A few months ago, I found myself tossing back my usual concoction of Sour Patch Kids and popcorn at the K Street Theater while watching the previews before No Strings Attached. The previews, in line with the coming movie, consisted of much of the same repetitive rom-com themes that every girl occasionally indulges. When the preview for Friends with Benefits came on, however, I did a double take—wasn’t that the exact same movie I came to see?
To say that Hollywood has had a recent trend of repeating similar films and remaking classics that have no need for a lesser, modern doppelganger is an understatement. In the past few years, originality in Hollywood has been sparse. Sure, there are still gems among the assembly line productions that, deservedly, garner much attention from audiences and critics, but when the same film comes out in the same year with all but a costume change for the latest “it-girl” and GQ leading man, we have to ask ourselves—where has the creativity gone? And, perhaps a scarier thought: if this is what’s making it on screen, what kind of scripts are being proposed that don’t even make it?
The shift in film in recent years from imaginative to mind-numbingly predictable speaks not only to a lack of creativity in Hollywood, but a lack of demand for creativity among viewers.
And it’s not just film. It’s reality TV, and even the popularity of the memoir. For the most part, we don’t go to the movies to be provoked, we go to be distracted. And this distraction takes increasingly less and less creativity to be achieved. In books, likewise, we have become so obsessed with telling the truth about our own lives that we have forgotten the art of imagining.
In today’s world, it’s not the new that we want—we want the old, the re-packaged. Unfortunately, this lack of invention on screen and on the page is only more indicative of our lack of invention elsewhere—in politics, in economics, and in education.
A recent Newsweek article, “The Creativity Crisis,” blames our education system’s emphasis on memorization for lowered creativity scores among children during the past two decades. While cutbacks on art classes and other creative outlets certainly hinder the creation of a creative environment for children, they are hardly the crux of the issue. It’s not just schools that need to create an environment that fosters imagination and invention, its society as a whole.
When stars from MTV’s hit reality show Jersey Shore make it on to the cover of People Magazine, we have to wonder if we are not at fault as consumers. If infamy and fame have become synonymous, it sets the precedent that we can all achieve a certain level of success by doing absolutely nothing.
Imagination has been driven out of the creative sphere by the advent of everyone’s 15 minutes of fame. The fact that Rebecca Black is famous for her song “Friday” is not her fault—it’s ours. If we continue to consume the unimaginative trash being slung at us, people will continue to do anything to catch our attention.
Currently, our culture is perpetuating this form of unimaginative realism, rather than looking at reality through a different lens. With so many means of distraction, it is easy to become complacent and let books and TV and movies be our only source of imaginative stimulation. Our imaginations seem to have atrophied.
We live in a world where facts are presented over and over to us with nothing more than a change in who’s delivering them. The answer lies not in production, but in our consumption. If we are what we eat, do we really want to be a country defined by the latest super-hero remake, Real Housewives, and pregnant teenagers?
Ultimately, our modern media perpetuates a generational narcissism in which we are drawn to the arts as a means to connect our story with the story presented to us. What we have begun to lose, however, is the imagination that allows us to be drawn out of ourselves by something greater.