After finishing a long-term freelance assignment, it felt like the pressure had been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve had more time to relax and more attention to direct towards whatever project I might want to pursue. A little more time to recalibrate and move towards things that feel important.
What better way to celebrate than to go watch the latest installment in a campy movie franchise from my adolescence?
I had a brief weird moment while watching F9. (Was there ever a plan for naming these movies?) Of all places, I started feeling depressed while watching a scene of one of the characters stealing an expensive necklace from a fancy party. I thought to myself, “People don’t really live like this, do they? This is clearly just in the movies.” But they surely do live like this. Caviar, hors d’oeuvres, high fashion. Maybe only assholes live this way. Am I justifying?
I thought to myself, “I will never experience this kind of lifestyle,” never step foot in the closest real experiences of opulence they base these movies on. And maybe I wouldn’t even want it anyway. But I felt my time slipping away. The interval between now and the last Fast movie I saw is plainly lacking in emeralds, exploding cars, or a family to rival Dom Toretto’s.
After so long, I was back in the movie theater, checking in on the pulse of this enormous stupid thing. There is some artistry in the movies and some value, but not much. The things that are deemed entertaining by our culture, franchised, and seen through to lucrative completion are confusing and often repugnant. Built around the tropes that have worked in the past, they cash in on repetition. Nobody wants to see a movie that is completely new, one that makes them feel as if they don’t know what to expect.
After seeing the same film with a new coat of paint—where every character who had died was brought back to life, where all the subtitles and set pieces were presented just as before—I drove my car two blocks back home. Under the popular spell and obeying the traffic laws, I felt some of the old satisfied, ignorant vibes that I had associated with my previous life here before the pandemic. The same carelessness, the same left-hand turn. Culture shock. Back to the old shitty.
The movies have been ruined by this idea, a gigantic conglomerated mill spewing out so much regurgitated crap. As the credits rolled, I concluded that I hadn’t really missed it. With a huge haltering pause in the middle of it all, I’d wondered if people would come to their senses and enact some changes to distance themselves from the machine. Then again, maybe they never really wanted to. This, the present day, could end up being the period of re-hypnotization after the hiatus.
I watched the film self-consciously, one eye turned back towards myself while things both unimportant and incomprehensible flashed on the screen ahead of me, feeling damned—feeling like I will go along inside this hamster wheel forever, life seeping away while shallowly comforted by tropes of unkillable and familiar characters. Recurring fragments of my own psyche, by this point, that are haunting and unavoidable. Unless I do this, that is: unless I make the time to come back to myself and check in, like I do, for some unfathomable reason, with the movies.
Do we truly have the power to change our practices—and by doing so, do we have the power to change our personalities? To reinvent ourselves and eliminate the self-loathing that comes from stasis and complacency?
Do we have the power to control this thing? Or shall we just watch?
This is why the future rings of darkness: the projection forward, mechanistically, of the same sordid past, with no chance for retribution or real significance. The simplest answer is a self-satisfied laugh—but this is the same as giving up. Laughing is the easy way out of things. If you’re honest you know this response is another piece of the nightmare, part of who you told yourself you would not become—a tool, a clown. You know it’s easier to grope for a witty remark than it is to change things and be genuine. It’s easier to watch the movie and laugh about the fact that it’s bad.
So today we strive for the authenticity that’s easier to keep on the sidelines instead of bringing to the forefront; the quality we all agree is so important and that most of us have but cannot seem to focus on, or make the driving force of our actions. To isolate it and use it to grow, to inform us and change us; to build a future that we don’t just want to cringe at and tolerate. One that is guffaw-proof.
I cannot believe there are nine of these fucking movies.