In the dawning of its invention, the Internet was used as a powerful networking tool, connecting scientists and researchers all over the world to one another. Today it seems all the Internet does is connect people who like to complain about arbitrary things. I’m not claiming immunity to this, either. In my nearly two years of writing MindFood I’ve done plenty of my own complaining, and with the Blu-ray release of a once-again mutilated Star Wars a mere two days away, I could certainly do even more complaining about arbitrary things. But I won’t.
Instead, I’d like to take a look at whether or not any of this complaining realistically does any good.
But as much as I’d like to ignore George Lucas’ latest affront to cinema history completely, it does represent the elephant in the room that is movie discussions on the Internet. If you’ve been reading any film blogs, or even sites like Reddit or Buzzfeed, over the past few weeks, you’ll know all too well that the web was inundated with borderline violent fury over this new round of revisions to the holy trilogy that is the original Star Wars saga. The only way to escape posts about raped childhoods, infographics of Lucas’ speech about the paramount importance of preserving cultural art, and rally cries to boycott buying the Blu-rays was basically to quit the Internet. But it didn’t do any good.The Complete Star Wars Saga BD box set is still the #1 selling movie on Amazon.
So what can we take away from that? It’s simple, really. Even though the Internet has created a sense of unity by connecting like-minded people, even though hordes of Facebook likes, Tweets and upvotes can create the impression of popularity, when it comes to movie discussion on the Internet, we’re collectively still just the movie geeks in high school complaining at our lunch table. No, I’m not saying everyone on the Internet is a nerd, I’m just saying the Internet has made it all too easy to lose our frame of reference.
There are still exponentially more people who don’t care about what, if anything, Darth Vader says at the end of The Empire Strikes Back and who will buy those Blu-rays, watch them, and never once realize that they’re not the same films they saw over 30 years ago. And these are the same people who don’t care if Clash of the Titans was filmed in 3D or converted in post to 3D? They’re the same people who make Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides one of the top 10 highest grossing films of all time.
There’s nothing wrong with these people. They’re not stupid, they’re just not obsessed with films the way we are. But because the Internet makes communities so insular, it’s easy to look at them, the real majority, like the outsider. We, those of us in the know, are always the outsiders, no matter how strong the illusion of popularity grows.
But I’m not here to complain about their being no hope for die hards like us, I’m just saying that we need to regain control of our frame of reference. We need to realize that corporations may use the Internet to market their movies and to engage fans, but that we ultimately don’t make as big a dent on their bottom line as we’d like to think we do. Remember when Paramount did the whole “Demand it” thing with Paranormal Activity, making it look like the only cities that would get to see the movie were the ones with the most rabid online fanbase? It was all a show. They had theaters in all the top markets lined up and locked down before voting ended on that entire marketing campaign.
So what we, the people who read and talk about movies every day, need to start doing is acknowledging that corporations like 20th Century Fox don’t need us and don’t listen to us. That’s not a knock on them, that’s just the way business works. Don’t take that as a defeatist attitude, either. I just wish people would realize that if they devoted half the amount of energy they do to complaining about Star Wars edits to championing smaller films or material that could use the help, they might actually make a difference in how people support movies.