Last night, I watched Brideshead Revisited, and let me tell you, it is one festering pile of garbage.
Now before anyone launches into a tirade- yes, I am aware that Brideshead was originally a novel and, from what a lot of critics have said, one that was infinitely better than the movie, the later of which reduced all of the author’s points on culture, religion, and relationships to a couple hours of pretty set design and not much else. Simple fact of the matter is Everyone Poops could have been adapted for the big screen and still have been better than this confusing mess.
Look- I can’t speak to either the novel or the author. People who have read the book say it was better than the film, and while I have difficulty believing that, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m not hear to address that- I’m here to address the fact that someone at some point did actually think that what they presented in the movie was somehow not only worth watching, but worth paying for.
I’m not a fan of British period-pieces; if I wanted to see eloquent people with miserable lives, I’d talk to English majors.
What we have in this movie is a group of extremely rich youngsters lounging about an elegant mansion, downing enough alcohol to make newyears in Vegas look like a Baptist ice-cream social, and whine and wail for over half an hour about how miserable their lives are. Not in any existentialist sense, mind you- these characters aren’t disillusioned with luxury, they’re just frustrated that they can’t have everything that they want when they want it the way they want it. This is essentially Walden without any redeeming qualities- just pasty, entitled brats with delusions of insight, giving trailing speeches about their long “suffering”.
And I’m not bringing this up just because one movie sucked- this seems to be part of a greater problem in our culture. I’ve seen the same kind of problem in the film I Love You, Man.
Back in college, my housemates loved this movie. Suggested it every movie night just to see me shiver with horror and disgust. In case you’re not familiar with the plot line, let me break it down for you:
Peter’s getting married. Peter simply doesn’t have any guy friends outside of his brother (played by Andy Samberg, who was the only good part of the movie), and he one night overhears his fiancee’s vile, harpy collection of friends gossiping that it’s weird Peter’s not going to have a best man at his wedding. Peter, who apparently bases his self-esteem on the idle chatter of obnoxious strangers is filled with self-doubt and embarks on a quest to get himself a male friend- because, you know, what will his future wife’s evil friends think of him if he doesn’t?
If you’re trying to jump through the screen, grab this guy, and slap him across the face while screaming quotes from Nietzsche- don’t worry, that was my first reaction too. How we’re supposed to sympathize with this self-pitying sadsack is beyond me- the guy makes Ted from Scrubs look like Teddy Roosevelt by comparison.
I’m not trying to say that every character in a movie- or even every main character- has to be someone admirable. Just look at American Psycho. I’m not saying that these characters have to be ultimately successful. Just look at Goodfellas or The Godfather trilogy. I’m not saying that the characters have fit a classic/stereotypical form of “manliness” (in the case of male characters, anyways)- just look at Zombieland, Superbad, Napoleon Dynamite, or Scott Pilgrim vs the World.
Between movies like Brideshead Revisited, I Love You, Man, and pretty much every romance movie that ever has or ever will be made, there’s this common attitude of entitlement, self-pity, and melodrama.
Now I know you must all be saying “But Gordon, you charming devil- what’s the big deal? So what if a section of film is dominated by this lousy message of egocentricity, ignorance, and impotence?”
Let me show what the big deal is.
See this guy here? This is goth shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. If you’re not a fan, chances are you’ve still heard of him- in the days that followed the Columbine Shootings, Manson was argued by many conservative and religious critics as having been responsible for influencing the shooters. And obviously, that’s just a single example- whether it’s true or not, we’re all familiar with the outcry against violence in the media- be it anything from video games (see any GTA game) to music (Wu-Tang Clan aint nothin’ to fornicate with) to movies (just take your pick).
Let’s assume, just for a minute, that this is all true. I’m going to discuss the whole “does-violence-in-media-cause-more-violence?” question later in the week, but for now, let’s just say that the answer is “yes”. If these things have a serious negative effect on the views- especially young viewers- and deserve to be censored or even banned on that logic, surely the same can be said for the equally detrimental attitudes and actions (or lack thereof) found in movies like Brideshead Revisited and the like. What do these things teach us?
Again- the problem isn’t with romance as a concept or a plot device or anything like that. I’m not a sensitive guy in even the loosest use of the word, but despite my callousness, I really don’t have a problem with romance- it’s just that romance, as a genre, tends to produce these awful, reprehensibly selfish attitudes, and at the same time make the actual relationships pretty dumb as well. Though no one is ever going to admit it, couples like House and Cuddy or Scully and Mulder are both more believable, moving, and inspiring at their worst moments than any Romance film couple at their best.
What else can I say? Romance movies, and indeed, all media that promotes this whiny, entitled message seems to be just as harmful- if not more- than the bloodiest action flick or the most violent rap or rock. I’d be just as worried about the effects of such media on young minds as I am about the most car-stealing-liest-prostitute-beating-iest video game ever made. Allow me to leave you with this brilliant tweet from comedian Dave Chapelle to drive my point home.