Never hated the guy, mind you- downright enjoyed a few of his plays (The Tempest, Coriolanus, Hamlet). Still, I never really could bring myself to relish the bard’s works with the same zealous enthusiasm of the drama geeks and English majors.
With that in mind, you might spare me perhaps a little of the horrified gasping when I ask:
Is it time to stop reading Shakespeare?
And I ask that with all sincerity. I’ve made no secret about my general dislike of the theater and the culture surrounding it, but I’m not here to talk about those guys.
You know the type. Melodramatic airheads who’ll actually only refer to this as “the Scottish play”…
I’m talking about the actual works of William Shakespeare here.
Why still read ’em?
After all, with every passing year, we drift further and further away from those stories. In spite the film industry churning out one or two adaptations or modernizations of Shakespeare’s plays, there’s only so many ways to re-imagine Romeo and Juliet.
EVAN: Human beings and animals that have somehow taught themselves how to read English, welcome to another E>. This week Gordon and I have come off of a mini-hiatus, and as a result are just a tad rusty.
As a result we will be discussing the very broad topic of movies, devoting a portion of our time to each one. Gordon is going to be starting us off with . . .
GORDON:The big screen experience.
If you’ve been to theaters recently (no, Evan, it is NOT spelled “theatre”), you may have noticed a series of ads harping on how “some things just weren’t meant for a small screen.”
“Spectacle” is the term for it. How much is it integral to movies and the movie-going experience? Do we really lose anything by watching a movie on our TVs rather than in front of the big screen? Continue reading →
Over the past couple years, the issue of regulating the internet has repeatedly arisen, and while there have been many issues contributing to this, there is perhaps none more well known than the contention over copyright infringement and piracy.
Now for a brief disclaimer.
I am a Marxist. I do not believe in “property” as the word would be recognized today. Every written work, every film, every piece of art belongs to every human being living. The Godfather series is just as much a part of our legacy and inheritance as the Mona Lisa, and as such, access to it should be enjoyed by all.
This is all to say that I don’t view “copyright infringement” as constituting any true offense. On the contrary, it’s simply the people taking back what was rightfully meant for them to begin with- but I’m not here to talk about that.
No, I’m here to talk about how the music and film industries’ witchhunt for media pirates is doing them (and everyone else) far more harm than good. Let me break it down for you.
I. Some People Will Never Buy
It’s a strange statement, but a true one. There may be a slim minority of people who pirates actually are keeping from the major industries through their cheaper/free service, however it ought to be fairly safe to say that there are plenty of people out there who would not otherwise listen to certain artists or watch certain shows. We’re living in tough times, and with your average movie ticket running at about twenty bucks (to say nothing of the gas getting to the theater and back), for many of us piracy is the only way we’ll see new movies and shows. Assuming there’s a segment of the population who will never, ever pay to see The Godfather, stamping out free avenues- namely piracy- doesn’t save the industry any cash. On the contrary, it just means that those people who don’t get to see the movie because they won’t pay for it aren’t talking about it, and generating buzz that might well attract people who will pay to see the movie. And speaking of them…
II. Some People Will Always Buy
Just as some people simply can not or will not pay (such outrageous prices) for entertainment, you will find people who will spare no expense when it comes to it. There are plenty of people who want to see movies on the big screen. There are plenty of people who want to see their band live in concert.The Mona Lisa is a perfect example of this.
You can see pictures of Mona Lisa anywhere; it’s one the most widely recognized images in human history. Because it’s available for free most anywhere, no one will actually go see it, right? After all, it’s been “pirated” to death. Yet that room in the Louvre is packed wall to wall with people who want to see the thing for themselves. Why? Because it’s the original. Doesn’t matter that it’s roped off, or behind glass, or barely visible, or that the guards usher you along after thirty seconds- it’s still wildly popular. The same is true of all media. Some people- plenty of people- will part with their cash to see Avatar in 3D, rather than watching some grainy, laggy version taken on a hand-held video camera in Thailand.
III. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Audience
You may not have experienced this in the states, but there was once a time when DVDs were listed by region codes, and could only be played on players that recognized that region. In other words, a DVD from America couldn’t be played on a DVD player from Europe and vice versa. You were granted a limited number of “switches,” but seeing as how you typically only got seven, it just put off the problem, rather than solving it. The goal (one of ’em, at least) was to prevent international piracy of DVDs through cracking down on how far away they came from, but all that just came down to it being a huge hassle for everyone, regardless whether or not their purchase was legitimate. Imagine all the time, money, and manpower that was invested in that venture that wound up solving nothing and quite possibly leading the industries involved to lose more money over that debacle than they would’ve lost to actual piracy. The same could be said for those hyperbolic ad campaigns comparing piracy to car theft
IV. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Industry
And while we’re talking about the industry shooting itself in the foot, let’s not forget the fact that preventing access to one film will very often lead to prevention of access to another. Quite simply, a person who doesn’t see The Godfather is not likely to go see the sequel, whereas someone who has seen The Godfather has a far better probability of winding up trying to see the sequel, either legitimately or through piracy. Is it a guarantee? No, but it’s still a better chance for the industry to make some cash than by preventing the person from seeing the first film at all.
V. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Environment
Lastly, I have to point out that we have free access to most films, music, and TV shows anyways- down at the local library. Only problem with that is when I drive to the library, I’m spending gas money, creating traffic, and spitting out exhaust fumes. Now I can get most anything down there for absolutely free, and no one complains. But imagine instead that I save on gas money, I keep the streets clear, and I reduce my carbon footprint by staying inside and watching the same movie I would’ve gotten free at the library. Suddenly, I’m a soulless criminal. Does that make sense to you?
What’s to be gained from all of this? Despite the doom-and-gloom prophecies of the industries, piracy continues on its merry path and yet we haven’t seen a decrease in the quality or production values of our movies.
We have more music artists now than we did a decade ago (at least, more access to them), in spite of piracy, and two of the most popular genres of our generation, techno and dub-step (I will never stop being ashamed of that) is heavily based on remixing and sampling other people’s work, i.e., piracy.
Look- I’m not asking the media giants to be happy about piracy, but at the same time, I have to question whether it’s really even worth it. All that cash being poured into anti-piracy gambits isn’t working– if it doesn’t already outweigh the revenue lost, wouldn’t all that time and effort be better spent elsewhere? Wouldn’t it be more profitable elsewhere?
In a pretty dramatic change of scene from my last field report on “Extreme Midget Wrestling”, last night I attended a production of the musical “Wicked.” Now as much as we here at the CWR try to maintain general neutrality in the culture war, the simple fact of the matter is that we do have bias, and as far as yours truly is concerned, the theater is hostile territory.
The musical was being done at the Smith Center- a performance hall in downtown Vegas, which isn’t really “down” anywhere because it’s about dead center in the middle of the city. Incidentally, the “inner city” is actually situated on the outskirts of town- but that’s all beside the point. The lobby of this place is fancy, as you might expect. Marble floors, ornate chandeliers, gigantic plaques with the names of wealthy supporters etched into them. And all packed to the brim with women in painful high-heels and impractical dresses, and men in expensive slacks and lopsided orange tans and flashy white smiles that you can only buy from the dental surgeons that other dental surgeons go to. These are the white people black comedians make fun of. The five-minute-warning bell goes off and panic sets in, as everyone hobbles towards the doors. I move along with the crowd and taking my seat up in the top-tier of the balcony. Clearly someone was a little trigger-happy with the bell, ‘cuz it’s easily half an hour before the theater goes dark. I try to make use of the time to get better acquainted with the rest of the audience.
Down below me is a guy wearing a polo shirt and carrying a pair of binoculars around his neck- he knew what he was in for. To my left are two women- no lie- comparing jewelry to determine whose diamonds are “shinier”. The program isn’t so much of a program as it is a magazine with a few pages on the musical nestled down on page 32. The rest of it is full of ads for such upcoming attractions as Cabaret Jazz (sung by white people), “A State of the Union Conversation: An Evening with Frank Rich and Franz Lebowitz”, and “Dr. John & The Blind Boys of Alabama Performing ‘Spirituals to Funk'” (Dr. John is also white). In fact, the only non-white guy I can find in there is a construction worker in an ad for some building project, tucked away between pictures suggesting your life might not be complete without Lexus cars and MJ diamonds.
The musical does at long last start, and- coming from a guy who hates musicals- this was really good. There’s not a whole else to say about it- if you want a summary, go to Wikipedia- if you want to see it, sneak in- because tickets to these things are ****ing expensive.
This I do have to comment on, though:
The flying monkeys always have been, and always will be, terrifying. I don’t care who you are or how tough you think you are- the flying monkeys are the stuff nightmares are made of.
If you can see the musical- go for it- just don’t see it with this crowd. They’re giggling like idiots at every single malapropism.
They didn’t laugh so hard at “Thrillifying”, so I thought they had gotten it out of their system by the second hour in, but then along comes “Scandalacious” and they’re roaring with laughter, so no- **** these guys.
Can anyone tell me what’s up with that one munchkin in a dress? He’s not playing a female character or anything- he’s just wearing a dress. I ain’t judging or anything- I just couldn’t figure it out.
To whoever made all those “wicked good” puns as we were walking out, I will find you and slap you in the mouth. You have been warned.
There’s not a whole lot else to be said. I had a good time, but these people- they were in heaven.