“Certainly most of those who see The Hurt Locker become enthusiastic advocates of the film,” notes Roger Ebert, “but apparently those younger viewers who have seen it haven’t had much of an influence on their peers. While the success of the film continues to grow as it steadily increases its number of theaters, the majority of younger filmgoers are missing this boat.
“Why is that? They don’t care about reviews, perhaps. They also resist a choice that is not in step with their peer group. Having joined the crowd at “Transformers,” they’re making their plans to see G. I. Joe. Some may have heard about The Hurt Locker but simply lack the nerve to suggest a movie choice that involves a departure from groupthink.
“Of course there are countless teenagers who seek and value good films. I hear from them all the time in the comment threads on this blog. They’re [also] frank about their contemporaries. If they express a nonconformist taste, they’re looked at as outsiders, weirdoes, nerds. Their dates have no interest in making unconventional movie choices. They’re looked at strangely if they express no desire to see that weekend’s box office blockbuster.
“Even some of their teachers, they write, are unfriendly to them ‘always bringing up movies nobody has ever heard of.” If you hang around on these threads, you know the readers I’m referring to, including ‘A Kid,’ who writes so well that if she hadn’t revealed her age (just turned 13) we would have taken her for a literate, articulate adult.
“If I mention the cliché ‘the dumbing-down of America,’ it’s only because there’s no way around it. And this dumbing-down seems more pronounced among younger Americans. It has nothing to do with higher educational or income levels. It proceeds from a lack of curiosity and, in many cases, a criminally useless system of primary and secondary education. Until a few decades ago, almost all high school graduates could read a daily newspaper. The issue today is not whether they read a daily paper, but whether they can.
“Some weeks ago I went so far as to suggest the gap between some critics and some moviegoers may be because the critics are more ‘evolved.’ Man, did the wrath hit the fan. I was clearly an elitist snob. But think about it. Wouldn’t you expect a critic to be more highly evolved in taste than a fanboy zealot? And what about ‘A Fan?’ Should she be shunned by her peers for having her own ideas?
“And what about another one of my readers, the 15-year-old who says he has viewed dozens of my ‘Great Movies?’ If you’re his friend, isn’t it worth wondering what he’s stumbled onto? And what about your date this Friday night? If he or she only wants to see the movie ‘everyone’ is going to see, is that person going to be much good for conversation?”
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a low-rent cafe on Melrose across from Fairfax High School. I was writing on the laptop and reading the L.A. Weekly when all of a sudden a bunch of kids came in. School had let out, I gathered. I began to feel quietly appalled very quickly. They were huge roly-poly apes, these guys. A lower life form, breathing heavily and wolfing down donuts and slurping down drinks, all wearing cutoffs and sandals, some of them sitting down on the counter seats with their dumb-ass expressions and stupid-ass butch haircuts and shaved heads and huge Abominable Snowman feet with absurdly large and unmanicured toes. All I wanted to do was leave. Which I did.