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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

question of the day: How will the change represented by the incoming Obama administration be reflected in movies, TV, and other pop culture?

At noon today on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Not to give the man too much power, but…

How will the change represented by the incoming Obama administration be reflected in movies, TV, and other pop culture?

Maybe it won’t be, of course. But if past trends hold, within a few years we should see a shift in the tone of the most popular of pop culture in the U.S. During the Bush years, for instance, the dog-eat-dog game show Survivor was a huge hit, as was the fictional series 24, which right-wingers lke Glenn Beck have actually and in all sincerity cited as a defense for torture (and they’re still doing it).

But just a few weeks, ago, the season debut of 24 was down around 30 percent from its last season premiere, in 2007. The show had been off the air for almost two years, however, and almost all network narrative shows have seen drops in ratings. So maybe that doesn’t mean anything at all.

One guess: We see a new hit game show that’s about people competing to see how much they can do for others instead of much they can stab others in the back. We’ll call it Provider rather than Survivor, maybe.



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  • “One guess: We see a new hit game show that’s about people competing to see how much they can do for others instead of much they can stab others in the back. We’ll call it Provider rather than Survivor, maybe.”

    i think we are seeing the start of this type of thing with the “news” shows that are featuring “everyday” heroes or “ordinary” heroes…

    maybe we’ll get a new “Casablanca” type of movie where people act like grownups and do something even if it is uncomfortable and causes personal pain or grief.

  • Patrick

    ^^

    Maybe they could finally adapt “Mein Kampf” or “Atlas Shrugged” into this potential ‘grown-up’ film you of which speak.

  • patrick, have you read either of those books? neither have the theme i suggested. and certainly, although civil disobedience in the service of individual creativity and ideals is a strong thread running through “Atlas Shrugged,” it cannot be, on any level, compared with “Mein Kampf.” i will think your comment is a rather weak attempt at humor, rather than a slightly trollish remark.

  • Patrick

    ^^
    I admit there’s a tad bit of trollishness in my remark, and for that I apologize.

    However, I am quite familiar with both books–and what they have in common is an expounding of Social Darwinism.

    All the Randian talk about “love of life” and “liberty” is a smoke and mirrors code for letting the sick in the disabled to die in the snow in the name of narcissistic superman being unfettered by their neighbor.

    The only difference in the overall philosophies is the difference between “a sin of commission” and “sin of omission”.

    Please explain where I’m wrong here.

    (I’m sorry to sound hostile, this just touches a nerve in me. No disrespect to you, personally intended.)

  • Paul

    It’s possible that the downswing in Jack Bauer’s popularity foreshadowed the defeat of George Bush. (Did West Wing foreshadow Obama’s election?)

    I have also thought it curious that senators are more likely cite Jack than, say, Mossad, in support of torture, perhaps because Israeli spies think torture is for amataurs (I read that too long ago to give you a citation, sorry).

    I’m not sure how Obama’s election would change TV. It’s a lot easier to pull someone down than pull someone up, and that goes for quality TV, too. I keep crossing my fingers for a president that will pump more money into science education, which might spur an interest in science fiction, too, or becoming scientists. I read, again, a long time ago, that half of American scientists are going to retire by 2020, and most of our graduate students in those fields are from China, Japan, etc. More of them are going home, too, as living standards in Asia improve.

    I would point out that the Social Darwinism in Mein Kampf and Atlas Shrugged differ in two important points. The former is a collective darwinism and the latter is an individual darwinism, which has parallels in biological evolution debates (do our genes “care” more about the fitness of the individual or the species). I am unaware of any stand Rand took on “race”, but her stress on individualism would make racism difficult to shoehorn into her books. For what it is worth, the only minority character happened to be one of the heroes. Second is that Ayn Rand advocated violence only in very specific circumstances, such as self defense, defense of others, and kinky sex.

    I do concede that Rand’s philosophy had limits upon compassion, which was sort of her throwing the baby out with the bath water. She was rejecting both religion and communism, trying to undermine their basic assumptions. I do think Rand would have approved of giving a disabled person a job they were able to do, rather than government handouts, and healing the sick could be seen as an investment in their productive ability after they get well. While Rand’s heroes and heroines differed in level of ability, what was more important to her was that they shared the same value of respecting ability. The relationship between Dagny and Eddie, for example, was more than a business relationship because of their shared values, even if Dagny was more talented.

  • On a much smaller scale, I have been noticing a lot more non-white faces in commercials – and not just ads that have only hispanics or african americans, for specific markets.

  • bitchen frizzy

    [In back of class, raises hand…]

    I… I’m sorry, um, could someone explain the connection between Social Darwinism and pop culture with Obama as president? I must have missed that lecture. Seriously, I’m trying to follow this, but I’m flummoxed.

    And, I just gotta know – have to ask – what’s the connection between Casablanca and Mein Kampf, besides the whole WWII thing?

    (I mean, read the exchange between Bronxbee and Patrick… it’s a total WTF?, at least to me.)

  • JasonJ

    I don’t know if there is much of a connection between entertainment and the president beyond SNL and other programs that mock politics. There seems to be a continuous cycle of expensive quality televised dramas and cheap easy to make reality tv type programs that just coincidently appear to be aligned with presidential terms. Programs like 24 appeal to men because of the blow shit up ass-kick factor despite who is in office. Every decade, every presidential term has had kill em all let God sort em out shows and movies. Any decline in 24’s numbers is most likely due to people wondering just how much more can be done with it. Same with Survivor. I am still waiting for Survivor: Antarctica but it just isn’t happening. Right now, brainy sci-fi type stuff is doing well along with disfunctional family dramas and the usual sit-coms. Dumb president, dumb shows, smart president smart shows? I’ll admit I didn’t think about it until now. Hmmmm…

    I do think there will be less political satire. Obama isn’t like Bush or Clinton, who provided an endless resource of comedy. Southpark has had an Obama episode, it was fairly funny, but it also has McCain and that knot-head Palin. Basically, Obama is not funny.

    I don’t see much change for network television beyond it’s normal cycles, but cable channels like TLC and HGTV and other channels that had a bazillion shows about people building/buying/flipping outrageous expensive overdone homes for profit changing. It’s not cool anymore to buy a useless huge house and spend fortunes fixing things that aren’t broken.

    You’ll see shows about better efficiency, better use of space in smaller homes, things people want to see now. You’ll still see home improvement shows, as it is more necessary now than ever to do your own work. Our Home Depot is doing just as well if not better now that no one can afford contractors. You see more do-it-yourself programming for everything from homes to cars to whatever.

  • MaryAnn

    I… I’m sorry, um, could someone explain the connection between Social Darwinism and pop culture with Obama as president?

    Yes, I’d like to know this, too. WTF, Patrick?

  • Maybe they could finally adapt “Mein Kampf” or “Atlas Shrugged” into this potential ‘grown-up’ film you of which speak.

    For that matter, I’d like to know why a mention of grown-up films automatically conjures up images of Ayn Rand or Adolf Hitler.

    I thought some of the philosophy on the Marley and Me site was ridiculous but this…

    Words fail me.

  • AJP

    “One guess: We see a new hit game show that’s about people competing to see how much they can do for others instead of much they can stab others in the back. We’ll call it Provider rather than Survivor, maybe.”

    We’ve already had a show based on that concept. It was called “The Big Give”. It was a terrible show.

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