Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Lab Rat Cinema: Monetizing the Reptile Brain"

Walhydra thinks Athena Andreadis' continued delving into the details of what's wrong with Avatar and similar films is so on target that she wants to quote Athena's new post at length.

[Note: You should read the entire post and subscribe to Athena's blog.]
The unmistakable sign of a well-wrought book or film is that it puts us in a light trance, emphasis on “light”. We suspend disbelief, immerse ourselves in the universe unfolding before us.

Yet we don’t become passive vessels. Large parts of our brain stay busy evaluating the originality and quality of the worldbuilding, the consistency of the plot, the authenticity of the dialogue and characters.

If anything jolts us out of this trance, the work immediately becomes as enticing as a flaccid balloon.

Hollywood directors have decided they don’t want to work on any of these aspects. They go through perfunctory motions, relying on lazy shorthand and recycled clich├ęs, while they put their real effort in milking profits from the lunch boxes and video games based on their movies....

But movies still need to achieve that trance, because viewers are not so zombified as to stop thinking altogether....

So they resort to the Waterworld technique, which consists of arousing the fight-or-flight reflex by sensory overload. In short, they use assaultive special effects....

The fight-or-flight reflex is an ancient survival mechanism we share with other organisms that have a complex nervous system.....

On the behavioral side, the result is anger and fear that bypass our cortex, eluding conscious control....

Sudden loud noises, abrupt luminosity changes, rapid irregular motion and objects fast growing in your visual field are among the triggers of fight-or-flight. Sound familiar...?

When fight-or-flight is triggered while someone is in a theater seat, the resulting anger and fear are not expended because there’s no action possible beyond chewing one’s popcorn faster. The stress hormones linger, and so do the emotions they arouse – displaced, unfocused, free-floating, ready for use by demagogues and charlatans....

Going Rouge, edited by Richard Kim and Betsy ReedPeople who crave such entertainment turn into mobs far more readily than those who demand less crude fare and will not abandon the prerogative of critical thought.

The primitive worldview fostered by such abusive spectacle diverts people from trying to solve problems rationally, making it easier to belittle knowledge and expertise, cede rights and liberties and scapegoat marginalized groups and the unlucky – which by now include much of what was once the middle class....

The excuse that mindless entertainment relieves pressure at times of individual and collective stress is dangerous. It’s crucial to act as full humans not when times are easy, but when times are hard; when circumstances are best served by reflection, not reflex.
Walhydra is among those respondents to Athena's critique of Avatar who were "relieved to hear they were not alone in perceiving that the Emperor wore slinky glittery togs but was nevertheless drooling."

But what do we do about the fact that the vast majority of Americans don't give a sh-t?!

1 comment:

Thalia said...

I'm starting to see just how pervasive abuse is in this society. Athena's post and Derrick Jensen's work is getting me thinking. I always wondered why people don't see abuse, how people make excuses for abusers, don't believe the abused, or say they do at first but then inevitably turn against them and blame the victim, &c. It's really a very nasty pattern and so widespread it's pretty much invisible. And now this post is making me wonder if it isn't a pattern that's built into society as a whole. I mean, obviously, I guess, it is, but I'm thinking something more specific, though I'm not articulating it well. More like it's integral to the way this society functions. "Functions," I suppose. It would make a good grad student paper or even a thesis. Hmmm.