rearranged their molecules. These dudes have to be in charge at all moments. They gotta have control. I understand the impulse. The world is a terrifying place. You gotta be in control of something, I guess.
Me? I'd rather have something control me once in a while. Exterminate all rational thought. Submit. Have a near-life experience. I beg for that when I sit down in the theatre. Take me right there and then. Take me out of here for just a little while and maybe kick something genuine loose and free. It doesn't happen often. I wish it did.
In the meantime, I keep turning over rocks to find something that bites deep enough to actually make me feel something. A genuine something.