Movie/TV LinkBlogging: Fox Flubs Business Decision, Where Are the Old Movie Fans?, more
August 24, 2011

Fox’s Business Model Nostalgia

Unsurprisingly, when a company — in this case, Fox — decides to hold its shows back from viewers for over a week when those users were used to getting them on Hulu earlier than that, downloads of those shows went up. Even the NY Times coverage of this change (that link) gets that that’s an obvious result; they phrase it as, “It looks like the television studios did not learn anything from the missteps of the music industry.”

People will watch legally if they can, but if they can’t, they want to keep up with their shows, and it’s easy to do so. Many people don’t see why they should pay for something that the day before came free into their house. Trying to force the audience into the viewing pattern the studio prefers is old-fashioned thinking, and more importantly, it clearly doesn’t work.

Fox’s response, by the way, is even more mixed up, talking about how someday they will be able to serve these customers again by “authenticating” them through one of a variety of pay sources.

Pump up the Volume Provides Life Lessons

Pump up the Volume cover

I knew you could find insight in what otherwise is considered junk culture. This kind of analysis is why I got a degree in popular culture. Doctor NerdLove looks at one of my favorite films, Pump up the Volume, and finds a number of valuable lessons about identity and passion, including “If you don’t define yourself, someone else will”, “we are all trapped by other people’s expectations”, and “Sometimes in order to be who you really are, you have to pretend to be someone else.”

Too Many Films Available to Find the Classics?

Given how many classic movies are available to viewers today, it’s a bit surprising that very few take advantage of these outlets. A film appreciation teacher shares his experience with students who haven’t heard of such films as His Girl Friday, Casablanca, Double Indemnity, Dr. Strangelove, Chinatown, and many more. It’s heart-breaking to me, someone who remembers a time when you couldn’t see these amazing movies whenever you wanted, but I guess I sound like a fogey by saying that these kids should take better advantage of the variety of entertainment available to them.

With the exception of Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), and (for just a few) The Godfather (1972), it seemed most of them didn’t know any movie before Independence Day (1996) and Titanic (1997). … why didn’t they know? The Internet, Netflix, DVDs, dozens of cable channels… my students had incredible access to a virtually limitless library of movies, yet almost every day I went into class it was like I was speaking in tongues to them…. After mulling it over for a couple of days, I had my epiphany: an outrageous paradox. For all their access, my students saw astoundingly little; and as limited as my access had been, I’d seen so, so much more.

There’s a lot more information about how movie releases used to be special, and that presentation signaled to viewers that that movie counted. Now that everything wants to be a blockbuster, and most are evaluated based on the first weekend, there’s a lack of impact. Back in the Baby Boomer days, movie showings on the few TV channels available were shared experiences. Now, black-and-white movies are considered hopelessly out-of-date, so no one but TCM wants to show them, and today’s generation only wants to see things made within their lifetimes. I know, more fogieness, but even leaving aside the generalization of a particular kind of experience, there is a good amount of historical information you may not be familiar with in the piece.

10 Responses  
Chad writes:  

I think my generation also got forced into watching a lot of older material back when you had at most three networks and one or two independent UHF channels to choose from.

Sometimes, if you wanted to watch some TV, it was the Marx Brothers or nothing, to give one example I remember from growing up. And in a lot of cases, you found that you actually liked it.

But now you have too seek them out, and there are 40 million other options for entertaining yourself.

Kelson writes:  

Comics publishers should definitely keep those Fox/Hulu results in mind when they look at scheduling of digital releases.

Ralf Haring writes:  

I want to point that the comments section of the film article is unusually cogent and readable for the internet (this web site excepted of course ).

Learning From Movies | Mah Two Cents writes:  

[…] just read the most interesting post from DVDs Worth Watching.  And it isn’t because they linked to someone talking about a favorite movie of mine called […]

Johanna writes:  

Ralf, you’re right, there are diverse opinions, well-expressed, there, which was a pleasure to see.

Kelson, I think they have.

Chad, yes, as there are many more choices, there’s less time for everything these days.

James Schee writes:  

I’m 36 and haven’t seen many of the classics either. Thinking on it, there is just so much out there I can watch that is current going back just seems odd. Also I think movies have become more of a social thing now, people want to see what their friends are seeing and talk about that with them.

Also, I wonder if we tend to look at the past as something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. From racial and sexual discrimination, to ideas that bewilder people of today.

Johanna writes:  

It would be nice to have more of a community to discuss old movies, I agree, and you’re right about some classics having some very embarrassing bits. But it’s easier for me to watch sexism in a movie from the 40s than it is in one from today.

George Grattan writes:  

I wonder if the “failure” of those who have so many options to watch, well, nearly everything to watch the classics isn’t driven so much by cultural or generational parochialism, but by the paralysis of too many choices? Lots of recent research coming out in psychology and marketing fields showing that when faced with an abundance of options (as most of us are for media, now, but particularly the younger generation), people tend to narrow their preferences, not expand them. (They also tend to feel unhappier about those choices.) It’s paradoxical, but makes sense: choosing things to “consume” is, pyschologically speaking, stressful and hard work. When over-abundance becomes an added stress, people tend to evade actual choosing even more, going back to what they already know or what looks/feels/seems just like–not because they are lazy or complacent or wish to be narrow, but because they are overwhelmed.

Johanna writes:  

Excellent point, and one I definitely sympathize with!

takingitoutside writes:  

To expand on George Grattan’s point, before you choose you also have to know that there’s a choice. In the original article, Mesce’s students hadn’t even heard of a lot of the films he showed. In a sense, this is a good development; because film is a young medium there haven’t historically been “too many” films for the average person to hear about the best ones before. Think about it: there are tons of great books that even the most avid reader hasn’t been able to read, but no one worries that kids haven’t heard about any classic books, just a specific, favored book or author. Even in Mesce’s article, he’s worried that students don’t know about certain, specific films that he thinks they should know. His students aren’t looking at “the classic film Casablanca” and deciding not to watch it, they’re looking at all films made before the year 2000 (or so) and seeing what looks to them like a giant, largely undifferentiated pile of works whose only known feature is inferior special effects.

That said, his students also sound really uninformed. I’m a bit younger than the 30 year-old woman he used as an introductory example and I’m not a huge fan of older films, but I have heard of most of the films he listed, and so have my friends (who watch even fewer older films than me). I wonder if there isn’t a class aspect to film knowledge. “Single mother without a degree in her thirties” doesn’t sound particularly like someone from a privileged background. TV reruns and theatre revivals may not be as frequent as they once were (or video rental places), but there were enough around when I was growing up for me to gain some familiarity with classic films. Perhaps his students don’t have access to those resources.

On a side note, some years back my local library started stocking photocopies of the AFI’s best lists. “Best 100 Films Ever”- and “Best Romances”-type stuff. I ended up with six or seven pages and several hundred recommendations, of which I had seen about 100 films. I’ve been working my through them, but I’m not even close to done. On top of that, some I just don’t want to see. “A Clockwork Orange” was on the list and I started it, but I just could not finish it. It may be acclaimed as a classic, but it’s not my cup of tea. And that’s okay. There are other great films, I just have to find them.


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