Nov 7, 2011
Chew on some of this cud for a second: when was the last time you saw somebody actually make a call from a public pay phone? Now before you get lost somewhere in between the Nixon administration and Oliver North, let me ask how many times you’ve seen someone smoking a rock in a phone booth? what about enjoying a nice midnight urination?
Now , I’ve seen a lot of things happen in the phone booths of Manhattan, but very few of those things ever involved the use of the phone (to make a call at least)But there they stand, at every other intersection, rows of public phone booths offering the homeless a little privacy to smoke their crack and advertisers far too much surface area to attack our brains.
Getting stuck behind a pack geriatrics puttering along 3-abreast on the sidewalk is frustrating, but the Parkinsons parade offers nothing compared to the frustration I feel when I walk past a public phone bank, and its not because of the homeless guy masturbating in it.
No, I am surprisingly quite comfortable with public auto arousal. However, what gets me is when I walk head first into a poster on the side of a phone booth like this:
You know, sometimes when i come face to face with the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie poster, or “Real Housewives of Cleveland” ad plastered on the side of a phone booth, I stop in my tracks, turn my head and look out into the distance at the hidden camera that I know must be zoomed in on my face at that moment, and silently ask it: “really?”.
My problem with phone booths is not the drugs, or defecation, but rather how these billboards jut out from the sidewalk and force me to come face to face with the shit that get passed off for entertainment in this country.
What makes it doubly irritating is that these sidewalk campaigns across Manhattan aren’t cheap, and they wouldn’t be there on every block unless the eggheads behind the spreadsheets knew that thousands of lemmings were dutifully eating it all up.
Now I am not one to believe that Hollywood ever served up anything more than brain sugar, but at least in the 90s it felt like the peddlers would stop after one sequel. These days any movie that does reasonably well at the box office gets immediately bastardized into a trilogy, and any movie from the past that did well gets ‘rebooted’.
What are the chances that in 3 years I will walk past a phone booth advertisement for “Hangover 3: Kinshasa Dreams”?
Does the story behind “Legally Blonde” really need a 3-part treatment?
Better yet, what is the next retard comic book hero that gets made into a $200 million movie?
But that’s just the start. Look at cable TV, and in particular those channels that have some roots in education which by now have all reached WB-esque levels of crap. It’s hard to find a title on TLC that doesn’t include “little people” or “pregnant” in it. Discovery serves up Shark Week as a 7-day expose on the various ways a shark can fuck up a seal. History Channel has concluded that “history” is really only being made in the cabs of 18-wheelers hauling pieces of rubber dog shit to Nunavut.
I don’t hold the people who make these shows in contempt, nor do I pass judgement at people who love to watch them.
Why shouldnt Disney make a 12th installment of Pirates when the 11th one brought in $500 million in revenue?
Of course TLC is going to make “My Dad got me pregnant and I am only 14″, when sex and scandal are what people instinctively drawn towards.
Pirates continues to win, along with every rebooted/resequeled movie franchise, because they are brand names and brand names offer easy choices for consumers. Why risk 2 hours of your life when you know you can be charmed by Captain Jack Sparrow for the 12th time?
But its not just movies, the concept of a “franchise” has gone well beyond TV into video games, books and music.
Movies, TV shows, video games are as popular as ever, but what seems to have changed in the past decade is that they now don’t even pretend to attract us by way of our minds, but instead rely on arousing our primal instincts and playing to our own aversion to the unknown.
If I were to pinpoint one cause of this shift, it’s the control we now have over what we choose to consume. Before PVRs, on-screen guides and Hulu, watching the TV meant you were at the mercy of what was playing when you turned it on. So it was possible to watch a new show, or become exposed to something unfamiliar. Now, we can have exactly what we want, when we want it. Given this control, we choose to consume things they we know we like.
Now I am no Steve Jobs fanboy, but his contention that consumers do not know what they will like rings very true. Given a standard set of known choices, its easy for someone to identify things they will like. But when presented with an unknown set of optiopns, the choices become much more difficult and require risk on our part. Why do that when the easy choice is right there, only an easy button away?
If the day comes where you hear that I flung myself into oncoming traffic, it will probably be because of a phone booth and the movie poster it carried that finally broke my spirit.