Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Little Heavy-Handed Moralizing

In Peter Suderman's interesting review of the new zombie flick Fido, he highlights what I consider to be a unfortunate trend in Hollywood. "Director Andrew Curry," Suderman writes, "weights his film down with metaphorical dead weight, so that it lurches from half-dead idea to half-dead idea with all the grace and wit of its big, dumb zombie characters — which is to say very little. And what it tries to say isn’t even worth getting out of your grave for: Diversity is good! Capitalism is bad! Suburbia breeds stifling conformity! Did somebody eat this movie’s brain?"

Anyone who levels the criticism of amorality at the entertainment industry simply hasn't watched much media in the past few years; the sheer number of celebs who are jockeying for moral superiority is staggering and certainly not confined to the usual suspects of Clooney, Spielberg, and Jolie. The metaphor seems to be their preferred vehicle in the race for humanitarian/activist of the year, being the most facile way to create devastating satire without the cumbersome prerequisite of clear thinking. I wouldn't mind it at all if the story remained afloat after all the moralizing; the director's diligent efforts to help the audience in drawing a clear conclusion often scuttles the story... if there's a story to begin with. Al Gore's filmed lecture An Inconvenient Truth is hopefully the beginning of the end of that genre.

Nowhere is the penchant for brainless metaphor more pronounced than in comedy. I know I'm not the only Simpson's fan who has bemoaned the loss of intelligent satire. The last few seasons have resembled modern morality plays with its conclusions as obvious and humorless as its medieval predecessors. I'd rather watch Seinfeld, a self-proclaimed show about nothing, than be beat over the head with transparent and fashionable moral conclusions. At least this trend hasn't reached epidemic status-- sitcoms like The Office and Arrested Development still provide welcome relief.

1 comment:

Del Torkelson said...

I agree. Not so long ago, when The Simpsons confronted (shudder) issues of the day, it generally did so with at least a touch of good-faith evenhandedness.

No more. When today's Simpsons gets topical, it generally implies there is only one position a halfway intelligent and well-intentioned person can possibly take.