I have a lot of pet peeves. Like, a lot. But two of my biggest are the following: 1) Being in an art museum, looking at a painting—usually a masterpiece by the likes of Pollock or de Kooning—and hearing some fucker say, “My kid could paint that.” If you say this within earshot of me, there will be blood. There are a slew of reasons that that is a dumbass thing to say in an art museum, but the usual response I give is to turn to the moron who has proclaimed that their kid could do it and say, “But your kid didn’t do it, and that’s the whole point.” (Sometimes I follow this up with, “And if your kid could paint like this, you wouldn’t be here right now, you’d be on a yacht enjoying all the money your family is raking in.”) And 2) People complaining, “Why are all movies so bad these days?”
Because you keep going to see them.
Who are these sick people, going to see these shitty movies? You. Me. All of us.
Hollywood is a business, and like most businesses, Hollywood is only as good as the market forces it to be. I firmly believe in corrupt capitalism and a free-ride free market. I don’t think for one second anyone becomes a Fortune 500 CEO without stabbing at least three people in the back on their way up. Nice guys do not run major companies. Just look at the oil industry. The current environmental disaster is the direct result of greed, corner-cutting, and laziness. No one was forcing BP to, at the very least, define who was responsible for maintaining the underwater pipelines, themselves or the drilling company. No one was forcing BP to update their drilling systems, to replace weakening pipe (salt water’s a bitch, ain’t it fuckers?). After the oil finally stops spewing into the ocean, after BP starts the cleanup and claims are being settled without delay, they will rebrand, restructure, reorganize and reemerge. A lot of heads are and will continue to roll at BP. But will anything really change? I doubt it. Just ask Exxon. Hollywood is no different. No governing body polices Hollywood to make better products and so we’re stuck with the same trite crap over and over again.
Case in point: The Last Airbender. One of the most reviled movies of the year (registering a beyond dismal 8% on Rotten Tomatoes—even lower than the revolting Jonah Hex), released among accusations of racism, The Last Airbender came in second over the July 4th weekend with $70 million. It’s not a slam-dunk hit by any means, but neither is it a true flop. It’s just disappointing, like so many movies have been this summer. In fact, another big-budget, franchise-potential, summer disappointment, Prince of Persia, had similar accusations of ethnic insensitivity for casting a white dude (Jake Gyllenhaal) to play an ethnic character. By and large, however, Disney wasn’t lambasted for their choice, given that they acknowledged way back in 2007 that casting Gyllenhaal came down to marketing. They wanted a name A-lister for their project and even though it annoyed everyone, myself included, with Prince it came down to Disney saying, “Jake Gyllenhaal’s name will sell more tickets than anyone else’s.” It was about his NAME, not his skin color. With The Last Airbender, however, the most famous actors are That One Guy From Twilight (Jackson Rathbone) and That Dude From That Movie Where He Wins All That Money (Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel). Paramount was not basing their casting decisions on a specific actor’s box office draw, but on the idea that white people will sell better than brown ones. This article articulates this topic better than I ever will because this makes me so fucking furious that I rageball just thinking about it.
So here we have The Last Airbender. Critically reviled, generally mocked, and declared a failure before it even opened theatrically. Yet it made SEVENTY MILLION DOLLARS. At least Jonah Hex had the decency to tank completely and only make $5 million its opening weekend. Now that’s a flop. But The Last Airbender…people actually went to see it. Paramount won’t be launching a franchise off it, and M. Night Shyamalan should be fucking ashamed of himself, but at the end of the day, Paramount will make this same shitty film again, they’ll just spend less money on it. Ending the trend of crap cinema rests with us, the viewers. And I’m as guilty as anyone in this—I love bad action movies and I willingly go see stuff I know to be trash—but we have to draw the line somewhere. Hollywood will never wake up one morning and decide, You know what, today let’s return to quality writing and characters people care about. As long as there are people consuming this crap, Hollywood will keep cranking it out. We have got. to. stop. consuming. it.