Technique is the enemy of philosophy

How do you sleep at night, J.J Abrams?

The technical achievements of the last few years are important precisely because they allow us to stop talking about them. And I don’t mean simply the cutting edge of new and experimental technology. Most of what I mean goes towards what is called the ‘democratization’ of art - it is far easier and cheaper to make your own game, film, tv show - to publish a story or a cartoon - than it has ever been. Thanks, in a large part, to technology.

There was a time when solid production quality, tight mechanics, good acting, believable characterization and plausible writing were flukes. A tv show was special because, unlike the other sitcoms out there, it was funny. The jokes were good jokes, not bad ones. Now it is very hard to say that a comedy show ‘isn’t funny’. You can say it’s not for you, but the consensus is that it’s funny. We know how to make humor now.

Rather than cynically denounce this, I embrace it. Fine, we have established ‘standards’ for humor. A supernatural drama no longer gets points for casting actors instead of models. An indie game is not lauded for having a comprehensible tutorial. We’ve figured it out - guys, we’ve got this. Isn’t this a stale, neutered existence, where creativity is barren - where everything is understood, a formula?

Hardly. If anything, it was the technical limitations that forced us into a uniform mediocrity. Everyone had to reach a certain standard, because those were the only things from your chosen genre (film, game, etc.) that stood out. Now though, or soon, being ‘competent’ won’t be enough. Because, as Dr. Malcolm once put it (sort of), it’s not about whether you CAN do it, it’s about whether you SHOULD.

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You can hire writers, directors, producers - tell them to make a show. They will. It’ll be fine. And why did you do that? That’s the only question hanging over your decision now. Why make a film - why make THAT film?

The Force Awakens made none of the mistakes of the prequels, or even of the original series. It had well made sets and interesting costumes. It had some things for the fans, some for the newcomers. It had an accessible plot that was clearly established. It had diversity in its cast. It did everything right. It was competently made, by people who know their respective fields. But WHY was it made?

What story was it telling? What technical constraint was it overcoming? What agenda was it pushing, even? I can see no motivation for making this movie, aside from the obvious one. But what’s my motivation for seeing it? …. again …

That’s maybe an investigation for another time. Potential title - “I’m an easy target, come get me!”

Written on December 25, 2015