Are we brain dead or smarter than ever? The horror and wonder of life in fast forward.
November 15, 2010
As some of you know, I am a connoisseur of horror. It is a popular genre (and one of Hollywood’s biggest moneymakers) but, of course, much of it is gut fill –if you pardon the expression. For every quality productions like The Walking Dead there are ten like Saw 3D.
Below the mainstream, literally hundreds of new films and books come out every year. I troll these depths looking for gems. The French, for example, are making some exquisite horror: Mutants and The Horde come to mind. From the UK, there’s Colin, a compassionate film about a young zombie, reportedly made for $75 dollars. It’s quite good.
Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), the vast majority of what lurks below is crap. Stuff like Brain Dead, from Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Films. Don’t worry, Gentle Reader, I’m not going to review or discuss the film. This isn’t the blog for that. And that isn’t the film.
I want to talk about Brain Dead in the context of the way I watched it, speaking to how we process content in the age of new media and streaming video. Once I established the film was going to suck (which usually takes less than 2 minutes), I watched the rest of it entirely in fast-forward, only stopping for the over-the-top gore and the occasional naked lady. Basically, I watched an hour and a half film in less than eight minutes.
Here’s the kicker. I got the narrative and actually could write a balanced review of the movie if I had to. Obviously, I have a better than average working knowledge of the genre so I could fill in the blanks. Once my brain got the formula for Brain Dead, I was then able to absorb the plot in hyper speed. This is more than rushing through to get to the good parts.
I really could watch the movie.
I believe many of you could do the same thing, providing the variables were right. For example, if you dig chick flicks (no comment) I bet you could FF Maid to Order and get it completely.
This ability is more than just a function of rote filmmaking, although no question that’s a factor. I think as a species we’ve adapted to a world of streaming content and chew through it faster and faster. More channels. More screens. More friends. More, more, more!
Some of the reasons are as follows and I think fascinating from an anthropological perspective:
1. Highlight reels. ESPN and others condense content like crazy. 4- hour ball games are shortened into 45 seconds of big plays and scores.
2. Pornography. Zooming to the money shots. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you’re a better man than I am, or lying.
3. The Internet. So much. So little time.
4. Twitter. 140 characters. ‘Nuff said.
5. Email and text. Who needs to beat around the bush? We get to the point. Do you really need (or ever read) anyone’s email after the first paragraph?
6. Globalization. The world does not go to bed when we do. Things are happening around the world around the clock. You snooze you lose.
Ironically, advertising was a major precursors to all this. Having to manage narrative and selling strategy in 30 seconds or less, we all became conditioned to making and receiving short-form content.
Implied in all this is the notion that we are no longer doing a good job at listening and learning. On the other hand, maybe we’re doing a terrific job. Remember the Evelyn Wood School of Speed-Reading. Zipping through pages was considered a great gift, almost magical.