Will a changing world change film?
October 4, 2001 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Will a changing world change film? Will the Sept. 11th tragedy instill a new social or political significance to contempoary art? Does this mark the end of irony? How do you think these recent events are going to shape film, art and comedy?
posted by crog (21 comments total)
The people who are claiming that this is "the end of irony" are the ones who never managed to perfect light flippant humor in their own writing. If ever we needed some distance in our humor, it's now. The immense popularity of the first post-attack Onion should show that.

That said, one can only hope that all of this will keep Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay out of work for awhile.
posted by calvarez at 10:24 PM on October 4, 2001

pick up last week's entertainment weekly (flag on the cover). they addressed all of the above with some well-thought speculation. also a thorough critique of the news media (including metafilter) and their performance.

this week's issue, however, shows factual data (rentals, ticket revenues, TV ratings). surprisingly: not much has changed so far. their theory is that most folks are trying to get back to normal. apparently that mean dissolving into the couch in front of a crappy action flick.
posted by patricking at 10:39 PM on October 4, 2001

Keep Bruckheimer and Bay out of business? Are you kidding? I'll be they are already trying to get Jet Li and Nick Cage cast for a behind enemy lines secret-mission comando flick.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:46 PM on October 4, 2001

I have a feeling we won't be seeing any "Cataclysmic Destruction of New York" disaster movies (i.e. Deep Impact, Armageddon, Godzilla, Aftershock) for a loooooong time.
posted by brownpau at 10:52 PM on October 4, 2001

I have been looking at the art community's approach so far as one of self-checking and restraint. The people who concern themselves with the lighter side of things shall continue to do so, while the artists that choose to make deeper statements will also continue to do so. I think it is already easing back towards the norm, as it were. An example (the first one that comes to mind) in that of the season opener of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", which showed a tower-like structure collapsing and nearly killing the characters.

Yes, there might be a trend towards more social/political themed works in the coming months and years, but I tend to think of the trends of the arts as a cycle. History shows, I think, a rotation from the light to the deep and then back again. There will always be artists pushing the envelope as to what is funny, while there will always be artists who try and make us pause to look at the deeper meanings of the world around us.

I go to a college of the arts, and at least here there hasn't appeared to much much of a change in the work coming out from the fine arts, video, or graphics students. Of course, they don't have to deal with "focus groups" and such deciding if the work they are producing is too harsh or unsettling....
posted by Windigo at 10:56 PM on October 4, 2001

Sadly, the incoming data seems to indicate that barring further major terrorist attacks on American soil and/or a major war, there will be no long-term cultural change at all. Thursday's New York Times ran a long piece entitled "In Little Time, Pop Culture Is Almost Back to Normal." It's going to take far more than 6,000 deaths to shake people out of their complacency, it seems.
posted by aaron at 11:23 PM on October 4, 2001

How long after the death of Princess Diana did it take for tabloids (post-special 'mourning' issue spectaculars with colour liftout) to start their relentless hounding of Royalty again?

Currently our media has no long-term memory and, whilst the event itself will long be draped in an American flag, surely there is money to be made from such an epic disaster and as such, watch this space for the prime time telemovie, justified by its 'respectful' treatment of the victims and their families. Sure to be a moving portrayal for anyone who spontaneously went to Walmart to buy an American flag to hang from their window.
posted by hug99 at 11:40 PM on October 4, 2001

The thing that so many of these people making sweeping statements about how there will be cultural changes is that they do not realize that the events of Sept. 11 just did not have the impact that they perceive. In my small area of the world people gave money, wore their ribbons, went to the local fund raising bar-b-que, went to church and then promptly went back to their normal lives. You might hear a rare reference to the WTC tragedy, but not many. The one thing I did hear was a question.

What is the tallest building in New York City?

The questioner thought this was very funny, but then his helix don't twist too well. But that gives you a idea of the effect out in the "boonies".
posted by bjgeiger at 11:46 PM on October 4, 2001

Also, there will be PLENTY of big 'destruction of city' movies coming out after a little while because it will give pop culture producers a chance to represent (metaphorically/symbolically of course) the new 'evil empire' that threatens the USA's superpower status, thus cashing in on the collective fear of American citizens.
posted by hug99 at 11:56 PM on October 4, 2001

How long after the death of Princess Diana did it take for tabloids (post-special 'mourning' issue spectaculars with colour liftout) to start their relentless hounding of Royalty again?

Quite a long time, at least where Prince Wills is concerned. He's still considered to be out of bounds - hence the trouble Prince Edward got into when he sent a film crew into St Andrews (what a twat, but that's a different discussion). I think the rest are still considered to be fair game, but Wills and Harry are protected to a great extent. The red tops know their readers don't approve of Wills hounding.

And as for films, I can forsee an 'undercover in the Afghan mountains special forces' kind of film where they finally come across a Kurz-style rogue leader surrounded by fawning henchmen, perhaps called Lin Baden or something similar.
posted by Summer at 2:11 AM on October 5, 2001

Relentless consumerism demands that we be trivial. To maintain guiltlessness while we frolic in the shallows, we segregate our realities from those disruptive realities which might impose unpleasantness - until, at some point, Nietzsche's prophecy is realized: "In the end, true world becomes a fable."

Strangely, I'm not convinced that this is entirely a Bad Thing...and too often, for those who think it is a Bad Thing, the dreary response seems to be lots of hypocritical self-loathing with a dental plan.

"Man is not good at all
So boot him in the can.
Perhaps if he's kicked soundly
He'll be a better man.

For his world we live in
None of us is good enough
Therefore let us calmly
Boot each other's can."

Bertolt Brecht
posted by Opus Dark at 3:25 AM on October 5, 2001

Shallowness is underrated in my opinion. When done with humour, the glittery, fluffy bits of life can be the best bits. Look at Jane Austen. Fluffy as a week old kitten but still entertaining. It only becomes tedious when it becomes forumulaic and humourless.
posted by Summer at 3:36 AM on October 5, 2001

I think how you feel about these events now depends, in part, on where you live and how you live. Living in DC (and I would guess the same for NYC) one is quite aware of the tenuousness of our lives. It wasn't just visions (horrible as they were) on TV.

The fact that the media and the big wigs on Capitol Hill keep warning us of further terrorism (especially should we attack Afganistan) only adds to the present reality. Increased security measures (and, more importantly, blatant LACK of effective security measures) are very evident here. I do keep hearing "life will never be the same." And I wonder if that's just a convenient phrase that will loose its impact.

As for Hollywood, no matter what they produce in the next few years, the specter of the reality of September 11 will carry much more weight to viewers than any fictionalized account and special effects the film industry can produce.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:41 AM on October 5, 2001

I found this thread to be particularly interesting (kudos once again to MeFi!), in great part because we're currently in the final stages of production of a film that, even before the attacks, we expect to generate a certain level of controversy because of it's approach and story structure. However, at the same time, since it's an "art film" it deals with real social issues that, at the time, were inspired by the Rampart police scandals that actually feel more pressing and more in need of public dialog that when we began.

In the end, for us, the September attacks have changed the way we see ourselves marketing the film -- instead of leaning into the controversy and surprising people with the deeper societal issues it explores, we're more likely to market this as a "serious film" in order to set the tone of the dialog up-front.

Of course, that becomes the key issue here, really -- are we talking about the effect that these events will have on the art of cinema (NYCers might be interested in attending the session at the Independent Film Market called "Exploring the Spirit of Independence and the Role of the Storyteller in the Aftermath of the World Trade Center Attack" at 6PM at the Puck Building to hear the thoughts of people like Jim McKay, Jennie Livingston, Parker Posey, and Sandra Schulberg) ... or are we talking about the effect on Hollywood's commerce of cinema?
posted by bclark at 6:50 AM on October 5, 2001

hmmmm. i'll admit i'll be unsurprised when, contrary to what the media talking head pundits decided to posit in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the american populace proves that sept 11 has not changed what they want to view for entertainment a single iota.

human nature doesn't change overnight no matter how shocking a watershed event may be. we were bloodthirsty savages at heart before, and bloodthirsty savages we remain.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 7:02 AM on October 5, 2001

i predict more producers dying of heart attacks.
posted by newnameintown at 7:43 AM on October 5, 2001

Ted Rall explains it all for you.
posted by Skot at 8:58 AM on October 5, 2001

Every time there's a big tragedy you get people asking questions like this, and making bold statements such as.. 'the world will never be the same again!' Of course it won't, but the world is never the same from second to second. It's easy to over-react to these things. The world will muddle along and keep making the same mishaps as it did just after the Civil War, WW2, Gulf War, Cold War...
posted by wackybrit at 10:44 AM on October 5, 2001

Did Pablo Picasso's Guernica come to mind for anybody? Thought to be his best work from the 1930's and one of the masterpieces from the last century, Picasso created it in response to the destruction of the town of Guernica during he Spanish Civil War. In spite of the fact that many people will return to the normal lives and deny that our nation is on the brink of war, I wonder how film makers, artists, comedians, musicians, etc. will react to this.

I generally am tired and sick of how superficial the lyrics of pop songs have gotten. During the Vietnam War, there were plenty of songs that held politically heavy lyrics. I realize that there are bands like Rage Against the Machine, etc. which speak out against the government, yet I wonder how these events that we're currently going through will affect these elements of our culture today.
posted by crog at 12:51 PM on October 5, 2001

I'd be interested to find out how effective Picasso's Guernica was at affecting change. Did it rally peace-loving people (or stop the killing), create dialog, or stop carnage?

I'm not trying to be argumentative. I think provocative art is only as good as the context it lives in. Guernica hanging in the Museum of Modern Art (and now in a museum in Spain) has a heavily reduced historical context. Its power to affect change in the present is minimized if people only see it as a reflection of a past event.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:52 AM on October 6, 2001

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