Here’s a thing that drives me crazy: the entertainment media’s endless need to find reasons why things fail. I understand why the industry producing the entertainment does so: they have fragile egos, they don’t want to lose their jobs, they already have a contract for more Brett Ratner movies, etc. But when and why did this mentality infect every media source that reports on that entertainment?
It’s peculiar enough that the focus of entertainment reporting has shifted heavily toward box office receipts. We as consumers should care a lot more about quality than popularity or profitability, but somehow Hollywood has sucked us into feeling some sort of investment in their arms race of ridiculous spending. I know it didn’t, but like to think it did, start with “Titanic” – that the dollar figure attached to that movie (a now-standard $200 million) was so eye-popping that it kicked off a national obsession with budgets and grosses and revenues and other completely un-entertaining words. Whatever it was, you can’t page through “Variety” or “Entertainment Weekly” (or scan your favorite movie blog) without reading a bunch of bullshit about record opening weekends and percent dropoff from week one to week two. It’s what you have to put up with while trying to discern whose cakehole to fling your money at all summer long.
The byproduct of this fixation has been that whenever a big money project goes down in flames, there is a post-mortem by anyone remotely qualified (or immediately unqualified) to talk about such things. This is how we got astute analyses like, “Audiences aren’t ready for female superheroes. That’s what we learned from ‘Catwoman’ and ‘Elektra’!”- never mind that both of those movies sucked and had laughable trailers, and that one of them was a spinoff from a movie no one really liked, starring a woman from a TV series not that many people watched. It’s also how we found out that audiences were burned out on sword-and-sandal epics (“Troy,” “Alexander”) – unless of course those epics tickled their salivary glands with lots of slow mo and a redonkulously ubiquitous catchphrase (“300” – just try not to spend all afternoon shouting “This… is… SPARTA!” now).
Here’s a theory: people will watch movies that are entertaining, have good word-of-mouth (because they are entertaining), and are marketed well. And they will not watch movies that do not achieve these things. Big second week drop-off? It’s not because of some obscure demographic reason, it’s because your movie sucks out loud and everyone who has seen it already can’t call enough of their friends to warn them away. (By the way, Diane: do not see “Hancock.” It sucks. Out loud, even.)
But in the spirit of the entertainment media, of which I am now a pseudo-participant, I will offer some theories about why some recent high profile flops crawled out of the pool with red bellies and watery eyes:
~ “Gigli”: America isn’t ready for a sexy Latin lesbian who falls for a lantern-jawed Bostonion.
~ “Poseidon”: the Bible Belt moviegoers reject any movie named after a god who isn’t their God. This also explains the failure of “Mars Attacks!” and the marginal returns of “Mighty Aphrodite.”
~ “Snakes On A Plane”: there shouldn’t have been so many motherfuckin’ snakes on that plane. Snakes scare people. How about one big snake – “Anaconda” did well, right? Wait, I got it: 50% less snakes, 50% more wisecracking sidekicks.