The Revolution Will Be Handheld
Photo Credit: ShutterStock.com
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
I proudly call myself a progressive but as a parent of school-aged kids, I’m often surprised by how culturally conservative I’ve become. I scoff at my thirteen-year-old’s full-body obsession with the British boy band, One Direction. And when she calls the recent movie Think Like a Man or any film starring Kate Hudson a “great film,” I lecture her for probably longer than the movie lasts on why the popular culture she claims to have been moved by -- in point of fact -- is absolute and total crap.
Did I mention that I’m a screenwriter?
Although I also write in other genres, writing for and about film and television has always been the focus of my writing career. Both socially and culturally, the movie theater has served as the climate-controlled center of my universe. My daughter’s world, on the other hand, revolves around whatever small screen she happens to be holding in her hand. Until recently, this seemed to me a sign of the coming apocalypse. But I’m beginning to realize that it might actually represent something more positive -- something big and revolutionary in the smallest possible package.
The road to this realization has been difficult and humbling, and is hardly complete. It's depressing to realize that a proudly middle-aged progressive is not immune to garden-variety, middle-aged malaise.
Nevertheless, as school ends and summer begins, nostalgia hits me hardest. I can’t help but reminisce about how for me summertime always meant gorging myself on two, maybe three movies per week.
The moment my friends and I were paid for mowing a lawn or washing a car, we’d hike a mile under and aggressive sun to the independent movie theater next to the duck pin bowling alley in the shopping plaza in our little town of Hamden, Connecticut. When everything went multiplex, this small theater simply cut the room in half lengthwise without adjusting the seats, so we were now aimed at the right or left corner, depending on which theater we were in.
But still, it was dark, cold as hell, and magical.
We saw pretty much everything that came out all summer long. Then by late August, we’d started jonesing for TV Guide’s “Fall Preview,” as thick as a paperback. We’d study and debate the then three network’s offerings as seriously as any network execs.
I’m realizing that what we craved back then in the 70s was interaction. On some level we understood that culture came to us piped in on a few channels at home and a few films every week. We yammered at each other and even talked back at the screen because we were powerless to comment in other ways.
My thirteen-year-old daughter, despite her taste for British boy bands and forgettable rom-coms, is a much more active participant in the culture she consumes. I may complain about her disappearing into her room to watch a half-dozen episodes of Monk on her netbook, then Skyping her BFFN (Best Friend For Now), whom she saw all day at school, but she takes agency for what goes before her eyes in ways that when I was her age, I could only envy.
When I was a kid, wrestling for the remote was the closest I ever got to controlling media. Today, the device my daughter holds in her hand can control not just the TV but her entire known world. She take a picture with her phone, and with Instagram or Camera + she can edit, frame, caption and send it. She can record herself singing Maroon 5 and then autotune it. I can’t call her a couch potato if while watching Design Star she’s designing a new couch on an app on her phone.