Do you remember the first movie you bought with your own money? Think about it for the next 8 paragraphs and we’ll get back it…
Anyways…in a little over a month, I will be turning 35 years old. And for as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with media: film, television, comic books, music, video games – you name it.
At age 4 I was living in southern California. That’s when I told my parents I wanted to make movies, so they put me in acting classes and got me a manager, an agent, and I learned to read by going on auditions.
When playing with my action figures, I would close one eye, move around durning the action and find the coolest angels during the ‘scene.’
I began drawing when I broke my arm at age 6, started making my own movies when my father thought I was responsible enough to be trusted with the VHS camcorder.
In March of 1998, my marching band spent spring break in Austria and the Netherlands, where I took along a Hi8 camcorder and a Kodak Advantix camera, taking 12 hours of footage and 144 pictures, respectively. When I returned home, I cut together a video of our trip (it was 3.5 hours in length), mixed together music with a video/audio fader/mixer I bought at Best Buy, and proceeded to sell around 100 copies of it (all dubbed on my personal VCR) and made a profit of about $300.
That summer, the band directors offered to let me do the official band video that season. This time, I had an editor that could do transitions and titles (99 pages with ONE character on each page!). This time, I premiered a 20 minute version at the end of the season, and had 200 people buy them. I hired a company to dub them and walked away with $420 profit for an edit that took me a day. I had just turned 16.
In the next two years, I went to the New York Film Academy and then began studying at The University of Southern California where I majored in Cinema/Television: Critical Studies.
I say all this for a reason: I have been making money by creating media since I was 15 (if you don’t count my acting when I was 5-6) and I’ve been obsessed with it my entire life. It’s my career, my hobby, and all anyone talks with me about. And right now, I feel like I’m drowning in media.
So, did you remember the first movie you bought with your own money? Mine was “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.” I remember walking into the Albertsons on Main st. in Lewisville, TX, and heading left, immediately – that’s when I saw it: the large, white, cardboard stand-up in between the rental videos and the one-hour photo section. I had been asking the people who worked there for weeks when it would be released. I looked over every-single-copy they had, finding the one with NO IMPERFECTIONS ON THE BOX BECAUSE THIS WILL BE WITH ME FOREVER BECAUSE TMNT 2 IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER.
I paid $18 for that VHS. That’s over $32 in 2017 money.
Before that, I remember the very first VHS movie our family bought – it was “La Bamba.”
I remember almost every movie screening I’ve ever been to, my first CD, my first cassette single…but I can’t remember the first movie I streamed online. Can you?
Here in the twelfth paragraph, I’m going to hit you with the thesis: the ubiquity of media is making it less valuable and meaningful to us…and that’s bad.
This idea hit me a few months ago when I realized neither of my two daughters had never has ever asked me to buy them an album. They’ll ask me to stream a music video they like, or put on a Disney movie just so they can sing with a particular song; but they have no idea about the concept of OWNING music. It’s a completely foreign concept to them.
So, I did a little experiment.
First, I refused to replace the Roku stick they broke in their room. I don’t know HOW it broke, but it just stopped working – and besides, they couldn’t keep track of the remote. So, it’s gone. However, I DID have an old VHS/DVD player/burner – so I hooked that up. We went to Goodwill and stocked up on old Disney VHS tapes, and I went through 1000+ of my old DVDs and made them a book of all kid-friendly titles.
To go further, we’ve been working with our oldest daughter on getting an allowance and how you should spend and save – but I figured, “she loves movies, but she’s never bought one…maybe we should change that.” So, I took her to Movie Trading Company and said, “Make sure you have $8 with you.” We got there and I told her to pick something out. This would be HER movie – HER choice – and HER money. She loved the idea. She found a used copy of the 1994 classic “The Little Rascals” for $4.99. She bought it, took it home, and she and her sister have watched it two dozen times in a month.
And when her little sister didn’t hold it correctly – she FLIPPED. THE. F. OUT.
Because it MEANT something to her. This was HER money. She walked up on her own to the counter and bought it with money she made doing chores. It has VALUE.
“But what does this have to do with anything?” you might be asking, with good reason.
We live in an age where media is all-consuming. If your computer isn’t working, try your tablet. That not doing it? Use your phone! Or your iPod! Smart TV! AppleTV! Roku! Fire! Hell, I think my TOILET can stream Netflix, now. Every MINUTE, 400 HOURS are uploaded to YouTube (http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/youtube-statistics/).
If you can imagine it, the internet has it for you. All the time. And every media outlet pushes you to go to all their associated media outlets! It’s not good enough to watch, share, and like a YouTube video, you need to follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat!
And it’s completely overwhelming.
Every other day, I’m being told I JUST HAVE TO WATCH whatever new show has just been uploaded to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Then there’s the amazing programming on the cable networks. And while people shout “Watch OA!” or “You have to check out Black Mirror!” I’m still on the first episode of “The Wire.” And even though I’ve seen EVERY EPISODE of “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards,” and “Game of Thrones,”I can remember a few things that happened in them, but not FULL EPISODES. GoT had The Battle of the Bastards, but what happened in the rest of the episode? I have no idea. Meanwhile, my recall of Simpsons and Star Trek minutiae is, frankly, sad.
Is it because I’m an old man, now, and can’t remember new things? Maybe. But I don’t think that’s the full story.
As of this writing, there have been 16 films released by Marvel. I’ve seen them all. They are all just fine and pretty good. But they are also utterly forgettable after first viewing. When I saw “Doctor Strange” in the theater, I was blown away by the visual spectacle, and really enjoyed the film, even though it WAS like all of the other Marvel origin films. Once it hit Netflix, I couldn’t wait to watch it with my wife. So, we put it on, and by the time he had his accident, my wife was on her phone and I had moved to my laptop.
Why? Was the movie bad? No. It’s FINE. Like all the other Marvel films. However, in nine years, they’ve release SIXTEEN FILMS. Comic book films used to be big spectacles; actual, tentpole events that got people excited. But with all the cartoons, television content, video games…oh, yeah, and the COMCIS THEMSELVES…comic book properties are all-consuming and they’ve lost a large part of their appeal. Sure, “Wonder Woman” was excellent and people dug it, but it’s also because it’s the first Wonder Woman film and the first GOOD comic book film with a female lead. Meanwhile, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2” came out to a fantastic response and was promptly forgotten two weeks later. Hell, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” fell the same fate; big opening, but people went RIGHT back to talking about “Wonder Woman.”
So, 1443 words later, what’s the point?
I dunno. Unplug more?
Really, it is a long way to go without a solid punch, but, in a way, THAT is the point. Everything feels homogenized – like we’re living in a post-GREAT era, where things are fine. Just fine. But not GREAT. Every so often, we’ll get a “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “The Revenant” (personal opinions aside, those are GREAT works that will be studied for YEARS), but for the most part, it feels like our media – our CULTURE – has been dumbed down so nothing is TOO MUCH in any direction by being bombarded with too much content. No one wants a home run anymore; those are too risky. Get to first or second base, and that’s GOOD ENOUGH.
So, maybe, we should create some scarcity – make things have VALUE again. Yeah, streaming is easier, but maybe if you have to go to a store, find, and then BUY that movie, CD, or whatever – maybe then, it’ll have more value to you.