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We live in a media world where ignorance is, apparently, anything but bliss: Spoilers abound, and speculation is king. The idea of just letting a story unfold on its own terms seems old-fashioned and, at times, naive, if not downright impossible. Why can’t we just sit back and let ourselves be entertained?
I’ve been thinking about this since the people behind Super 8 went back on earlier promises and released more information about the movie’s creature pre-release, apparently in response to concerns from those marketing the film that not enough had been shown to tempt viewers into paying attention to the movie before its release. There’s something about that line of thinking that is just depressing: Can’t it be enough that it’s a new film from JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg that has some kind of mystery at the core? Do audiences really have to know that much more about it to be interested?
The sad truth is, “Probably.” Somewhere along the way, audiences lost the ability to trust moviemakers and televisionmakers without some kind of proof that the stories they were telling were somehow worthwhile. I’m not sure why it is, exactly: Were audiences just generally shutting themselves off and becoming more cynical by themselves, or was it the result of movies and shows that raised hopes only to dash them on the rocks in the execution? Likely a combination of the two, but what’s been interesting – and more than a little sad – to see is the way that neither side has really tried to patch things up since. Oh, sure; movie and television producers will leak plot details and secret cameoes and footage in order to try and entice viewers, but it’s not the same thing – That’s playing by the audience’s revised “Make it worth my while” rules. There’s been no serious attempt by the same producers to try and win back trust by just concentrating on quality entertainment that convinces viewers that maybe, just maybe, they don’t need to know everything in advance before deciding whether or not something is worth their time and money.
I don’t know; perhaps I’m longing for something that’s curiously old-fashioned (Seriously, didn’t Hitchcock manage to endear this level of “Don’t ask, just buy it?” mentality?) and impossible in today’s immediate-gratification culture. But what has replaced it seems to devalue the very thing that both sides of the discussion should, in theory, be honoring more than anything else: The value of a good story, told the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe sometimes, we should just learn to sit down, shut up and take what’s being given to us, hoping for the best the whole time.