Thursday, Jul 24, 2014

This is entertainment?


Published:

In case you haven't noticed, and you'd have to live on Mars not to, the American entertainment industry has gone totally bonkers over blood, gore and ghoulishness. And, if it's set in an imaginary realm of science fiction, fantasy, superheroes, vampires, or zombies, all the better.

Since the advent of Dudley Do-right and Simon Legree, audiences have loved to cheer a hunky hero and boo a dastardly villain. But in recent years we have seen these stereotypes turned upside down. Today's media give us victorious villains and clever crooks who are sexier, more interesting, and even more sympathetic than their obnoxious, dim-witted heroes.

Before I cite examples, let me make it clear, I do not watch these freak shows; however, it is almost impossible to avoid ads for them, which crop up no matter what I'm watching. (The exception is BBC where there are, blissfully, no ads at all.)

NBC's "Grimm" offers a weekly blood feast by hideous ghouls and gargoyles that victimize normal folks and seem to have more lives than a pack of feral cats. But don't bother flipping the channel because CW network's big hit is "Vampire Diaries" while MTV is offering the bloody "Teen Wolf." Yuck and double yuck!

HBO's "Game of Thrones" sounds better, set in the Middle Ages world of kings and princesses. But in this fantasy treachery always wins, and more blood is spilt than in all the World Wars combined.

Not to be outdone, AMC's "The Walking Dead," now in something like it's eighth season, makes absolute heroes of hideous zombies. It features gruesome attacks on defenseless yet fast-moving humans who, nevertheless, can't get away from their bloody, drag-footed, half-dead foes.

At the same time we are inundated with movies and television shows about fairy tales like ABC's "Once Upon a Time" and "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland." These shows sound better, but don't be fooled. There's little that's innocent or family friendly in them. Here the princes are anything but charming and their ladies fair are buxom harpies whose treachery is portrayed as clever, not cruel.

The recent popularity of book/movie trilogies like "The Hunger Games" has spawned a new one called "Divergent". The movie version opened this weekend to sellout crowds. It too is the first of a trilogy. The popularity of this genre inspired NBC's television show "Revolution". Like its movie counterparts, "Revolution" is based on a sick and sad future America where anarchy and Gestapo clans rule. It also glorifies average people who survive by becoming heartless blood-thirsty combatants.

And speaking of blood-thirsty, there's always FOX's "The Following" with its sexy, sicko human chainsaw, Joe Carroll, pursued by the less attractive but equally bloody cop, Ryan Hardy. I started watching this one, but I just can't cut it anymore.

There has also been a juggernaut of movies lately about superheroes like Captain America and his Marvel Comics friends Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman and Superman, whose latest movie incarnation was called "Man of Steel." This "action" film featured such a long stretch of our hero getting pounded by his foes that yawning crowds left the theaters even before the film ended. Apparently the race to be first out of the parking lot was more fun than the movie.

The point of all this is that Hollywood is giving us exactly what Americans want - a way to escape into fantasy. Whether fairy tales, sci-fi or horror, we'd rather go there than remain in the hopeless world of America's sinking economy, continuing unemployment, overreaching government and individual powerlessness.

With all that, I need to escape too. But give me BBC's "Downton Abbey," "Doc Martin" or "Call the Midwife". Now that's entertainment.

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