Every so often, the entertainment media posts dire predictions regarding the state of American moviemaking, quoting statistics about slumping box office receipts, decrying a dearth of films for older audiences and showcasing a general lack of enthusiasm for what’s playing in the multiplex as harbingers of an eventual celluloid death knell. But all those factors can be traced back to one source. And it’s not Michael Bay.
It’s youth. Youth is the problem in H-wood.
That’s because producers—who are all either septuagenarians or one knish away from being septuagenarians—all think fresh ideas can only come from kids. The thinking here: young adults are a sought-after demographic, and who better to tap into their zeitgeist than other youth? So, a majority of movies today are written by 20-year-old guys. No lie.
And that’s the problem: think about the average 20-year-old. He doesn’t have enough life experience to figure out how to pay the bills or have a real conversation, let alone craft believable dialogue or situations. But on the other hand, the average 20-year-old has a kick-ass collection of X-Men action figures. And a healthy fantasy life—one involving Ferraris, women who are basically playthings and swank situations choreographed to a hip-hop beat. And that’s why movies look the way they do.
Because of these “fresh” thinkers, you’re showered with scenes in which characters walk slowly away from huge explosions without ducking the debris. Or ADD action sequences devoid of logic. Or scenes where the middle-class, sixty-year-old father of a character shows up at dinner with a smoking 20-year-old girlfriend. A smoking 20-year-old girlfriend in a tube top and Daisy Dukes.
Think about it. It’s a 20-year-old’s wish fulfillment, written out in Final Script format: “Bro! When I’m, like, ancient, I’m gonna have a totally hot young babe! In Daisy Dukes!” And, given that uber-rich producers actually have 20-year-old girlfriends, they greenlight this stuff, thinking every guy stands a similar chance. But, really. Can a 60-year-old actuarial in Des Moines bag a Megan Fox-alike? Riiiight.
That twentysomething sensibility also extends into movies with strong older female characters. As in, there aren’t any. The typical screenwriter’s only contact with an older female is his mom—and she’s been nagging him for years to shave off that ridiculous goatee. So what are the chances that he’s going to craft a drama with older (read: real) women? Slim, unless that woman carries a flamethrower to wreck havoc on an alien brood.
So what’s the antidote to all this celluloid silliness? One step could be exploring the talents of older, more diverse writers. It couldn’t be worse than what’s playing at the slumping box office now, where the return-on-investment is sorely lacking.
And, perhaps Hollywood could take a page from successful films like The Kids Are All Right, which boasted a female creative team. Or maybe it only means looking as far as this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay for a model screenwriter. That guy was 70-years-old. And he didn’t bring a smoking 20-year-old girlfriend in a tube top and Daisy Dukes to the awards.
She wore a backless dress.