January 06, 2003

Trailer Trashed

Or, "How Fifteen Terribly Wasted Minutes of Your Short Life Can Remove All Hope of Enjoying the Feature Movie You Payed Half a Day's Wages to See"

I am the contented caretaker of my small and quiet world, the custodian of creek and dormant pasture and windy ridges during days on end when no one goes by but the breeze. Months away from routine and work-angst, my body systems and senses have completed the detoxification process and my eyes are adjusted now to the pleasant ambient light of country living. I look my daily world full in the face, without the necessity of filters or protective psychological barriers, without 'looking away' in the manner that exposure to a larger, uglier world inevitably used to make me do reflexively. This loss of protective response is good. And this is bad.

I don't do civilization, as it is called, with much grace or joy anymore. When I leave home infrequently and encounter traffic, tinsel and movie trailers, I feel like a deer in the headlights of a civilization I'd forgotten about, a character transported from Walton's quiet valley to the set of Bladerunner. It is really an odd and unsettling sensation. Like I said, it's as if I have lost old calluses, those psychological filters and numbing buffers that used to protect me from what are, for most people, just the ordinary modern urban stressors and aesthetic assaults on senses. So. Like a turtle who lost his shell, I go to town to see a movie.

There I sit, in a holding pen numbered Screen 43 of the MultiMegaMondoPlex. I slump self-consciously in my seat, there early, along with some plumpish grade school children and their fubsy parents halfway down into their Biggy-Sized Barrel of Buttered Blubber, waiting for the feature film. It will be only my second movie in front of a big screen in several years. I have come 25 miles in a foggy drizzle to sit here for three hours and be 'entertained', and I am full of expectation; well, I am at least sprinkled with it.

After the obligatory homage to the owners of the vast flat of boxes-with-chairs and a salacious invitation for the purchase of another Bonus Barrel of Butter before the show starts, we the captive audience, are force-fed the trailers of upcoming movies to whet our appetites for good, clean and edifying entertainment fun. ALERT! Shields UP! I worked quickly to raise the psychic cloaking device into place to protect me, but, alas, the shield was breached by sheer volume and I was helpless to keep them out entirely. The Terrible Trailers came, the digital worms entered through the eyes and infected my soft pink rural brain, and my vulnerable turtle-self was invaded by aliens:

Warcraft: The Movie, the violent adult version of the violent childrens version. X2: X-men -- the Movie, from Marvel Comics. Comics? Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines, way nastier than the gentle Arnold in T2; two black/hip drug-anti-drug car crashing, trash talking movies -- A Man Apart, and Bad Boyz 2. And finally, Bruce Almighty wherein a wickedly unholy Ace Ventura Pet Detective Gets Keys to Pearly Gates from whence he makes light work of The Man Himself.

By the time the feature film rolled around after 15 minutes of being trailer-trashed, I felt inclined to ask if there was someplace I could go to be disinfected, have my brain washed out with soap, or talk to a counselor who deals with PTSD. The pudgy children in front of me, on the other hand, seemed to be happily immersed in their medium, if perhaps a bit bored and understimulated by ho-hum carnage, crashes and videocrap. What must their dreams and fantasies be like, these voracious modern adolescent media consumers?

"Garbage in, garbage out" I thought, as they reached the bottom of their first Butter Barrel and headed to the "Refreshment Center" for more.

"The trouble with normal is it always gets worse."
lyrics, Bruce Cockburn

Posted by fred1st at January 6, 2003 05:51 AM | TrackBack

sigh......always a must before bedtime. thank you!

Posted by: Da Goddess at January 6, 2003 06:20 AM

What I hate is that the "mondoplex" we go to here is now showing TV-style commercials for Coke and Ford and such before the movie. I can get that at home in front of the TV! For free!

Posted by: Debi at January 6, 2003 07:24 AM

I'm with Debi: I am less disturbed by the trailers (which often prove to be better than the movies themselves), than I am by commercials. Having paid my money to watch a film, I resent being advertised to. And I'm with you: the volume is my primary complaint with the trailers. Is deafening moviegoers really a wise long-term business strategy? One observation though: when we saw TTT on Saturday night we had a full 20 minutes of trailers, pushing us past 1:00 a.m. before we got out of the theatre.

P.S. I've always liked that Cockburn quote.

Posted by: sainteros at January 6, 2003 10:18 AM

I challenge anybody to try and convince me that ANY of the movies trailed here HAS A BEST PART. I argue that our frame of reference has sunk to the point where we accept way too low a bar by which we measure BEST and WORST. And my chief concern is for children who are indulged, even encouraged to consume vast quantities of popcorn and pop culture. Cannot adults say no to the temptation to be filled up with that which does the soul NO GOOD? And even more, can't they and shouldn't they have higher standards for their children's various diets? At least the 'commercials' intended impact is obvious: to change the way we think about Fords or Coke or Old Navy (wretch!). The Trailer Trash movies also sell us something and influence our thresholds of what is 'okay' and even to be sought after, although more insidious, subliminal and 'innocent' perhaps than frank 'advertisement'.

Posted by: fredf at January 6, 2003 10:40 AM

I almost never go to the movie theaters any more. At least since I moved to South Dakota. When I lived in Columbus, OH, I used to love to go to these marvelous, old Art Deco Drexel Theaters that had been saved from the wrecker ball . . . they always showed Art, Foreign, and Independent films there . . . oh, it was one of my favorite things to do. Here, we just get the typical influx of Lowest Common Denominator films come through. So I mostly rent . . . I have control over what I see, and I can filter out the crap, and save my time for better endeavors, such as they are. I don't watch T.V. anymore, either for the same reason . . . and it's really interesting, when I'm over at a friend's house and the T.V. is on, it's amazing how *assaulted* I feel by the commercials, etc. It's true, you eventually become desensitized to the onslought, and while I'm sure it's a necessary psychological filtering devicie, I'm not all that sure that needing to be desensitized in quite that way is ultimately a good thing.

Posted by: Artichoke Heart at January 6, 2003 03:57 PM

Movies. I do miss going to movies. Their popcorn is just right.

Posted by: meg at January 6, 2003 08:54 PM


When I read this, I immediately went on the defensive, mentally, because we go to the movies with the kids occasionally (perhaps 4-5 times a year), and we buy them snacks, and we sit there and watch the trailers, etc. Believe me, if the experience offended you in rural Virginia, imagine what it's like in Atlanta. The only good news is that perhaps they've gotten rid of that annoying little girl who used to do the Pepsi commercials before the show.

I suppose, living as we do here in the Hub of the South, that we have become somewhat jaded to the immorality around us. After all, I have to drive my kids every day past billboards advertising "gentleman's clubs", divorce lawyers, and TV shows that we would NEVER allow them to see while they're living under our roof. But when I hear them vent their disgust at these things, freely and without prompting, I have a little hope. Our children appear to have assimilated the moral compass we endeavoured to instill in them (praise God), and they are just as disturbed by the movie trailers as we are and comment on them accordingly. But we enjoy the overall moviegoing experience so we put up with the trailers and commercials. It's just one of those things you endure when you've been waiting a whole year to see "The Two Towers". And since we feed our kids pretty healthy the rest of the time, we let them cut loose a little when we go to the theater. I insist on having my box of Milk Duds, so I can't very well refuse them a bag of Twizzlers between the two of them, now can I?

My 12-year-old son and I went to see TTT together. Ten minutes after the movie, he didn't remember the trailers or commercials. He remembered the Charge of the Rohirrim, the trickery and barbarism of Saruman, the heroism of Aragorn, the bravery of Sam and Frodo, the comraderie of Legolas and Gimli. And he'll remember the time he spent with his Dad, and the fun we had together.

I will grant to you, Fred, that our culture has made the job of protecting our children from evil influences much more difficult than it was, say, fifty years ago. The whole cultural milieu (sp?)is more fetid, more sullied with indecency, than it used to be. We could move to Floyd County, or we could just try to be as vigilant as we can. Believe me, there's a part of me that really WANTS to move to the country, but for now we'll have to content ourselves with training up our children in the middle of Babylon, to be in the world, but not of it. It's a really, really tough job, no doubt about it.

Posted by: Curt at January 7, 2003 01:17 PM

A brief addendum in answer to your challenge regarding the trailers. I agree...I think none of these would be appropriate for our kids, with the possible exception of "X2"...and then only for my 12-year-old (my 8-year-old daughter wouldn't want to go anyway). My problem is that I like a good action film, and my son has inherited this tendency. Fortunately, the Internet makes available several useful resources for parents to get specific details on films, as well as video games and music, and we use these resources on a regular basis. So I would carefully screen the information on "X2" and make my decision based on a number of factors.

Ultimately it boils down to how wide I'm willing to set the "filter" for a given film. If I feel that the movie carries positive messages that I think my kids need to hear and that override what negative elements there might be ("The Two Towers" is a good example), and if I feel that the material is age-appropriate, I'll bend a little. The same goes for books, computer games, and TV shows. This requires daily vigilance, and it can be really exhausting, but so far it seems to be working.

You can rest assured, however, that we will NOT be seeing "T3" or "Warcraft: The Movie".

Posted by: Curt at January 7, 2003 01:38 PM

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