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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Repackaging of Culture

I watched the movie ET with my son the other day. My thought was, well this will be interesting as I saw the movie twenty years ago. It really wasn't. I think the term classic has come to mean anything that is at least ten years old. When we watch Casa Blanca or Citizen Kane or even Gone With The Wind, there is an epic quality about the story that transcends time. But today we have conveniently done away with any sense of the epic and given over to, can we make money on this again? Certainly the most hilarious version of this repackaging is our rock bands. We now have fifty, sixty year old men jumping around the stage in spandex and singing anthems that are what, twenty, thirty, forty years old. They are termed classic rock bands. The term classic used to mean something would last, would stand the test of time when other ideas, fads, groups had been long forgotten but our current culture defines classic as simply "can we get these old guys back on stage and can we make some money?" One would hope that the rockers might rebel and say, now wait a minute, I'm not sure about this, but of course they like everyone else need the cash. I recall seeing an old interview with the woman who wrote the novel, Peyton Place. The interviewer asked her, do you think your novel will be read fifty years from now? The woman replied, "Oh God no." She knew the difference between literature and entertainment. Ask that same question of someone in the rock band Stix or Kiss or Fleetwood Mac. The reply would surely be, of course they will be listening to us. Again, one merely has to age and then be brought back to be given the definition of a classic. Well, back to ET. So I watched the movie. There were the usual Spielberg tricks. Glowing lights and seventies families in flux with the overwhelmed Mom and precocious children. There was ET. There were the mysterious bad guys. All this was pervaded with a Capra quality that while somewhat refreshing when it came out was simply warmed over milk twenty years later. But here was the thing. The story was simply not that good. The movie was a B movie at best. That is what came to the front twenty years later. It was a classic I suppose, but only in that it was classically mediocre.
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