Are moviegoers stupid?

This is a terribly written article arguing a terribly argued point and you should not read it. I’m only linking to it because it was the jumpoff point for this post.

The basic idea is that Peter Travers, Rolling Stone‘s semi-solid critic, came out with a blurb from his exclusive review of the upcoming Inception and wondered within as to whether it’ll be too smart for the general audience to wrap their minds around. The article then argues the nay point of view, and I’d tell you what their reasoning was if it weren’t so inartfully worded and incoherently constructed as to render it fairly indecipherable to me (Does this cut both ways and across mediums? If a movie can be too intelligent for dumb people, can an article be too dumb for an intelligent person? Probably.).

Anyway, the answer is quite obvious – yes. Moviegoers are stupid. There is a multitude of evidence to back up this claim, some of which I will present now. Let these facts be submitted to a candid world:

– tomorrow, 6/29/10, millions of people are going to rush out and see the latest entry in the reprehensible Twilight series.

– last year, before Avatar came along at the end of December, the similarly condemnable mind-rape that was Transformers 2 was set to have been the most widely viewed film of 2009.

– this list of the top grossing movies of the last decade, nearly all of which are a) sequels, b) adapted from previously existing franchises, c) awful or d) any combination of the other 3, and often all at once.

– most people in general aren’t that bright. Why should moviegoers, who would seem to be a pretty accurate across-the-board sampling of the general public, be any different?

Here is what “the people” get credit for – the truly blockbusting blockbusters of my generation, Titanic and Avatar, while not at all what I would call intelligent films, are supreme examples of modern storytelling. James Cameron is certainly not the most original of scenario/dialogue/character writers, but his innate sense of how to tell his stories, primarily in terms of structure and pacing, is unrivaled, and people grabbed onto that in record numbers. You can lay a great many sins at the feet of the average moviegoer (and I mean a fucking great many sins, starting with the continued success of Adam Sandler), but you can’t accuse them of not appreciating a truly well-told epic.

But what faint praise. When it comes to rejecting soulless wiz-bang crap, the public fails (massively and incontrovertibly). When it comes to embracing the original, tough but certainly decipherable film (I’ll throw out The Fountain as an example), the public fails. When it comes to turning out for small-scale dramas, even with name-brand actors, the public mostly fails (the most successful one in recent memory is American Beauty, and even adjusting its gross for today’s inflated ticket prices it wouldn’t crack $200 million.) And, in a natural extension of their gross incuriousity, when it comes to seeking out the smaller films, the independent films, the foreign films, the public is DOA.

I don’t even know why I bothered with the other 500+ words in this entry when a one word answer would’ve sufficed:

Q. Are moviegoers stupid?

A. Twilight.

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