Look at this. They’re making three Tetris movies. Not one, but three. You couldn’t ask for a more crystalline example of how deeply we, as a society, have become embedded in the habit of re-eating and excreting our own cultural products. But who cares about the movies, or Tetris? What fascinates me is the press release.
Look at this amazing quote:
Today there are so many great sources on which to build a movie blockbuster and video gaming is certainly an amazing category with its huge international following…
Which I think is hugely informative. Also:
Tetris, one of the most recognized video game franchises of all time, is a perfect first project for this strategy
…will bring one of the most beloved, cross-generational gaming brands in the world to the big screen…
The people making this film have followed a simple, reliable logic.
- You pick something that people know about and already like. And have nostalgia about.
- That gives you a stable brand platform and knee-jerk curiosity from your potential audience.
- Then you push your project hard, capitalizing on the pre-existing weight of the brand to lever it into the public consciousness.
- This gives you a critical mass of audience attention that will push your project into profitability even if you cut corners on the quality of the finished product. Say in terms of the writing, or actors.
This is what we have come to. This is what making a big movie now means.
Why do companies do this? Because they can. Because we, as the entertainment buying public accept it. And because in our media-saturated world, we’re unlikely to pay attention to anything that doesn’t trick its way into our brains. That’s because companies are already using as many tricks as they can. Our frontal lobes have been gamed six ways from Sunday.
So we have two possible futures. Twenty years from now you can find yourself watching Speak and Spell Four, the Struggle Continues, reading book nine of the Wizard School for Sexy Vampires with Steam-Powered Swords series and getting involved in fan-fights over which was better, the original Mork and Mindy or the gritty, pychodrama reboot. Or, we can say no to the endless parade of familiar slop, whether in the form of fiction, movies, TV, or anything else, and choose things we haven’t seen before. We take a risk. Like we used to do every time we went to the damned video rental store. Because where we are now is not a fixed point. Culture is always in motion. And if we succumb to the bland, the bland gets worse.
How do we resist? By asking simple questions before we watch a movie or show or read a book. How am I likely to get better from engaging with this? How does it make me smarter/more interesting/stronger? Is this product just offering me mind-treacle, or something more? How will I feel about it afterwards? Will I even remember it? In what way is it new?
‘But I just need to relax,’ I hear you say. ‘My job sucks.’
I know that feeling. I really do. But so long as we soak away our exhaustion and discomfort into the nearest digital sponge, our jobs will continue to suck. That’s the point. That’s what it’s mind-treacle is for, and it’s addictive. It’s a carcinogen for the imagination, and therefore for hope. We get stuck on it at our peril, because the corporations will always feed us more.