Something interesting happened at the Oscars: a truly adult-themed film won an esteemed award and actually made money at the box office. The mind boggles.
At the risk of saying I-told-you-so, I will point out that some of us adults out here are screaming at the top of our lungs in what has been an apparent vacuum thus far for literature and films that are made by adults, for adults with adult themes.
The Largest Generation – the Baby Boomers – is skating into mid-life and old age. There are concerns that there are not enough younger workers to keep us old fogeys afloat in Medicare funding. Yet…try to find a movie or books that speak to adult interests and instantly one is wandering in a creative desert. Apparently, were are supposed to be giving away our wealth to working children and entitled grandchildren to indulge themselves.
One has to ask: On what planet are these filmmakers and publishers actually living?Not only has the Great Recession ruined a lot of “expendable” cash options for most of us oldsters – many of whom are still working if not looking for work, by the way and in dire need of affordable and diversionary entertainment– but most of us were raised to “wait and see.” We can’t be convinced that we simply must see this film or read that book until word of mouth reaches our ear horns.
Photo of earhorn by Photo by Chainsawbait at http://anotherboomerblog.wordpress.com/tag/phonak/
Couple that with a now-redundant and boring tradition by Hollywood and publishing to gratify the “burgeoning young adult market” which has been catered to ever since grocery stores put sugared cereals at kid eye-levels….
Doesn’t anyone plant seeds anymore? Isn’t anything worth the wait over time-is-money?
Good things come to those who wait. Ask Ben Affleck.
The Horror genre has long suffered from this affectation of Young Adult overlay in film and publishing. Just look at the Vampire Mushroom Cloud and the case is made. No matter what depth and character variance the original story has, there must be teenagers, young love and the brilliance of youth to save the day. Older characters are secondary – because if we believe Hollywood and publishing, young folk are the ones with the cash.
Perhaps they could pay a mortgage now and then? Take grandma to the audiologist? Spring for a wheelchair ramp?
But Horror is not alone in this savaging of parts to feed the young. Unless there is ruinous gratuitous sex and violence, movies don’t even get an “adult” rating. Books need a touch of erotica to get headlines. That in everyone’s mind has become what the “Adult Category” is. I say, werewolf droppings.We wanted our MTV, and now we want our entertainment back.
It’s not like we don’t have the star power...Or the stories.
This older generation – of which I sometimes reluctantly find myself a part – has been through a lot. A good deal of it has been traumatic – from the wake-up call that was Vietnam, to the sexual revolution, to watching our children go off to another kind of Vietnam, the loss of farms and factories, the loss of national identity and security, the Tech Revolution, at least two severe Recessions, the loss of many of our retirement options, and the waning of our health… We are ripe for attaching our emotions and our wallets to films and books that we identify with – that tell our story.
Where are the older characters? …The storylines that have real poignancy because they are connected to our own histories? Why aren’t our fears deep enough or dark enough to scare the hair off Bigfoot when written about or filmed properly? Hey – it was our Prom Nights that started it all…
Is it because our industries continue to value the young over the old-ER person despite what that investment in reckless youth has already proven? Yes – sometimes we get a Bill Gates or a Stephen Hawking… And after spending my recent time collecting my BA at a major university, I can honestly say I am frequently impressed by our youth who largely are not lost or irrelevant to our future. But more often nowadays we get rotten customer service, or those who think that getting to the top is the only objective. So when will the image of the redundant, compromised and narrow-minded older person be junked for reality?
Perhaps it is our fault – the writers. Perhaps we have sold out and acquiesced to what “everyone” says is the hot ticket. But I suggest that this is what leads to bad Young Adult writing and their requisite films. If you write Young Adult fiction it should be because that is where your passion is – young readers deserve that level of writing. It should never be because that is where the Big Merchandising Money is. Because if you write for the money not only are you in for a very rude financial awakening, but you also have no business criticizing the critics for not calling an abundance of the current “canon” real Literature.
I am not saying that we must all starve for our art. I am saying that writing is a passion-driven profession, and the minute you start watering it down to mindless baby formula and are satisfied with that, something dark and ugly begins to devour your soul.
Even genre fiction needs to test the limits and reshape itself to keep relevant.
We do that by really understanding our roots and genre tradition to see and imagine what can be changed…tweaked…reinvented. That is how the Big Names in Horror became the Big Names now referred to. They took the formula and created something slightly different. Sometimes it results in simply popular fiction, a fun summer movie and good story telling. Sometimes it becomes something … transcendent. This is how literature remains alive and a reflection of us, reaching across the centuries because there is substance in and between the lines of text.
Filmmakers and writers need to recapture that. Or at least seek it.
In a recent interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, George Clooney said – and I paraphrase – “When adult movies [like Argo] make money, Hollywood will make more adult movies.”
This is the theory.
So I challenge all you over-the-hill writers out there. Write what you know. Let’s overwhelm publishers and Hollywood with manuscripts and scripts that push older characters, older perspectives, real life, real situations and real substance. Let’s show “Them” who has the real purse strings… Let’s be bold and show “Them” …us.
It just might scare them a little.