March 9, 2002
8:06 AM   Subscribe

The Time Machine opened in wide release this weekend but according to multiple reviews ( including this one) it looks like great-grandson Simon managed to transform a socialist metaphor for the dangers of industrialization into yet another special effects-loaded romantic movie. This seems to be an overall trend in Hollywood to remove the socio-political content from adaptations following The Count of Monte Cristo and Planet of the Apes. Perhaps we should just stick to the book on tape.
posted by KirkJobSluder (21 comments total)
Hollywood's goal is, of course, to maximize income. Apparently the best way to do that is to target the non-discriminating consumer... because, judging by the low-quality movies, music, and television that dominates the market these days, they're the largest market by far.

IMO, the media producers have deliberately set about to create a non-discriminating market. They target teenagers, who are too naive to know better and who have nearly endless disposable income these days. By 'training' teenagers to accept shite for their money, they're building a future adult demographic that won't have a clue about quality.

I think we're going to see this spread across all consumer products. Heck, it's already happening in so many areas -- f'rinstance, I've been trying to find some decent furniture. Nothing really top-end, but at least made of real wood and with a reasonable quality of fit and finish. Turns out such furniture nearly doesn't exist: it's almost exclusively press-board and vinyl laminate these days. Tried to find good dinnerware: not high-end Royal Dolton stuff, but nice-looking, well-finished, solid china. So far, no luck. And so on.

To me, it looks like the market is heading to extremes: complete crap that any slob can buy, and high-end premium stuff that only the rich can afford. Very little middle-market stuff.

Guess I need to start working on increasing my income to six figures, so that I can join the wealthier class, 'cause I hate wasting my money on shite.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:25 AM on March 9, 2002

Film, for a variety of reasons, usually simply to make things more "appealing" to a large audience alter original versions, be it an earlier film re-made or a novel from which the film is made. Example: A Beautiful Mind, which left out the book's account of the homsexual encounters, the fathering of an illegitimate child and the wild anti-semitism of the Beautiful Mind it portrayed --just one heck of a mixed up guy who was a genius with mental problems.
posted by Postroad at 8:41 AM on March 9, 2002

The film-maker did well to exclude his great-grandfather H.G. Wells' embarassing socialist subtext -- which fortunately, is as easy to miss in the wondeful book as it is in George Pal's classic 1960s film interpretation. Industrialization didn't lead to increasing class stratification, as Wells though it might. In fact, industrialization ushered in the greatest era of class mobility in the history of the world. H.G. Wells was a brilliant artist, with a prose style it would do anyone well to study. But his political and social views, like those of most intellectuals of his time, are simply no longer relevent. Thank goodness.
posted by Faze at 8:52 AM on March 9, 2002

I objected to going to this last night with a group of people. I pretty much summed it up the same way; "yet another special effects-loaded romantic movie". I was suckered into seeing The Count Of Monte Cristo several weeks back, and I wasn't going to do it again.

Instead, I convinced the group to stay at home and watch a $4 video instead. They choose something I would have overlooked, Hedwig And The Angry Inch, which was totally bizarre and entertaining.

I think the only movie out there that I am curious about seeing is Donnie Darko.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 8:54 AM on March 9, 2002

By 'training' teenagers to accept shite for their money, they're building a future adult demographic that won't have a clue about quality.

The problem is not that teenagers are being trained to accept crap (they already do that, as you note), it's that far too many of them never actually grow up. Adulthood is an externded adolescence for most Americans.
posted by kindall at 9:36 AM on March 9, 2002

I loved the book, even loved the original movie. I am going to go see this new iteration too. I know the new movie is loosely based on the book, but still I think it'll be a decent popcorn flick.
posted by riffola at 10:06 AM on March 9, 2002

i find it amusing that some people believe the idea that Hollywood leaning heavily towards the dumbed-down, lowest common denominator is a new phenomenon.

For all of the classics that we recall fondly, there is a wealth of shite.
posted by glenwood at 11:17 AM on March 9, 2002

Faze: the Marxist critique in the Time Machine may be a little over the top, but I don't really get how you can say that issues of income inequality and class stratification are no longer relevent. Isn't that exactly what politicians spend most of their time fighting about? tax cuts going mostly to the wealthy or public outlays going mostly to the poor? I understand that some people of certain ideological persuasions like to argue that the idea of class is an anachronism in modern america, and any boot black with a dollar and a dream can go from rags to riches, but this argument has always struck me as particularly disingenuious, since it conveniently overlooks the fact that 90% of our political strife explicitly involves issues of class.

class is still with us, and in fact, I would argue that its the 900 lb. gorilla in American politics.
posted by boltman at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2002

Industrialization didn't lead to increasing class stratification, as Wells though it might. In fact, industrialization ushered in the greatest era of class mobility in the history of the world.

huh-waah? what kind of alternate-history books have you been reading!?
posted by Dean King at 11:38 AM on March 9, 2002

Hello, Dean, fiver, and others. The existence of income differentiation is not the same thing as the 19th-century conception of class. Class mobility is the refutation of the permanent stratification envisioned -- Matthew Arnold and others who helped define the idea seemed to believe that where you were born, economically, defined you for life, and that education would not provide a means for the poor to better themselves and perhaps become rich, but would only awaken them to the world that rested beyond their reach, and mobilize them against the upper classes to which they could never aspire to join.

When people in the 19th century said class, they said it with a hint that there was a nearly-uncrossable chalk line.
posted by dhartung at 12:29 PM on March 9, 2002

i like that they kept the diamond handle....thing.
"nearly-uncrossable chalk line"...nearly....for the likes of rockefeller, or the sons of dry-goods stores like Morgan and Nixon.(though hes 20th century, i like the comparison) Before the most-recent-unpleasantness, class appears purty static. I think Wells was a tellin us about NOT lettin them MAchines do all the work, creating that anti-platonic some star trek episode...a comfort malaisse (sic sp)
posted by clavdivs at 2:30 PM on March 9, 2002

dhartung, your nuanced definition misses the point. there may be more mobility now than in 19th century england, but that doesn't make The Time Machine's message about class irrelevant to today's world. surely you don't believe that our society provides an equal chance to everyone regardless of the wealth they start out with? That the poorest kids have anything more than a outside shot at ever becoming wealthy? that "trust fund babies" ever really have to worry about poverty regardless of how lazy or reckless they are with their money?

It seems to be that the trend toward a smaller number of people controlling an ever-larger proportion of America's wealth is extremely troubling and suggests the very problem of stratifed social class that Wells was criticizing 100 years ago.
posted by boltman at 2:33 PM on March 9, 2002

The film-maker did well to exclude his great-grandfather H.G. Wells' embarassing socialist subtext -- which fortunately, is as easy to miss in the wondeful book as it is in George Pal's classic 1960s film interpretation.

It wasn't so much an embarrasment as the reason to write the book for Wells. Your one hundred year later interpretation ought to be an embarrasment to you.
posted by vbfg at 4:21 PM on March 9, 2002

Ohh vbfg take no prisoners.

I just realized what the problem is - teenagers (do) have too much money. We need to do something about that. Perhaps we can..make schools better, destroy all industry/resource gathering blue collar industry, create more jobs requiring skilled labor, which would in turn create a greater dependance on one person in a family....seems the biggest problems are caused by overpopulation.

Okay peeps - I'm going to go solve overpopulation. Laters
posted by Settle at 6:45 PM on March 9, 2002

Dunno about "too much money." The problem is more akin to that they've nothing worthwhile to spend it on, so they piss it away on junk. I should imagine the smartest ones are actually investing it, and will be able to retire decades earlier than their peers.

Or maybe you're talking something different...
posted by five fresh fish at 10:51 PM on March 9, 2002

They take anything that's already proven its success in another medium (or sometimes the same medium, like the endless remakes of films), and try to purposefully cater it to today's demographic. It's not artistry. It's spending money to make money. Completely logical, but it has lobotomized much of modern day cinema.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:30 PM on March 9, 2002

i guess we all saw frontline last week.
duh episode, old footage aplenty.
posted by elle at 2:34 AM on March 10, 2002

So many people go to so many movies that any sensible person must know will blow, and they go immediately instead of waiting for other idiots to tell them how bad the movies are. Hollywood thrives on undiscriminating first-weekenders desperate to kill time.

> For all of the classics that we recall fondly, there is a
> wealth of shite.

Certainly. But only dumb guys or paid critics (or both) line up during the first week to find out for everyone else which is which.
posted by pracowity at 3:01 AM on March 10, 2002

Don't you love reviewers who give away most of the plot? Is it some sort of twisted compulsion or just a lack of reviewing skill? Sheesh.
posted by holycola at 8:44 AM on March 10, 2002

And people say MeFi has gone down the tubes... hah.

Attention all: Industrialization, and technology in general, only increases social mobility.

(Look about, I'm about to get Stephensonian and Dawkinsesque on you...)

First of all, why did industrialization happen? Why did society choose to invest in technology and automation? Because it's more efficient. More specifically, the invisible hand rewarded industrialists, it made them rich. The situation is entirely analagous to the general pressure throughout evolution for more and more complex organisms. Vertebrates, and producers, became more complex and more efficient.

Let's say it again- the big Bill Gates up in the sky wired replicating systems with feedback loops to promote efficiency. Now, assume that individual humans, like every other individual organisms, have different capabilities. Some are some are better filmmakers, some are better science fiction writers, and some are better at relativistic physics. These differential capabilities can arise either genetically or through training, it doesn't matter. That big ethereal force for efficiency (Adam Smith's unsightly appendage/Darwinian evolution) is going to promote (i.e. reward) individuals who spend their time doing what their best at.

Natch, society is going to favor the ignorance of class, and is going to reward individuals according to their actual abilities. And this force is only going to become stronger as society becomes more complex/efficient and tiny inefficiencies become more and more important.

Whew. I'm going to play some Mario Kart.
posted by gsteff at 5:01 PM on March 13, 2002

That's a truly interesting analysis of why industrialization, but I don't think it addresses the fact that as the Industrial Revolution took hold, it opened a yawning gulf between the classes. The tycoons got richer while the laborers got poorer (and quite efficiently exploited in the factories). Child labor laws? Factory-run tenement cities? The necessity of unions to provide even basic protection to those lower class workers? And it still goes on: Enron execs made obscene gobs of profit by screwing their middle-class employees out of life savings, etc...
posted by Dean King at 9:49 AM on March 15, 2002

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