My thought train begins today with this Tweet:
It is the first time that the idea of ‘social media as a mirror’ has registered in my brain. This, as it transpires, is a remarkably apposite description of how many people use it, confirmation bias included. I’ve not yet seen The Last Jedi, but the divisive nature of reviews says very much in my mind that this is going one of two ways. There are those people watching the film and considering it as entertainment, and then those whose perception of the Star Wars Universe is so personally warped to begin with that this narrative will inevitably end up as an affront. It doesn’t matter if you believe that the whole thing’s simply a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back or not. You didn’t write the script. That’s how fiction works.
You accept the concept you are given, or you don’t.
However, and this is important, denigration of the older generation is now a thing. This is, like it or not, the inevitable consequence of dozens of sex scandals and the disparaging of both women and minorities, which remained acceptable until this year [*] and now is the metaphor du jour. If you look beyond the vanity mirror of Twitter, and grasp the wider social issues, however, the young have always held a love/hate relationship with their elders. Go back to the 1920’s if you want to see it beginning, and you can argue that youth v experience has been a force majeure in literary terms since time in memorial.
The problem now, undoubtedly, is that there’s a lot more older people dictating the life of those younger than them. The life expectancy of the average American might be beginning to drop, but there’s still a phenomenal number of people who’ll argue that their voice matters, and their opinions should be heard. Looking at Twitter bots over the Christmas period, the assumption is they’re either run by a) under 25’s or b) Moscow. The truth, as played out in the United States, is that old white people are a force to be reckoned with. Piss them off, and everybody suffers, especially the minorities. You only have to look at the oldest kid in Washington DC to grasp what then happens as consequence.
Except on Christmas Day I saw a number of Dr Who fans quietly frustrated at the nature of certain aspects of the Christmas Special script, using 1960’s ‘mentality’ as means by which to garner some cheap laughs. It’s the situation that happens when you look at a Carry On film with modern sensibilities and realise that certain jokes just won’t wear in the current climate. The key here is that you accept both are appropriate in the context of their own time-frame: Who’s about to cross into territory that’s as alien for a lot of its audience as the planets they’ll happily visit if there’s a man in charge. It is time to be sympathetic over the audience you’re dealing with, as well as accepting a past that, despite the ability to travel in time, cannot really be changed.
Many people are afraid of letting power away from themselves and having to trust others with decision making. Movies, TV and books allow those people the opportunity to safely experience these situations without the reality ever taking place, but social media has now empowered some to erroneously grasp that if they don’t like what they read, hear or see, it can be altered. You don’t get to do this with what other people make. They stand and fall by their own choices, and art is not theirs to recreate, but to look at and consider before deciding to like it or not. It is perfectly okay to not enjoy something, but telling a company to remove it from canon because it upsets your own world view?
That’s not how entertainment has ever worked.
[*] It’s been a thing since Adam and Eve if you’re the one on the receiving end. Now, because the practice has become socially unacceptable, it’s news.
It’s still happening though :(