social-media Is social media ruining movies?

Nate North

Business Member
indieBIZ
I've worked with a lot of people on a lot of projects, but I've noticed a trend in the last decade coinciding with the rise of the almighty Facebook echochamber algorithm.
a decade ago pretty much every project I worked on was different, a sci fi movie, a thriller, a mystery, whatever. In the last few years almost every single project I've been pitched is a social justice themed rant copy pasted from a social media account. I don't take any of them, simply because parroting a trending topic is not creative.

For me, it's all becoming extremely repetitive. And somewhat pointless. I personally have never been racist, or sexist, etc in any way. I've also always worn a seat belt. I think being fair to others on a case by case basis, rather than a race basis, always made complete sense. So now that I've read my 1000th script about how I shouldn't be a racist, I'm just so bored. It's not that it isn't a good message, I've just heard it so much, it feels like it's the only idea anyone can think of, endlessly repetitive and uninspired.

I remember watching Mississippi Burning in the 90s. It was such a powerful film in terms of showing both sides of racism, the degenerate caveman rednecks, but also the brave FBI agents who followed a moral compass through a hostile world. It really left a strong impression, and I felt like I was learning about a world I never fully understood, and how a new breed of people could create real change. If there had been 750 such films that year, I feel that it might not have made such an impression.

I have 3 things to say about the modern movement.

One is that there is an effectiveness issue via the John Oliver effect. You have this guy who is highly intelligent, and a force for good in many cases. And millions were listening, as he preached human decency. Ok great. But they did a study, and found that only people who already agreed with what he was saying watched the show. Seems obvious. The problem is that we are all getting super hyped about educating racists and rednecks, so we make all these shows chiding them about how they should change their thinking, and none of them are watching these shows. People like ourselves who already believe the points we are making are the only people watching them. So it's a constant issue of preaching to the choir. Wasted effort that dilutes the entertainment value of films, an encourages a lot of self righteous feelings amongst groups of people that rarely cause any actual change. I feel the same way about throwing a coke can into a specially colored trash can to clean the sky. Far more effective at impressing your neighbor with your conformity than it is an actually fixing the problem. I'm against virtue signaling. If you want to do something good, do it, don't posture. I've often talked to people who spend all day wearing a cape and typing anti racist or pro lgbt stuff on facebook, and I ask them, did you ever actually help one of them in real life? Pay their rent when they were broke, talk one out of suicide, help them get a job, or simply be a friend that didn't judge? I've done all of those things, and this post is literally one of the only times I've ever mentioned it. You won't find any selfies of me posing as a hero on a social media site. I'm far from a hero, but I've at least actually helped some real people in real situations.

Second, I actually don't think political ideologies have ever improved a film that wasn't actually about them. Quite the opposite in most cases. I see it like this - I like vitamins, because I know they are healthy. Sometimes I eat a big disgusting horse pill multivitamin, just because it's good for me. Sometimes I eat healthy foods, because I know they contain vitamins. I would liken that to intentionally watching a film like Green Book, or Mississippi Burning. And when I want those vitamins, I'm happy to eat them. What I don't want is for a faceless army of well meaning people to begin adding large vitamin pills into every McDonalds hamburger. I don't want to bite into a vitamin inside a slice of chocolate cake. It's insane that everyone thinks that's the best idea ever. Vitamin good, cake good, vitamin cake better! Idiotic.

My last point is that in a way, I think all this does do some good. While I don't feel that the cast of Duck Dynasty is going to watch your indie film and suddenly start up a judgement free commune, I think that kids growing up in a world where positive messages are overabundant could help create a new generation that viewed discrimination properly, as something very negative.

I still don't want to watch a star wars movie with 45 minutes of condescending dialogue about how I should wear a seat belt. I'm already wearing a seat belt. It IS ok to just make an entertainment product that simply entertains people.
 
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mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
My approach is to try to incorporate a subtle message of my views/perspective/ideas within the story without preaching, and (hopefully) without making people aware that it's even there. I'm not saying that I'll ever change anyone's mind, but I think (hope) that I can maybe plant the seed of an idea that may impact how they process future situations.

Here's a very specific example at the risk of straying into politics.

In my first feature, Surviving Family, the hero (for lack of a better word) runs into her ex-boyfriend at a local bar while she's searching for her alcoholic father, who has gone off on yet another bender. The ex (played by the terrific JD Williams, who played Bodie in HBO's The Wire and Oz), is a wounded veteran recently back from Iraq and suffering from PTSD.

The two haven't seen each other in years, and their discussion gradually moves to the end of their relationship - she was pregnant when they were in high school and she terminated the pregnancy. The "a" word is never mentioned, and the outcome is merely implied. She says - clearly not for the first time - that she was barely existing after her mom's death and with her subsequent recurring nightmares. He tells her that he didn't understand then, but after his experiences with death, destruction, and nightmares after combat, he does now.

Here's my point: I screened this movie to a wonderful, large, and conservative audience in Oklahoma (I'm a liberal from NJ). The most rewarding moment was watching elderly women nod in understanding and appreciation of that scene - because many issues are viewed differently when looked at from an individual perspective. Did I change their minds? I'm sure I didn't. But I DO think that I contributed an idea/thought/emotion that might impact their reaction the next time a real person comes to them in that situation.
 
I don't know If I have anything good to bring to this discussion. Wanted to say that Inditalk for me is the most diverse place in the world. True diversity. Diversity of ideas.... I don't see that in mainstream movies no more. A safe place where people come together to discus ideas. There is a cancel culture. The only way for people to change.....if the can become someone else. And you can only become someone else and open up if you feel safe.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
Side-subject: Social media has ruined the big twist ending! Studios know that spoilers are unavoidable so they don't take chances anymore. Once spoiled, they lose ticket money. Back in the day you could go about your business all week and not run into any spoilers. Unless it was Aunt Mary at church lol. Now, you scroll and just ruin it for yourself!

Imagine The Sixth Sense now! Never.
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
Social media has ruined the big twist ending!
Even small plot points/endings are constantly being revealed, much to my dismay.

I don't mind so much with comedies because it's the delivery/acting/reacting that makes it work, but it drives me nuts with dramas.
Any time that I have to wait a few days or weeks before watching the last episode of something, I find myself working extra hard to avoid finding out how it ends. The most recent example was Mare of Easttown - I kept having to avoid discussions of the last 2 episodes until I had time to watch.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
Right. I feel like with TV they still take the chances because you've already paid for the service showing the episode, and if you haven't they can still attract you to the series. With movies, it's one ticket. Studios know people will say "Aw man you ruined it for me, I'll wait till it streams now!" So I feel like they don't take the big chances anymore.
 
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